For too many years, former Green Bay guard Jerry Kramer has been the most qualified candidate in the pool of senior candidates waiting on the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only guard on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team and only member of that squad not in Canton, Kramer had been passed over 10 previous times as a Hall-of-Fame candidate -- with 1997 his last stop.
In fact, the 20-year wait not only had some voters skeptical that Kramer’s candidacy would resurface, but had Kramer wary, too. In fact, he conceded on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast that he “kind of accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be in.” And, surprisingly, he said he was “OK” with it.
The reason? Let him explain.
“I had kind of analyzed everything,” he said on the broadcast, “and it’s been quite a while. And (with) a lot of young guys coming along … and a lot of great football players coming along … maybe my time had passed.
“I got my lip out a little bit couple of times, and I'd get a little angry, a little hurt feelings and stuff like that, and then I’d sit down and go, ‘This game has been so good to you. If you could’ve dreamed or imagined a road like this when you left Sandpoint (Idaho) High, you would’ve gone schizo; you would’ve been absolutely nuts. You think about the game giving you so many presents, being so good to you, that if they don’t give you one that’s really OK.
“It’s just been a wonderful ride, a wonderful experience (with) exceptional people. At times you’ve been so well honored, so well greeted, and the Packer fans have been so sensational, you’ve got no bitches; you’ve got nothing to worry about. Life has been good. Life has been outstanding. So shut up, quit sucking your thumb and enjoy yourself.' And that’s pretty much what my thoughts were.”
Kramer was so convinced that his time would never come again that the Pro Football Hall of Fame had trouble reaching him when its senior committee nominated him and former Houston linebacker Robert Brazile as finalists for the Class of 2018. Kramer had gone to a luncheon that afternoon and was unaware of what was happening in Canton until a friend from Kenosha, Wis., telephoned.
“He said, ‘Congratulations,’ “ Kramer recalled. “And I said, ‘For what?’ And he said, ‘Your nomination.’ I said, ‘To what?’ He said, 'The Pro Football Hall of Fame.’ And I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ “
No, he wasn’t. And Kramer understood when he looked at his cellphone and saw that he'd a missed call from the Hall's president, David Baker.
“In the quiet of the evenings,” Kramer said, “I would let my mind wander from time to time, and I could almost imagine what it would be like to have Mr. Baker to call or maybe get your name up in the Packer Ring of Honor. You never mentioned it to anybody. It never got beyond your dreams. But they were there and they were still alive ... but weak. So it was a wonderful call, and it's been a wonderful few days here.”
Kramer’s case will be decided by the Hall’s board of selectors next February. If he gains 80 percent of the vote, he will gain admission to a Hall of Fame that he and his legion of fans have been waiting on for decades.
"Somebody (once) suggested there might be a Nomination Hall of Fame," Kramer said, "and if I didn't make the NFL Hall of Fame I might make the Nomination Hall of Fame. With so many nominations, you'd think that I would be a shoo-in."