Jerry Kramer Belongs In The Hall of Fame – HOF Edition

Jerry Kramer leads Elijah Pitts on a sweep during Super Bowl I

Originally Published 26, July 2011 w/Postscript 29, May 2019

When you think of the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s, two images come to mind. Of course that of Vince Lombardi, and then the image of Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston leading Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor on a power sweep. It was this fundamental approach to football that made the Packers perennial champions and lifted their greatest players to Hall of Fame status. Except for one glaring omission. Packers Guard Jerry Kramer.

Vince Lombardi once said that football will always be a game of blocking and tackling. His teams executed the blocking side of that equation with lethal precision. The great Green Bay Packer machine that churned out 5 NFL championships in the 1960s was powered by the offensive line and the power sweep was their principle play.

On many a Sunday afternoon, Kramer would do battles with the likes of Dick Modzelewski, Stan Jones, and his battles with All Pro Alex Karras were epic. Kramer led the way for both Taylor and Hornung to both make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, it was a sweep where Kramer led Hornung to the clinching touchdown to defeat the defending champion Cleveland Browns in the 1965 title game at Lambeau. This was the first of a series of three straight championships won by the Packers and the only such 3-peat achieved in the championship game era.

An unlikely odyssey began with his being drafted out of the University of Idaho and being driven to be the best he could be by hard nosed coach, Vince Lombardi. Fourth round draft picks are not assured roster spots and Jerry didnt crack the starting lineup until his 2nd season in 1959. He was sandwiched between two Pro Bowl linemen in C Jim Ringo and T Forrest Gregg.  Yet by 1960, all 3 were making the NFL’s signature all star team where Jerry became a regular.

Kramer was voted All Pro 5 times and was a member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

Jerry Kramer kicks field goal as Erich Barnes is too late for the block

How do you gauge impact?? For most NFL linemen this would be hard to equate because rarely can a specific game or play come down to a key block that everyone saw. After missing the 1961 NFL Championship Game with a badly injured ankle in Green Bay, Kramer not only returned to play in the 1962 Title Game, he also handled place kicking duties that day. While blocking Giant Dick Modzelewski all day he also kicked 3 field goals for the difference in Green Bay’s 16-7 victory. A feat that is unsung in football annals. Where winds gusted up to 50 m.p.h., and forced each team to run the football even more than usual.

Kramer went 3 for 4 on field goals and an extra point on battered legs from blocking on a brutally cold day. One so cold one of the cameramen suffered from frostbite as the stadium had many bonfires to keep players and officials warm. Although fellow Packer Ray Nitschke was voted game MVP, we find it hard to believe Kramer didn’t get the vote for being able to kick on a day when even YA Tittle and Bart Starr passed sparingly. This was a season in which Tittle had thrown for an NFL record 33 TDs on the year.

Just like any skill position, you’re gauged by how well you play in the big games. Aside from the great line play of the Packers in their run to 5 titles there are individual efforts where Kramer’s greatness was showcased. In the 1965 NFL Championship Game the clinching touchdown was a Green Bay sweep to the left where Kramer can be seen making two blocks as he escorts Paul Hornung into the endzone.

After the 1967 season the Packers found themselves in position for that elusive 3 peat when they faced the Dallas Cowboys. However conditions were worse for this game than they were in the 1962 NFL Championship Game.  The famed “Ice Bowl” was played at a -15*F and a negative wind chill close to -70* below zero.

Yet with the game on the line the Packers began a march that culminated in their being stuck just 1 yard from the winning touchdown. After 2 shots at it, Bart Starr took the Packers final timeout. With the season and perhaps the dynasty of the Packers in his hands, it was his wedge block on Jethro Pugh that Bart Starr followed into the endzone to win it with :16 left. So of the 3 NFL Championship Games that concluded the dynasty he had a hand in several key plays.

