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Kramer says Colledge is going to play for a 'special' NFL team

There are few football cities in America where an offensive lineman can achieve fame. Fewer still where an offensive lineman earns a standing ovation in his last game.

Lucky for Boise State offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, he's headed to one of the few — Green Bay, Wis.

Fewer people live in Green Bay (population: 101,000 as of the 2004 census) than in any other NFL city. Heck, Green Bay is home to fewer people than Boise (population: 190,122).

But the Packers, for years, have enjoyed one of the most passionate, loyal and knowledgeable fan bases in America.

Jerry Kramer knows that better than most. He starred for the Packers during their glory days, manning right guard through 11 seasons that included five NFL titles and victories in Super Bowls I and II.

"Coming from a small town in Idaho, Green Bay was a wonderful fit. Just like here in Boise, where everybody knew who (Colledge) was, they'll know who he is there," said Kramer, who went to high school in Sandpoint before playing at the University of Idaho.

They certainly knew who Kramer was, even if he didn't fully understand their appreciation until his final game. In the last game of the 1968 season, Kramer walked off the field to a stunning ovation.

"I get on the sidelines and they're standing and cheering. It was an incredible thing. It lasted four or five minutes. They knew. They knew it was over and they were saying, 'Thank you. Thank you for the memories and the thrills,' " Kramer said this week.

"They knew it was over the instant I knew it was over. I developed a greater appreciation of the involvement of the fan in the game. That was a pretty special moment. It has a special spot in my heart."

The fans hold a special spot for that Packer generation. It was Kramer who led the famous Packer sweep, opening holes for Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor. It was Kramer behind whom quarterback Bart Starr lurched into the end zone to end the Ice Bowl and launch a million references to the "frozen tundra."

Colledge, from North Pole, Alaska (population: 1,659) knows the real definition of frozen tundra.

"Playing at Lambeau Field —what more could a guy from a small town ask for?" Colledge said minutes after he was drafted by the Packers on Saturday.

"It's a storied franchise, it's a neat place. He's used to that, coming from where he is. He's used to the small town. He's used to the cold, so that's not a big adjustment," said Colledge's agent, Jeff Sperbeck.

It's a place where young fans ride their bikes to practice to help shuttle players from the field to the locker room or, as Kramer recalled, older fans would open the doors to their station wagon.

It's a place where the entire state takes ownership of the team. And for good reason — the Packers are quite literally publicly owned, selling shares to raise funds and prohibiting any single shareholder from gaining control.

But if Kramer entered at precisely the right time in Packers' history — he arrived one year before legendary coach Vince Lombardi and came in the same draft class as Hall of Famers Taylor and linebacker Ray Nitschke — then Colledge might be getting to the party too late.

Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre might be playing his last season, which means Colledge will likely be blocking for unproven Aaron Rodgers in the near future.

It will be up to players like Rodgers, linebacker A.J. Hawk, this year's first-round pick, and Colledge to restore Green Bay to its "Titletown" glory.

From one former Packers lineman to a future one, here's Kramer's advice:

"He's got to believe in himself and believe in his talent. Just take all of the doubts and all the worries and all the concerns and put it on the shelf. 'We're gone to get us a job, gone to earn us a spot and, by God, we're going to get the job done.' It takes a real positive attitude and just eliminate the negative."

That's precisely the attitude that Colledge plans on taking with him Thursday when he leaves for Green Bay. He will participate in his first professional mini-camp Friday.

"It's time for me to go into camp and prove I deserve the job and the money," he said.

He can bet the great fans of Green Bay will be watching closely.