This article will be the first of 12 stories, in which former Green Bay Packers great Jerry Kramer will talk about Vince Lombardi, the man who coached No. 64 for 10 years, as well as the 11 former teammates of Kramer’s who have been bestowed the highest honor one can receive in the NFL.
That would be being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As I recently wrote, Kramer deserves to be in Canton as well. In fact, Jerry should have been given a bust there decades ago.
That prestigious award might well happen in 2016. I wrote about that scenario as Kramer reflected about Brett Favre, who will obviously be part of the Class of 2016 in Canton. It sure would be nice if No. 64 was there with No. 4 on the stage. The numbers add up. 64 divided by 4 equals 16. As in the Class of 2016 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But when one talks about the Packers of the Lombardi era, it all has to come back to the great coach.
From 1959 through 1967, Lombardi and his Packers were 89-24-4 in the regular season, plus won six Western Conference titles in the NFL.
But it was the postseason that the Packers really stood out under Lombardi. The team was 9-1 and won five NFL championships in seven years. That included winning three straight NFL titles from 1965-67. No team in the modern era of the NFL has ever duplicated that.
Plus, the Packers won the first two Super Bowls with Lombardi as their coach. Is it any wonder that the Super Bowl Trophy is named after him?
Kramer reflected about what Lombardi meant to the Packers, not just as football players, but also as people.
“Coach Lombardi had a tremendous impact on my life,” Kramer said. “The fundamentals that he taught us were fundamentals for life. They were about football, but also about business or anything else you wanted to achieve.
“You would use the Lombardi principles. He believed in paying the price. He believed in hard work and making sacrifices for the betterment of the team. His principles were preparation, commitment, consistency, discipline, character, pride, tenacity and perseverance.
“Those things are still helping me today.”
Kramer also talked about the point in time in which he realized that he could become a great player in the NFL.
“It was the moment when coach Lombardi patted me on the head after a very difficult practice and he told me that I would become one of the best guards in football,” Kramer said. “That statement gave me a new feeling about myself. From that point on, I really became a player. That positive reinforcement by him at that moment changed my whole career.
“It was a major turning point for me. Not only in performance, but also in effort. I really went to work at football after that. I believed coach to be an honest man, so I believed what he said. I decided then that it was up to me to prove the coach right.”
Kramer talked about the lessons he learned from his coach about life in general.
“Coach Lombardi use to share a philosophy about life with us,” Kramer said. “He said, ‘After the game is over, the stadium lights are out, the parking lot is empty, the fans have all gone home, the press has done their job and released their information, you are finally back in the quiet of your own room looking at the championship ring on the dresser. The only thing left after that was to have a standard of excellence in your life. Make sure that the world is a better place because you were in it.’
“The coach taught us to leave a positive impact on society. The world would be a much better place if we did that. That’s what I have tried to do all these years.”
Kramer then talked about Lombardi’s background which helped him achieve great success in the NFL.
“Coach Lombardi read ancient Greek and Latin, plus taught chemistry and algebra,” Kramer said. “He was a very bright man. In a lot of ways, he was more like a teacher, as opposed to a coach. He believed that he was a teacher, first and foremost. For him, teaching and coaching were one in the same.”
Yes, Vincent Thomas Lombardi was a great coach and a great teacher. But he was more than that. He was also a great man. A man who molded great football players to be sure, but more importantly than that, he molded great people.
Jerry Kramer is a testament to that.