Why Idaho’s Jerry Kramer Transcends Football
Jerry Kramer defines perseverance. Before his Hall of Fame acceptance speech I told friends he should be in the dictionary defining raconteur. He’s as gifted a storyteller as he was a football player, however. Perseverance is a better label for the former Green Bay Packer standout.
The speech should be aired in every classroom and every locker room and every Boys and Girls Club
For years I was among football fans mystified he wasn’t in the Hall of Fame. Teammates, opponents and even the Commissioner of the National Football League shared my view. Kramer finally came into the shrine after one-half century of waiting. He joined an exclusive club several years after Billy Shaw was selected. Shaw, like Kramer, was an offensive lineman during the 1960s and starred in the old AFL. Shaw faced some legendary defensive talent but it wasn’t as consistent as the greats Kramer faced every week.
Shaw was twice an AFL champion with Buffalo. Kramer 5 times in the NFL with Green Bay. In the middle of the 1960s the AFL wasn’t even close to the equal of the older league.
O.K., these are all worn arguments. Listening to Kramer speak at his induction I realized he’s an 82-year-old guy who lives in the present. One of Kramer’s high school coaches at Sandpoint predicted great things. “You can if you will,” he told the young player. Kramer kept working through injuries off field and on and somehow made the NFL. Following his first pair of championships his career was nearly derailed after surgery.
The Packer’s kicker, Don Chandler, worked beside an ailing teammate through training camp. After 5 weeks the lineman fully recovered and three consecutive championship seasons followed. Those years and some subsequent best-selling books made Kramer a household name among sports fans. Had his career ended in 1965 he would’ve been just another solid player with a career cut short by injury. And Jerry Kramer’s list of injuries is staggering. Hunting accidents, machine accidents, broken bones and a colostomy and, yet.
There he was on a summer night at the age of 82, a testament to tenacity. Every young person in America should be taught his story. The speech should be aired in every classroom and every locker room and every Boys and Girls Club. This is what success looks like for most people. It’s grueling and painful and can span decades before you realize you’ve made the grade.