Ice Bowl Sneak in Progress

Bart Starr follows Jerry Kramer’s block to clinch the Ice Bowl 21-17 to give the Green Bay Packers 3 championships in a row

Did you know that Kramer has already been picked as the Guard for the 1960’s NFL’s All Decade Team as selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee??  How can he not be in the Hall of Fame as a player??

jerry's spotSome think it could be due to having an injury plagued career but he lined up for 11 years and made countless blocks that led to his entire backfield being immortalized in Canton when you include Bart Starr. If Jim Parker of the 1950’s Colts and Johnny Unitas’ chief protector, was the standard bearer for all tackles and made the Hall of Fame. The same can be said for Mike Webster at center for the Pittsburgh Steelers and one of the team’s anchors. He too made the Hall of Fame. Where does that leave a guard who:

  • Was a 5 time All Pro,
  • Was a 5 time World Champion,
  • Member of the All Decade Team for the 1960’s voted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee
  • Was voted one of the Guards on the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team commemorating the greatest players from the league’s 1st 50 seasons.
I’ll tell you where that leaves him, an overdue member of the Pro football Hall of Fame. One of the unique aspects is that most offensive linemen live in a world of anonymity. Yet Jerry Kramer is one of the most recognizable faces of all the famous Packers. He has been the keeper of the flame for his former Packer teammates through a series of books and has been a great ambassador of the game.  A long overdue title he has rightfully deserved is that of a Hall of Famer.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you Green Bay Packer legend, Jerry Kramer.
chancellor.hallofame.kramer.crest

The Chancellor right before entering The Pro Football Hall of Fame wearing an autographed Jerry Kramer jersey from the family. Its time he is enshrined.

We have to get this right and I believe they will in 2018. Please lend your thoughts as well by writing in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the address below. Please be respectful and positively lend your voice:

Please write & nominate #64
Send letters to:
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Attention Senior Selection Committee
2121 George Halas Dr NW, Canton,
OH 44708

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 me.jerrykramer
Postscript: 28, May 2019: An end to an incredible journey happened last August in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jerry’s long awaited induction was a celebration for of course Green Bay Packer fans, and all of us who were a part of the Facebook campaign Alicia had begun back in 2011. To which Alicia asked me to be a part of when her idea was just taking shape.
20180803_191754Once Jerry announced it would be Alicia who would be his presenter, the months leading up to the ceremony had a double celebration feel to it. We joked about the time when it really hit you the moment was going to happen. For me it was when we took this picture as Rich Eisen was right above us announcing everyone take your seats. The Gold Jacket broadcast was just minutes away.
The highs and lows shared over the years made it one where the ultimate high of Jerry’s enshrinement could only be matched by the smile he had that entire weekend.
The reverence, class, love and respect for Jerry was evident in the moment he “officially” had on his Gold Jacket as PFHoF David Baker and Commissioner Goodell applauded on stage. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,, including yours truly. The triumphant end of a 40 year post career odyssey.
jerry.halloffame
There was only time for smiles while enjoying Jerry’s triumphant moment.
jerry.chancellor

“Hey big guy!” The laughs at the Hall of Fame party were priceless.

An enshrinement celebration for an immortal finally having his moment in the sun was shared exponentially with the entire Kramer family.

Jerry was besieged by fellow Hall of Famers in Gold Jackets offering congratualtions. These were not only his Packer teammates.. we’re talking Hall of Famers from the 1960’s through the 2000’s from all over the NFL & AFL. The Chancellor was right there to soak it all in and share in the celebration.
At an event of a lifetime of course you take as many pics as you can yet the lasting images are the snapshots captured in your mind.
The best one for me was as we revelled into the evening snapping pics,  Chris Berman, Jerry, and Jeremy Schapp regaled and told stories in a lounge area right behind us. Jeremy, a sports journalist in his own right, is the son of legendary sportswriter Dick Schapp.
The two books Dick cowrote with Jerry, “Farewell To Football” and “Instant Replay” were the books given to me to read back in 1977 that cemented my love of football in the first place. So you can understand why this moment stood out…

I can’t fully express my gratitude to Jerry, his daughters Alicia, Diana and sons Daniel, Matthew Cole, and Tony for the invitation to be there. It was an event so uplifting all of us that were in Canton continue to share pics and stories as though it happened yesterday.  Thank you.
Alicia.ring.Lambeau

Alicia admiring her father’s HOF ring last year after reception ceremony at Lambeau.

