Jerry Kramer Talks About Don Chandler

don-chandler-in-super-bowl-ii

Super Bowl LI will be played on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston. It’s hard to believe this will be the 51st Super Bowl.

The Green Bay Packers played in the first two Super Bowls and have played in five overall.

Guess who the all-time leading scorer for the Packers is in their Super Bowl play over the years? That would be kicker Don Chandler who scored 20 points in Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

No. 34 kicked four field goals and eight extra points in those two games and still is the record-holder for points scored by a player on the Packers in team Super Bowl history.

Chandler first came to the Packers in 1965, as Vince Lombardi was trying to improve the kicking situation with the team. Lombardi traded a draft choice to the New York Giants for Chandler, who at that time was both a placekicker and a punter.

Chandler was drafted out of the University of Florida by the G-Men in 1956. He was strictly a punter his first six years with the Giants and then became both a punter and placekicker from 1962 through 1964 with New York.

Chandler played in six NFL title games when he played with the Giants, but only won one championship, which happened in 1956. The offensive coordinator for the Giants in 1956 was none other than Lombardi.

Chandler led the NFL in scoring in 1963 with 105 points. The placekicker for the Packers finished fourth in the league that year with 91 points. That player’s name was Jerry Kramer.

Kramer kicked that year for the Packers for two reasons. One, No. 64 had done a great job kicking for the Pack in 1962 when the regular placekicker hurt his knee. That player was Paul Hornung, who also was the team’s starting halfback.

Kramer hit nine-of-11 field goals in ’62, plus kicked three more against Chandler and the Giants at frigid and very windy (40 mph gusts) Yankee Stadium, when the Packers beat the G-Men 16-7. The 10 points that Kramer scored that day was the difference in the game.

In 1963, Hornung was suspended for gambling. That made Kramer the full-time placekicker, besides being the team’s starting right guard. Kramer had an excellent year for the Packers in ’63, not only in kicking, but by being named to the Pro Bowl for the second time and was also named first-team All-Pro for the third time in his career because of his play on the offensive line.

Kramer did falter a bit with his accuracy late in the ’63 season, so when Hornung came back to the team in 1964, he was once again the placekicker. The “Golden Boy” had a dreadful year that season kicking the ball, as he made only 12-of-38 field goals.

Kramer was not available to help out in the kicking game or in any part of the game, as 1964 was the year when Kramer started having some severe intestinal issues. Those issues cost Kramer almost the entire season, as he was in and out of hospitals during that time. Kramer ended up going through nine medical procedures before his medical situation was resolved.

That was a big reason why Lombardi traded for Chandler in 1965. He needed a kicker and a punter who would be steady for the team, just like Chandler had been for the Giants for the past three years.

It was a different story for Kramer going into the 1965 season with the Packers. No. 64’s career was definitely at the crossroads.

Kramer explained that to me awhile back.

“I reported to camp at around 220 pounds,” Kramer said. “I nine operations that offseason, which involved removing 16 inches of my colon because of a bunch of slivers that were in there for 11 years.

“So when I went to talk with Coach Lombardi about playing, he said, ‘Jerry, we can’t count on you this year. I just want you to go home  and we’ll take care of your salary and your hospital bills.’

“I told Lombardi that I really wanted to play. I knew that I had already missed most of the ’64 season and if I missed the ’65 season, I would probably never get a chance to play again.

“I told Lombardi that I would not go home and that I wanted to play. We went back and forth about this for about 35 or 40 minutes. Finally Lombardi says, ‘Okay, I’m going to put you with the defense.’

“I said, great. I always wanted to play defense anyway.”

Kramer soon found out that his task of getting in football shape would be very difficult.

“We always used to take three laps around the field to start practice. I ran a half of a lap and my lungs seized up. I just couldn’t breathe or get any air.  Don Chandler came up to me and asked, ‘What’s wrong, pal?’

“I told Don that I can’t breathe. Don told me that, ‘Between the two of us, we would do what one of the players does in terms of an exercise. If you can only do a half of a lap, I’ll do the other two and half laps.’

“So Don worked out besides me for the next month and we did just that. If the team did 50 sit ups and I could only do 10, Don would do the other 40. If the team did 50 side-saddle hops and I could only do 15, Don would do the other 35.

