On August 24th, five members of the Seniors Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame will meet in Canton, Ohio to discuss and then name two senior candidates for possible induction.
The entire class of 2018 (including two senior nominees and one contributor nominee) will be voted on the day before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
One of the five members who will be present for the meeting is Rick Gosselin. I’ve have gotten to know Gosselin over the past few years and he has really educated me on how difficult the process is for naming senior candidates.
All that being said, although I will not be in actual attendance, my story below is written like I was doing a presentation for Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers for the committee. Having a background in sales, I have done dozens of presentations to numerous businesses.
I normally would hand out an agenda to the members of the company or corporation I would be presenting to and then do a PowerPoint presentation.
I would do the same with this committee if possible, but for this piece, I will just give you my verbal presentation with some photos.
Good morning. I appreciate you allotting me some time for my presentation today.
I know you folks have to go through a very difficult process before you can name a senior nominee or nominees.
I have been able to become acquainted with one of your committee members, Rick Gosselin, over the past few years and he has explained to me how extremely arduous your course of action is in determining a senior nominee, due to all the many worthy candidates who somehow have fallen through the cracks over the years.
Rick has told me about the proposal he has made to David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) about nominating several senior candidates in the centennial season of the NFL.
I had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Baker earlier this year and we discussed Rick’s proposal. Mr. Baker told me that he was definitely considering Rick’s recommendation. That would be fabulous if that comes to fruition and that a number of deserving seniors get their rightful inclusion into the Hall of Fame.
This morning, I want to talk to you about a very worthy senior candidate…Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers.
In 1969, Jerry was named the best player ever at the guard position in the first 50 years of the NFL, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame named their NFL 50th anniversary team.
The first team consisted of Jim Thorpe, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John Mackey, Chuck Bednarik, Gino Marchetti, Leo Nomellini, Ray Nitschke, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Emlen Tunnell, Lou Groza and Kramer.
Every one of the members on that legendary team are now enshrined as players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All except one. That would be Mr. Kramer.
As I am a regular reader of Mr. Gosselins’s fine work, I recall a statement by him regarding Kramer’s omission in one of his chats with his readers.
Rick told his readers, “I think Jerry Kramer is the biggest oversight in Canton — if only for the fact that the Hall of Fame selection committee voted him the best guard in the first 50 years of the NFL. Yet he’s gone before that committee something like 10 times and can’t get the votes for induction. It becomes a credibility issue. If you’re going to tell us a player is the best at his position in the first 50 years of the game then not stand behind that selection when it comes time to hand out busts…why even pick an all-half century team?”
In addition to that, Rick recently wrote a story, as he conducted a poll on his fine site, Talk of Fame Network. The poll was about who was the most deserving senior candidate in 2018.
Rick’s candidates in the poll included quarterback Ken Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals, linebacker Robert Brazile of the Houston Oilers, defensive tackle Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions, defensive lineman Joe Klecko of the New York Jets, defensive end Jim Marshall of the Minnesota Vikings, safety Johnny Robinson of the Kansas City Chiefs, linebacker Andy Russell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kramer of the Packers.
The poll story ran about a week and Kramer won in a landslide, as he received 86 percent of the vote. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you, as I’m sure everyone of you have received hundreds of letters or notes from fans endorsing Kramer’s induction to Canton.
Plus, let’s not forget that Kramer was also named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.
Looking back on the players who were named First-Team All-Decade through the year 2000, there were 145 players who were given that designation.
And up until now, 134 of those players have been inducted into the hallowed halls in Canton.
Kramer is one of those 11 First-Team All-Decade players who have yet to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Now looking back on Kramer’s career with the Packers, No. 64 was a six-time AP All-Pro and was also named to three Pro Bowls for the Packers. Kramer would have had even more honors if not for injuries and illness. Kramer missed half of the 1961 season due to a broken ankle and almost all of the 1964 season due to an intestinal ailment which took nine operations to resolve.
