After waiting nearly a half century to find out if he would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sandpoint native Jerry Kramer had to wait a little longer on Saturday afternoon.
Kramer, who went on to star with the Idaho Vandals and the Green Bay Packers, said it was his understanding that he needed to be in his hotel room between 3:30 and 4; that’s when he would receive the news either way.
“And so 3:30 comes by, and 3:45 comes by and 3:50 comes by, and 3:55 comes by, and there’s a knock on the door,” Kramer said. “I’ve got my family with me, and a bunch of friends ... ‘Yeah!’
“And I go to the door, and it’s the maid.
“So we gather ourselves, and try to get it back together, and all of the sudden the door goes ‘Boom, boom, boom.’
“I said, ‘That’s it. That’s it.’
“And the most beautiful man I have ever seen (Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker) was standing there, with the cameras behind him.”
(It was actually seven “booms” on the door, but who’s counting?)
When Kramer answered the door, a broad smile appeared on his face, screams could be heard in the background, and Kramer gave Baker a handshake and a giant hug, unleashing emotions that had been built up for years.
Kramer told The Press last spring that, if he never got voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after all these years he could live with that, knowing he’d already had a great career and lived a great life regardless.
But on Saturday, you could see how much it meant for him to finally get the good news.
“I mean, I was over the top,” Kramer said. “It was something that I was afraid to believe in, something I was afraid to hope for, so I kept trying to keep those emotions out there, somewhere, but hey, I’m here, and I’m part of the group.”
Kramer will be formally enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio. He is joined in the 2018 class by Robert Brazile, a fellow Senior Committee finalist, along with Bobby Beathard, Brian Dawkins, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Brian Urlacher.
Born in Montana, Kramer, 82, graduated from Sandpoint High in 1954, where his No. 38 was retired long ago.
Kramer played 11 seasons at right guard for the Packers from 1958-68. He was a five-time All-Pro and helped pave the way to five NFL Championships, including wins in Super Bowls I and II. Kramer was named to the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team and the All-Decade Team of the 1960s.
His block on Jethro Pugh in the waning seconds of the “Ice Bowl” game of 1967 sprung quarterback Bart Starr for a 1-yard sneak for the winning points in the NFL title game against the Dallas Cowboys. Two weeks later, the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Earlier in his career, he was also a kicker. He booted three field goals and a PAT in a 16-7 win over the New York Giants in the 1962 NFL championship game at Yankee Stadium.
In 1969, the NFL picked an all-time team covering the first 50 years of the league, and he was selected.
Before his professional career, Kramer was a standout for the Vandals at guard and kicker. He was Idaho’s first All-American when he gained honorable mention acclaim as a junior in 1956, and added first-team accolades in 1957. He also competed on the Vandals’ track and field team, leaving as the school record holder in the shot put. He was drafted by the Packers with the 39th overall pick in the 1958 NFL Draft, arriving in Green Bay one season before coach Vince Lombardi.
Kramer’s No. 64 football jersey was retired by Idaho on Jan. 23, 1963, and he was a charter member of the Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame.
Kramer is the second Idaho native to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Larry Wilson of Rigby. Wilson, a safety for the St. Louis Cardinals, was enshrined in 1978.
Kramer is the first Vandal to earn the highest individual honor in football. He joins Dave Wilcox as the only members of the Hall of Fame to attend an Idaho college. Wilcox attended Boise Junior College before finishing his collegiate career at Oregon.
Now living just outside Boise, Kramer makes it back up to North Idaho at least once a year.
He’s the 13th member of those great Green Bay Packer teams of the ’60s to be inducted. There was talk for years that one of the reasons Kramer was not in the Hall of Fame was that there were already “too many” Packers from that team in the Hall.
It was Kramer’s 11th time as a finalist for the Hall of Fame, and his second as a Senior Committee finalist. He was a Senior Committee finalist in 1997, and it would be two decades before he came that close to getting in again.
“Well there was 10 times I was waiting for a knock on the door and it didn’t come, so there wasn’t a great deal of confidence that it was going to happen this time,” Kramer said. “(I was) fighting the clock.”
Information from Idaho media relations was also used in this story.