“So Don kept me in the game and kept me from being embarrassed. That kept me from feeling like a jerk in front of a bunch of world-class athletes. So by doing that procedure with Don, I gradually was able to do more and after a month I was able to do all of the exercises.

“I gained about 15 pounds.  I knew that the colostomy was reattached, the hernia was fixed and the intestines were okay. It was just going through the reconditioning which was so difficult.

“Without Don, I really doubt that I could have made it through that camp. So all the books, all the Super Bowls and all the great things that happened to me after that was because of my teammate.”

After a few games, Kramer had once again become the starting right guard for the Packers. Chandler, meanwhile, was 17-out-of-26 in field goals and led the team in scoring with 88 points, plus had 42.9 punting average, which included a 90-yard punt.

Chandler, who was also a running back in college with the Gators, also scampered 27 yards on a fake punt run.

It was during the 1965 Western Division Championship Game between the Packers and Baltimore Colts at Lambeau Field when Chandler was part of one of the more controversial plays in NFL history.

The Packers were down 10-7 late in the game when backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski led the Packers from their own 28 to the Baltimore 15, before kicker Don Chandler attempted a 22-yard field goal.

Bratkowski was in the game because Bart Starr had injured his ribs trying to tackle linebacker Don Shinnick after he recovered a Bill Anderson fumble on the very first scrimmage play of the game.

Starr tried to tackle Shinnick near the end zone, as the linebacker scored to put the Colts up early 7-0.

On Chandler’s late game-tying field goal, the referees said the kick was good. Meanwhile the Colts were complaining to anyone who would listen that the kick was definitely no good and wide right.

That kick led the NFL to raise the height of the goal posts the following season.

There has been quite a debate on whether that kick was good or not, but one person was sure that it was good. That would be Bratkowski.

“The field goal was good,” Bratkowski told me a few months ago. “The reason I say that is Bart and I were both holders. If he was hurt and couldn’t hold on kicks, I would hold. In practice, the quarterback who wasn’t holding would be under the goal posts catching the kicks, just like in that game.

“But with those short goal posts, unless you were under them, you couldn’t tell if a kick was good or not. And that’s were the officials were when they said the kick was good.”

don-chandlers-game-winner-vs-the-colts-in-65

In overtime, Chandler hit a 25-yard field goal. This time, there was absolutely no doubt about the kick, and the Packers were 13-10 overtime winners.

The next week, the Packers hosted the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns at Lambeau. Both Chandler and Kramer starred in the game.

Chandler kicked three field goals and two extra points, while Kramer, along with Fuzzy Thurston and the rest of the offensive line, opened huge holes for Hornung (105 yards rushing and a score) and fullback Jim Taylor (96 yards rushing) to run through.

The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and  Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs, mowing down defenders so the Packers gained big chunks of yardage on the ground.

Hornung scored the last touchdown of the game on one of those power sweeps. Kramer pulled left and first blocked the middle linebacker and then a cornerback as the “Golden Boy” found the end zone, as the Packers defeated the Browns 23-12 to win the 1965 NFL title.

In 1966, Kramer had an outstanding season, as it was named first-team All-Pro for the fourth time. Chandler struggled a bit with his field goal accuracy, but still led the team in scoring with 77 points.

Chandler also had a 40.9 punting average and once again broke off a long run on a fake punt, when he rambled down the field for 33 yards on that run.

The Packers as a team were exceptional in ’66, as the team went 12-2, with the two losses by a combined four points. The Pack went on to beat the Cowboys 34-27 in the 1966 NFL title game and two weeks later beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I.

Before the 1967 season, the Packers had a couple of major changes to their roster. Taylor played out his option in 1966 and joined the expansion New Orleans Saints in ’67. Plus, Lombardi put Hornung on the expansion list for the Saints to select and sure enough, they selected No. 5.

Hornung ended up retiring before he joined the Saints because of a pinched nerve issue with his shoulder.

There would be changes for Kramer and Chandler as well. Taylor had been Kramer’s roommate since their rookie year in 1958, so that meant he would be getting a new roomy.

The new roommate ended up being Chandler. Chandler also would only have one job to do in ’67 as the placekicker for the team, as Donny Anderson became the punter for the Pack that season.

Kramer talked about being Chandler’s roommate when we spoke recently.

“We clicked right away as friends,” Kramer said. “Don was a sweet man. A kind man. He had a lot of empathy. He was just a really nice man. Don proved that with all the help he gave me in training camp in ’65 when I was coming back from the intestinal issues when I missed most of the ’64 season.

