When Brett Favre gets inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on Saturday night at Lambeau Field, one of the 67,000-plus people who will be in attendance is Jerry Kramer.
Kramer was inducted into that same Hall of Fame in 1975 because of his great play for the Packers over 11 years as right guard and also at times as a kicker.
Kramer had a number of former greats join him in that particular class. Besides Kramer, there was head coach Vince Lombardi, kicker Don Chandler, tight end Ron Kramer, defensive end Willie Davis, halfback Paul Hornung, wide receiver Max McGee, defensive tackle Henry Jordan, fullback Jim Taylor and left guard Fuzzy Thurston.
Kramer has been in the Green Bay area for the past few days and I had an opportunity to speak with him about a number of subjects, including his thoughts on Favre.
The first time Kramer ever saw Favre was during a game on alumni weekend in Green Bay. The date was September 20, 1992. The Packers were hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. That was the game where starting quarterback Don Majkowski severely sprained his ankle and Favre had to replace him at quarterback.
No. 4 was having all sorts of problems initially when he came into the game, as he fumbled four times. But as the game wore on, Favre got better.
The Packers were down 20-7 in the fourth quarter when Favre started to heat up. With 1:07 left in the game and the Packers down 23-17, Favre had to take his team 92 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
Favre did that in five plays, as he hit Kitrick Taylor with a 35-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left in the game, as the Packers won 24-23. For the game, Favre threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the birth of a legend and Kramer was on hand to see it.
“We were in town for that game, as it was an alumni game,” Kramer said. “Brett came off the bench and led the Packers 90-plus yards for a score and won the game. It was great to see the late-game heroics by Brett and we all were thrilled the way the game ended.
“I was with Fuzzy on the sidelines watching this. We were all feeling pretty good after that touchdown, congratulating one another and then I turn around and Fuzzy is gone. I can’t find him as I’m looking up and down the sidelines. But then I look on the field and there is Fuzzy celebrating the win at around the 25-yard line gesturing to the crowd.”
That game was just the beginning for Favre. When he finished his career in Green Bay, No. 4 basically re-wrote many of the records for the Packers in their history.
For instance, Favre started 253 straight games (275 including the postseason), plus had 160 wins over 16 seasons. 96 of those wins occurred at Lambeau Field (.762 winning percentage).
Favre threw 442 touchdown passes for 61,655 yards while he was a Packer and also won three NFL MVP awards.
Before Favre became the starting quarterback for the Packers in 1992, the team had won just one division title since 1967 and had only won a single playoff game. That all changed when Favre came to town. Brett led the Packers to seven divisional titles, 11 playoff appearances and 12 postseason wins. That includes two NFC championships and one Super Bowl win.
Kramer remembers how incredible it was to watch Favre play over that time.
“Brett was like half-Starr and half-Houdini,” Kramer said. “He looked like he was trapped or caught by a defender, and then he would do one of those schoolyard passes to win the game. He always had a great competitive spirit. He just didn’t ever seem to give up. I loved that about his attitude and that reflected on his great play.
“He was also a pretty tough kid who stood in there and took some vicious shots at times. But he always bounced right back up and kept leading the team.”
Kramer also got to know Favre pretty well over the years and became good friends.
“Brett would come over and say hello during the alumni games,” Kramer said. “His dad Irv used to play guard I believe. For some reason that gave Brett a little more of an appreciation for a lineman like me. I mean, Brett always took good care of Frankie Winters and the rest of his offensive linemen.”
Kramer will always remember Super Bowl XXXI.
“I recall the Super Bowl in New Orleans with Reggie [White] parading around the field with the Vince Lombardi Trophy,” Kramer said. “Brett had a great game as well. Anyway, I have about six tickets from the commissioner, so I’m with my family just sitting there. We just stayed in our seats for about an hour after the game had ended. That about the only time I’ve even thought about doing something like that.
“But I was just enjoying the victory so much and the celebration so much, that I just sat there and soaked it up.”
Kramer was not a happy camper when Favre and the Packers parted ways.
“I thought the Packers made a bad mistake by changing quarterbacks after being so close to getting to another Super Bowl,” Kramer said. “I was pretty upset with Ted Thompson for trading Brett.
“That being said, I can’t believe how good Aaron [Rodgers] has been since Brett left. I didn’t think that was possible at the time, but Aaron has turned out to be magnificent.”
No. 64 is very happy that No. 4 is coming back to Lambeau.
“I’m really pleased that Brett is coming home,” Kramer said. “Also that the folks here have opened their arms and are embracing him like they should. It’s a very happy ending.”
The Packers Hall of Fame induction for Favre will be special for obvious reasons. But so will the induction of No. 4 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
That would really become an epic event if Kramer was there to join Favre as part of the Class of 2016.
I wrote about that possibility last summer.
Favre also endorsed Kramer for a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a statement last July:
“We all know what a great honor it would be, being remembered for your career in the NFL by getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. There, the walls are adorned with the busts of some of the greatest athletes to ever take the field. However, in my opinion there’s one man whose presence there has been overdue for some time now; I’m talking about Jerry Kramer. His worthiness of a spot in this ring of honor speaks volumes; besides class and integrity his resume is very impressive. In his career with the Green Bay Packers, under the legendary Coach Vince Lombardi, as a right guard from 1958-1968, he played a pivotal role in the Packers 5 NFL Championships in only 7 years. In addition to that he was also named to the Pro Bowl 3 times, is a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, a five-time First Team All-Pro selection, and a two-time Super Bowl Champion! Please help me make a stand, and show your support for NFL and Green Bay Packers great, Jerry Kramer!”
I wholeheartedly agree with Brett. I recently wrote another story about why Kramer belongs among the greats in Canton. In that story, I mention my conversations with both Rick Gosselin and Ron Borges, who are both on the Senior Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Gosselin and Borges both agree with me that Kramer should have been inducted decades ago into the Hall of Fame.
The two of them have also said that the timing has to be right for Kramer, in what could be his last chance to be among the best of the best in the NFL.
To me, the timing will never be any better than it is now. Besides going in with Favre into the Hall of Fame, the Class of 2016 will be named on the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl I. That historic game was played by Kramer and the Packers, who beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
You also might remember who the head coach of the Packers was at that time. That would be Vince Lombardi. You know, the gentleman who has the Super Bowl trophy named after him.
I asked Kramer how it would feel if he was indeed inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Favre.
“It would be a sensational end to the story,” Kramer said. “It would be a very happy ending like it’s going to be this weekend with Brett. It would definitely be a tremendous thrill for me.”