I swear this will be the last time I write about famed Packers Guard Jerry Kramer (okay, I probably lied. If things go well on Saturday, I may write something in August from Canton.)
But let’s stop for a moment and quote the great philosopher and 2017 Canton inductee K. Greene:
It is time.
Seriously, after years of letter writing campaigns, umpteen blog posts from pundits both professional and amateur. After enough poisoned Tweets sent to people like Peter King who says he has an ice cube’s chance in Hell to finally go Canton, it is definitely time for Jerry Kramer to join so many of his teammates from the Lombardi Era in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jerry turned 82 on January 23rd, and let’s face it, this is his last chance. This will be his final nomination, no doubt. He was nominated as a senior inductee once before in 1997, and he was named a modern-day nomination nine other times. So it is now or never. There won’t be a twelfth second chance.
I don’t think I need to convince anyone reading this that Kramer’s omission to Canton is one of the biggest slights in football history. And I’m not just saying that as an insufferable homer. Jerry Kramer truly was one of the great ones of that era and a guard that should be mentioned in the same rarefied air as Mike Michalske when you talk Packer greats in that position.
Eleven years in the league, Kramer was one of those tough as nails players. He played 129 games in Green and Gold and underwent 22 surgeries during that time, including one to remove wood chips from a teenage accident. He also had a colostomy at one time during his playing career. We always hold Brett Favre up as the example of toughing it out through injury, but perhaps it is Kramer that better embodies the “just rub some dirt in it” mentality. Nothing could keep him down during his career. He just kept playing.
While the nation remembers him for playing a pivotal role in that goal line QB sneak to win the Ice Bowl, his career was much more than that. But his life after football is equally important.
Simply put, Jerry Kramer has remained one of the most positive and loyal ambassadors for the Packers as well as the greater football community. He’s a mainstay in the meet and greets. He always there with a smile on his face, a wave, or even a hug. He brings the past and the present together.
He is that touchstone that ties our parents to their own memories of the Packers. For people like my dad, he was a member of the teams he remembers best from his youth. The Lombardi Era Packers were his Packers much like Mike Michalske was from my grandfather’s era.
For my friend Dave, he was the hero whose jersey number he wore as he played guard in college. For Dave, he is that living legend that came up to him at Super Bowl XLV as the masses were streaming out of the stadium still basking in the glory of the victory, smacked his arm and smiled, “Hey kid, nice jersey.” Guess which Packers jersey Dave was wearing?
For my era–the Gen Xers–he’s one of the few living legends that bring the past to life. And let’s be frank, there are fewer and fewer of the Lombardi Packers with each year. And those who are still with us are slowly bowing out of public life. Willie Wood, Forrest Gregg, and Bart Starr are all victims of dementia. They don’t remember what it was like to suit up in Green and Gold. It’s the sad truth. Too many blows to the head coupled with the insurmountable health issues that come with age, and that’s the stark reality of many football players in the twilight of their lives.
But Jerry remains sharp. He can still bring the past to life. And in a way, he is becoming one of the remaining players of that era to keep their stories alive. He still bears witness to those days in Lambeau. He is one of the few remaining storytellers. After he is gone, there will be few that can reminisce about those years and actively bring history to life. And with other legends from the Lombardi Packers vanishing into the pages of history, he is one of those remaining storytellers. He is now the great standard bearer for those early Super Bowl legends.
So yes, it is time for Jerry Kramer to join his fellow brothers in the Football Hall of Fame. He deserves to walk out on stage Saturday night with that distinctive limp of a hip that gave out decades ago all the while grinning ear to ear. While it wasn’t the Green Bay Packers’ year to bask in the glow of Super Bowl weekend, it is time for Jerry to have his moment in the spotlight and right the wrongs of being slighted so many times before. It is time for him to don the gold jacket this August and stand before a cheering crowd (that I hope many of us can be counted among) on a hot Ohio weekend and help us all reminisce about those glory days where the Packers where the crown princes of the NFL and Vince Lombardi was king. It is time to bring those memories to life.
It is time for Jerry Kramer to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.--------------