Jerry Kramer Talks About Willie Davis

Jerry Kramer had three roommates in his 11 years in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.

In the first nine years (1958-1966) that No. 64 played under head coach Vince Lombardi, fullback Jimmy Taylor was his roomy.

In 1967, kicker Don Chandler was his roommate.

In 1968, which turned out to be the last season for Kramer in the NFL, his roommate was Willie Davis.

That season was also the year that Lombardi assumed the role of general manager only, as the head coaching duties had been turned over to very capable defensive assistant, Phil Bengtson.

In 1968, the Packers were attempting to win the NFL championship for a fourth consecutive time, which didn’t happen for a myriad of reasons.

In the late 1960s, having a white player and a black player room together was a very rare experience in the NFL. The most widely known example of this was when Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo were roommates for the Chicago Bears.

But under Lombardi, whether as a head coach or as general manager, or as both, race was never an issue on his team.

Kramer talk about this issue in Instant Replay, as Lombardi treated everyone on the team as equal. Here is an excerpt from that classic book:

‘Vince doesn’t care what color a man is as long as he can play football, as long as he can help us win, and all the players feel the same way. That is what being a Green Bay Packer is all about—winning—and we don’t let anything get in the way of it.’

Davis was the captain of the defense and he certainly showed why with his actions on the field. Davis was a five-time first-team All-Pro, plus was named to five Pro Bowls.

Davis played much larger than his size, which was 6’3″, 243-pounds during his career. Sacks were not considered a statistic while Davis played. That being said, John Turney, who is a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association, reported that Davis had over 100 sacks in his 10-year career with the Packers.

Everyone remembers that Reggie White had three sacks in Super Bowl XXXI, but only a few know that Davis had two sacks in Super Bowl I and three more in Super Bowl II.

Davis also recovered 21 fumbles over his Packers career and that still remains a team record.

This fantastic production on the field led to Davis being named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

No. 87 was part of five NFL championship teams in Green Bay, which included the first two Super Bowls.

Kramer recently talked about his former roommate with me.

“Dr. Feelgood,” Kramer said chuckling. “Willie and I sort of drifted together. I don’t know who made the decision for us to room together. We had been downtown looking a possible restaurant franchise with a western theme, and we were both nearing the retirement age.

“Willie was bright, fun and educated extremely well with his MBA from the University of Chicago. I respected Willie’s opinion and his thought process. That sort of brought us together. We ended up having all types of discussions as roommates.”

Kramer talked about a recent get together with Davis.

“I went to his 80th birthday party in Las Vegas,” Kramer said. “We had 400 to 500 of his closest friends there. That included a number of Packers, the Chairman of Dow Chemical, the Chairman of Johnson Controls, the Chairman of MGM Grand and several other business people of that ilk. Willie sat on 17 boards at one time while he was in the business community.”

Speaking of that distinction, Davis is part of the Directors Emeritus of the Packers as well.

Kramer continued his reflection about the former Grambling star.

“Willie is intelligent and funny,” Kramer said. “Willie is principled. You can count on Willie. Willie is the same person today that he was when he and I roomed together. And even though Willie has had significant financial success over the years, he is the same guy. He is a thoughtful, caring, polite and decent human being.”

Kramer than talked about the presence of Davis in the locker room.

“Willie had the respect of the players,” Kramer said. “Not just the players of color, but all the players.

“When there was a problem when black players were having trouble getting decent housing accommodations at one time, Willie would talk to coach Lombardi about it, and then coach would chew some ass and straighten it out.”

It’s pretty obvious that Kramer and Davis are still pretty close, 47 years after they were roommates.

“I have a Kramer suite at the Davis home in Marina del Ray,” Kramer said. “It’s the big bedroom upstairs looking out at the ocean.”

It sounds awesome.

It would also be awesome if Kramer had a bust alongside of Davis at Canton in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That is an honor that has long been overdue for No. 64.

20 thoughts on “Jerry Kramer Talks About Willie Davis

  1. Mr. Kramer. I was a big Packers fan in the late 50’s and early sixties. I attended Wilbur Wright Jr. High School in Cleveland, Ohio 1960 to 1961. Either Willie Davis or Willie Wood was a substitute teacher that year but I forgot which one. Is there any way you could confirm which it was. Thanks, Billy Johnson

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  2. Hello Billy,

    I’ll ask Jerry about this the next time I talk to him, but I would say that you are probably talking about Willie Davis. Davis played with the Cleveland Browns for two seasons before he was traded to the Packers.

    Bob

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