“We became really good friends. We played golf together and had kicking duels. We had lunch together and we would have a kicking contest to see who would buy the chili that day.

“It was really a good relationship. We eventually got into business together when we developed apartments in Tulsa, Don’s hometown. I had an apartment in Tulsa and I was down there a lot.

“I got to know the family and the kids, the whole group. So it became a real strong friendship.”

The 1967 season was a special season for Kramer, Chandler, Lombardi and the entire Green Bay organization.

That was the year that Kramer, with help from author Dick Schaap, wrote Instant Replay.

I wrote about that book in another story I put out last summer. Here is part of what I wrote:

I do it every summer around training camp. I get out the book Instant Replay and read it. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. It’s been a ritual for me. Why? The book is that good.

In 1967, when Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was 31 years old, he kept a diary of the season. Kramer would recite his thoughts into a tape recorder and then submit those words to Dick Schaap, who edited the words into the final version of Instant Replay.

Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of the NFL, culminating with the NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” No. 64 played a key role in the outcome of that game as well, as the Packers won 21-17 in the final seconds of that classic contest.

From training camp, through the Ice Bowl victory, then the win in Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a fascinating perspective about the viciousness of the NFL back then, when the game was truly a mixture of blood, sweat and tears.

Kramer also offers an insightful view of the team’s legendary leader, head coach Vince Lombardi. The 1967 season was Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers as well.

The Packers did something that no other team has ever done in the modern era in the NFL in 1967. That is, winning a third straight NFL title, which included the team’s second straight win in the Super Bowl.

It was an epic season with deep valleys and high mountain tops.

Hornung and Taylor were gone. Starr was injured early in the year. The Packers lost both starting running backs, halfback Elijah Pitts and fullback Jim Grabowski, for the season in the same game.

There were the gut-wrenching last-second losses vs. the Colts and the Los Angeles Rams on the road.

But then there was the uplifting triumph over the Rams in the Western Conference Championship Game at Milwaukee County Stadium, when the Packers throttled the Rams 28-7.

don-chandler-hits-a-field-goal-vs-the-rams-in-67

The following week was the legendary “Ice Bowl” game and a third-straight NFL title.

Two weeks later, the Packers won their second straight Super Bowl game, when Chandler scored 15 points in the 33-14 win by Green Bay over the Oakland Raiders.

Both Kramer and Chandler had great seasons. Kramer was once again named first-team All-Pro, plus was named to the Pro Bowl squad, while Chandler was 19-of-29 in field goals for the Packers and led the team in scoring with 96 points. Chandler was also named to his first Pro Bowl squad.

Chandler retired after that 1967 season, but he left behind a great NFL résumé.

In his 12-year career, Chandler played in nine NFL title games, winning four. Chandler ended up scoring 530 points in his career (261 with the Packers). No. 34 also had a career average of 43.5 yards per punt and punted for 28,678 yards.

Like Kramer, Chandler was also clutch with the way he performed in the postseason. In his entire career with the Giants and Packers, Chandler made 10-of 15 field goals, while in Green Bay alone, he was nine-of-12 in that statistic.

Chandler’s name will be forever linked to another outstanding achievement that Kramer also accomplished. That was being named to the 1960s All-Decade team as the team’s punter, while No. 64 received the same honor at guard.

Also on that team were a number of teammates that Chandler and Kramer had in their careers, the list included split end Del Shofner of the Giants, as well as flanker Boyd Dowler, offensive tackle Forrest Gregg, center Jim Ringo, quarterback Starr, halfback Hornung, fullback Taylor, defensive end Willie Davis, line backer Ray Nitschke, linebacker Dave Robinson, cornerback Herb Adderley and safety Willie Wood of the Packers.

Sadly, Chandler passed away at the age of 76 in 2011.

Bottom line, Chandler was an outstanding player in the kicking game, whether it was as a placekicker or a punter.

But better yet, he had something else going for him as well, as Kramer explained to me.

“Don was the epitome of being a great teammate,” Kramer said. “But he was more than that for me. Don was truly a great friend.”

2 thoughts on “Jerry Kramer Talks About Don Chandler

  1. Pingback: Jerry Kramer Talks About Max McGee | Bob Fox

  2. Pingback: Jerry Kramer Talks About Tommy Joe Crutcher | Bob Fox

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