Thanks for reading please share the article!
Hall of Fame postscript on Kevin Greene & 2016 trip
Hall of Fame postscript on Robert Brazile
Hall of Fame postscript on Ken Stabler

Lambeau Legendary Days: Packers beat the Giants in the 1961 NFL Championship Game 37-0 in first championship game at Lambeau Field

The NFL has had its great football teams, yet none match the history and the tradition of the Green Bay Packers.  The largest contingent of respectful fans throughout the nation follow this team religiously whenever the Packers play an away game.  What about when they play at home??1961.paper

There is a richness and a tradition for the current Green Bay Packers to benefit and draw strength that they’re playing on the same field that Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor ran to daylight. Dan Colledge, Clifton, Bulaga and the offensive line know that they are on the same field as Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Fuzzy Thurston, Jerry Kramer, Bob Skoronski, and later Bill Curry.  Aaron Rodgers playing where Brett Favre and Bart Starr forged championship drives on the same field. Then for Mike McCarthy to walk the same sidelines of the legendary Vince Lombardi.  How can they not feel that sense of history. The mystique in just being there has to be has to course through every player and coach who walk that sideline.

So today we bring you one of the legendary days in Lambeau Field’s history. The first ever championship game played at City Stadium (Lambeau’s former name) for the 1961 NFL Championship against the New York Giants.

61ringThese were two legendary teams. The Packers were on the rise having  repeated  as Western Conference Champions. In 1960, the Packers came up 9 yards short of a winning touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960 NFL Title Game.  The Giants were in the midst of an 8 year stretch where they played for the NFL Championship on 6 occasions. They had traded for Y. A. Tittle to bring more life to the offense that year but lets face it when you talk about the Giants of that era, you’re talking about defense….I’m sorry I meant  D-Fence!!

The Giants rise to prominence began in the 1956 season when the Giants muscled their way to the NFL Championship Game where they mauled the Chicago Bears 47-7 in a repeat of the famous “sneakers game” from 1934. To gain footing on a frozen field, the Giants switched to tennis shoes to gain a clear advantage over Chicago. In ’34 the Giants prevailed to stop the first ever undefeated NFL team. Bears came into the contest 12-0.

61.minkstole

Lombardi got the players wives these mink stoles in ’61 for winning the championship. On display at Packers Hall of Fame

In ’56 a national televised audience (first for a championship) witnessed the birth of a dynasty.  Tom Landry’s defense was relentless that day. Vince Lombardi’s offense was crisp in its execution and Alex Webster and Frank Gifford ran to daylight behind devastating blocking….huh? What am I talking about??

Well the New York Giants were coached by Jim Lee Howell but the offensive and defensive co-ordinators were Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry respectively.  They departed after the 1958 and 1959 seasons to head their own teams in Green Bay and Dallas.

Now there was word that Vince Lombardi had a chance to be Howell’s successor in New York, yet there were grumblings that a Catholic would not be accepted as a head coach. Yes, prejudice reared it’s ugly head. However the Packers came calling and Lombardi went up to Green Bay to mold a team in his own image. One just like what ran over the Chicago Bears back in that 1956 Title Game.  After a 7-5-2 1st season in 1959, the Giants changed their mind and wanted Lombardi to come back to New York as head coach. The Packers organization stood steadfast on their contract with Lombardi and wanted him to finish what he started. Could he ever…

me.ryan.lombardistatue

Ryan and The Chancellor at Vince Lombardi’s statue outside Lambeau Field 9/21/17.

So following the 1961 season, Lombardi had his second shot at an NFL Championship and against who?? You gotta be kiddin’ me?? He must have had the boys practicing tough leading up to this game because ….well take a look for yourself.  In it’s entirety as it was broadcast to the world on December 31st, 1961. Yes we even have commercials in this…sit back and enjoy the first half…

What’s beautiful when you think of it, the Lombardi Packers finished their championships in 1967 with the famous Ice Bowl over Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys also at Lambeau. So he got to best New York at Lambeau and his former counterpart assistant coach in Landry also at Lambeau. Talk about full circle.

Share the article and please leave comments… they’re greatly appreciated

61.platter