Kramer also played a large role in the success that the Packers had under head coach Vince Lombardi in the postseason. The Packers were 9-1 under Lombardi in the postseason, which included five NFL championships in seven years. That included victories in the first two Super Bowls.
Kramer was a huge component in the NFL title victories in 1962, 1965 and 1967.
In the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus the New York Giants at very cold and windy Yankee Stadium, Kramer doubled as a right guard and as placekicker. Kramer booted three field goals on a very difficult day to kick, as some wind gusts were over 40 mph during the contest.
Kramer scored 10 points in the 16-7 victory for the Packers, plus helped lead the way for fullback Jimmy Taylor to gain 85 yards rushing and also score the lone Green Bay touchdown. As a team, the Packers gained 148 yards rushing that day.
In the 1965 NFL Championship Game versus the Cleveland Browns at snowy and muddy Lambeau Field, Kramer and his teammates on the offensive line had a sensational day.
Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung led a rushing attack that gained 204 yards, as the Pack won 23-12. The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and fellow guard Fuzzy Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs as the Packers gained big chunks of yardage past the line of scrimmage.
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” made his way into the end zone.
Then came the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Cowboys at frigid Lambeau Field. In that legendary contest, Kramer made the most famous block in the history of the NFL.
The playing surface that day was truly a frozen tundra, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero.
It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys.
Quarterback Bart Starr called a 31-wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, Starr decided to keep the ball after conferring with Lombardi on the sideline about the play.
Starr thought it would be better to try to get into the end zone himself due to the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line. He followed Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh and found a hole behind No. 64 to score the winning touchdown.
When one looks back on the consistent success of those great Green Bay teams under Lombardi, there are two points which certainly have to be made.
The power sweep was obviously the signature play for the Packers under Lombardi. Plus, Starr’s quarterback sneak with just seconds remaining in the “Ice Bowl”, had to be the signature moment of the Lombardi legacy.
Kramer played a prominent role in both of those instances.
Finally, besides being named to the NFL 50th anniversary team and being named All-Decade in the 1960s, Kramer also has the respect and admiration of many of his peers who he played with and against during his era.
Peers who now have busts in Canton.
Kramer has been endorsed by legendary defensive tackles such as Merlin Olsen and Bob Lilly, who were not only All-Decade in the 1960s, but also in the 1970s. Kramer was also endorsed by Alan Page, who was named All-Decade in the 1970s.
Kramer was really honored with the endorsement he received from Olsen, as Merlin was the finest defensive tackle he ever faced. In fact, there are many who believe Olsen was the best defensive tackle in NFL history.
Olsen went to 14 Pro Bowls, plus was named AP All-Pro nine times in his career as well.
In his endorsement of Kramer to the Hall, Olsen says:
“There is no question in my mind that Jerry Kramer has Hall of Fame credentials. Respect is given grudgingly in the trenches of the NFL and Jerry has earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons.
“Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you will put this process in motion by including his name on the ballot for this coming year.”
Kramer has also been endorsed by other contemporaries who are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Kramer has been recommended for the Hall of Fame by teammates like Starr, Hornung and Willie Davis, along with opponents like Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Doug Atkins, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.
The absolute proudest endorsement Kramer ever received came from his head coach.
This is what Vince Lombardi said about Kramer in a 1969 article in the Chicago Tribune:
“Jerry Kramer is the best guard in the league,” Lombardi said. “Some say the best in the history of the game.”
In summation, I know that you are going through a very challenging situation here in recommending senior candidates because they are so many worthy ones.
Again, I hope Rick’s proposal about having a number of senior candidates nominated in the NFL centennial year becomes a reality.
But for the Class of 2018, in my humble opinion, there is no senior candidate who can match the achievements, the awards and the success that Jerry Kramer had in his NFL career.
That is why Kramer was named to the NFL 50th anniversary team in 1969 and that is why his head coach called him the best guard in the NFL that same year and perhaps the best of all time.
The bottom line is Jerry Kramer deserves to be one of the two senior candidates who you will nominate this year.
I certainly appreciate your time and your consideration.