Jerry Kramer, Hall of Famer: Long wait for Packers great finally over
On Dec. 31, 1967, from inside the 1-yard line with 16 seconds remaining in the National Football League Championship Game against the Cowboys, Packers quarterback Bart Starr ran in the Ice Bowl-winning touchdown behind right guard Jerry Kramer. It was perhaps the most famous block in the history of the NFL, and now, a half-century later, Kramer is finally joining his eight Green Bay teammates from that squad in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A nine-time finalist in the modern era of the Hall of Fame, and considered one of its most notably absent, Kramer was elected to the institution as a senior candidate on Sunday. The announcement was made by the Hall of Fame's selection committee in Minneapolis before Super Bowl LII.
In his 11th appearance on the ballot – nine times as a modern-era finalist, twice as a senior nominee – Kramer at last was chosen and will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 4.
In recent years, Kramer's Hall of Fame candidacy, and omission, had become an annual occasion for incredulous consternation among Wisconsin fans and media. The offensive guard, who played 130 games in 11 seasons for Green Bay (1958-68), was a member of Packers teams that won five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. He was an All-Pro five times and an integral part of Vince Lombardi's signature "Packer Sweep" run play. In 2009, Kramer was ranked No. 1 in the NFL Network's Top 10 list of players not in the Hall of Fame and, before being selected, he'd been the only member of the league's 50th-anniversary team not in the hall.
But the long wait for the affable Kramer and his band of staunch supporters is now over.
This is how Kramer described sitting in his Minneapolis hotel room to learn his fate, and then ultimately getting the good news from Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker:
"There were 10 times I was waiting for a knock on my door and it didn't come. So there wasn't a great deal of confidence that it was going to happen this time," Kramer said. "And I understood we were in our rooms from 3:30 to 4, and so 3:30 comes by and 3:40 comes by and 3:50 comes by, and 3:55 comes by, and there's a knock on the door. I've got my family with me and a bunch of friends. So we go to the door, and it's the maid.
"So we gather ourselves and try and get it back together, and all of a sudden the door goes, 'Boom, boom, boom.' I said, 'That's it,' and the most beautiful man I've ever seen, the big hunk down here at the end (Baker) was standing there with the cameras and stuff behind him. I was over the top. It was something I was afraid to believe in, I was afraid to hope for, so I kept trying to keep those emotions out there somewhere. But hey, I'm here and I'm part of the group. Thank you very much."
Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy spoke for the organization in congratulating Kramer on his "well-deserved honor."
"I'm so happy for Jerry," Murphy said in a statement. "His patience has been rewarded, as he will finally be going into the Hall of Fame after being a finalist 11 times. He was a key part of the offenses on the great Lombardi teams, as well as an outstanding leader. He's remained actively involved with the Packers over the years and is beloved by our fans."
Added former Packers halfback Paul Hornung, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986: "Congratulations to Jerry. I couldn't be happier for him. If anybody ever deserved it, it is him. He is well-deserving. He was a great teammate and a great leader. Our favorite play was the power sweep, and he led that play so well."
Kramer was drafted by the Packers in the fourth round (No. 39 overall) of the 1958 NFL Draft out of the University of Idaho. He was named first-team All-Pro by The Associated Press five times (1960, 1962-63, 1966-67) and was selected to the Pro Bowl three times (1962-63, 1967). He was also named to the NFL's 50th Anniversary Team, the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960s and the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team. Besides playing on the offensive line, Kramer handled placekicking duties for a couple of years, totaling 177 career points on 90 extra points and 29 field goals.
"I think he's kind of the one everybody's like, 'Why is Jerry not in?'" said quarterback Aaron Rodgers before the announcement, according to the team website. "He's a fantastic Packer and it would be great to kind of cement those Lombardi teams with him in the Hall."
Kramer is the 25th Green Bay player to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Former teammate Dave Robinson, a 10-year linebacker and 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, was effusive in his praise of Kramer.
"In the old days, when the quarterbacks called their own plays, since most of them were right-handed, they called most of the plays to the right. So the defense would put their best men on that half of the field," Robinson said in a Packers release. "Therefore, Jerry Kramer, as a right guard, played against the best defensive tackle every week. He still made All-Pro five times. Jerry was a phenomenal guard.
"People like to talk about that one block during the Ice Bowl, but he was an all-around player. He's the man I credit with winning the world championship in 1962, since he had to fill in as kicker. He did things players today can't and won't do. He played against the best that our opponents had to offer.
"Jerry had that Lombardi-like feeling: you never quit. No task was too big. No matter who he was playing against or how big he was, Jerry knew that if he did what he had to do, the way he was supposed to do it, he would win. When the going got tough, you knew that Jerry would give his all. He's well deserving of this honor. We've got a spot that's been waiting a long time for him in the Hall of Fame. I wish I could be the first man to congratulate him."
Jerry Kramer, Hall of Famer. Congratulations.
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