He didn’t play quarterback or any other flashy position. He came from a remote corner of a faraway state. He played in the early days of pro football, when players didn’t have entourages or endorsement deals or multimillion-dollar contracts. When age or injury ended your playing days, you went back home and got a job.
So maybe it was easy for the pro football Hall of Fame to overlook Jerry Kramer, who retired after 11 years of football in 1968. Before this year, he had been nominated 10 times, but never made it.
But Jerry Kramer was a hall-of-famer, in the minds of his fellow players and the hearts of his fans. Yes, he played offensive guard, but those were the days when running over the middle was the way teams won games. And he played the position as well as anybody ever. His Packers won the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and 1968. He played a crucial role in winning the infamous Dec. 31, 1967, Ice Bowl, with a kickoff temperature of minus-13. He helped make Bart Starr, one of the first superstar quarterbacks, and coach Vince Lombardi, for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, the legends they are.
So this year’s induction into the the pro football Hall of Fame is a vindication: For all the lowly linemen, for all the early-day grind-it-out pros still living, for all the gritty kids who come with big dreams from places as remote and unknown as Sandpoint, Idaho.
It’s also vindication for Kramer’s daughter, Alicia, who worked for years to get her dad into the Hall of Fame, enlisting stars from the worlds of football and elsewhere in her cause. Her persistence means she gets to introduce her father at Saturday’s ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, home to the football Hall of Fame.
It’s also a chance for the rest of us to revel in the achievement of an Idaho son, who grew up here, played high school ball here, starred here for the University of Idaho, and then made his home here when his playing days were over. At 82, this humble hall-of-famer remains true to his humble roots.
Saturday’s Hall of Fame ceremonies in Ohio will be followed by Idaho’s Jerry Kramer Day on Aug. 23. And on Sept. 16, Kramer gets his Hall of Fame ring at halftime of the Packers-Vikings game in Green Bay.
Idaho and Green Bay get to share and celebrate Kramer’s life and career together, as it should be.
“It’s going to be an emotional few weeks,” Kramer told the Statesman, “in what are both of my homes.”