Jerry Kramer, #64, during a visit to Lambeau Field. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

64 days to Packers football: Jerry Kramer

With 64 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day continues. Thursday, Sept. 4, is the day when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.  Over the  course of the next 64 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … today its number 64.

Yesterday, we took a look at Ron Hallstrom and Mark Tauscher, two of the best offensive lineman who have worn #65 for the Green Bay Packers.

FOR AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT EVERY NUMBER AND THE PLAYERS WHO WORE THEM, WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND “PACKERS BY THE NUMBERS: JERSEY NUMBERS AND THE PLAYERS WHO WORE THEM,” BY JOHN MAXYMUK.

Today, like it was with #66 a couple of days ago, is a milestone day.

We all know who the best player, the most underrated player, and the most deserving player to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is …

Jerry Kramer

But consider this, unlike #66 where only six players total have worn that number in the past 64 years, #64 has been worn by 19 Packers players since 1950, including Kramer.

None of them have deserved to wear that number more than Kramer.

Consider guys like Paul FenaroliAlcender JacksonJames LeeCecil Newton, and Vince Villanucci … no, I didn’t remember them either.

But there was Bruce Wilkerson, who came to the Packers in their mid-1990s Super Bowl runs and played well and most recently there was Greg Van Roten who wore the number.

But it’s been Kramer who wore the number the best and the longest, from 1958-68.

But it’s been Kramer who wore the number the best and the longest, from 1958-68.

Kramer, who has long been considered the biggest snub by the selection committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is one of the most-loved, articulate and talented offensive linemen to wear a Packers jersey.

He was selected to the NFL’s All-50 Year team and in fact is the only member of that elite team that hasn’t been selected to the Hall of Fame.

Jerry Kramer is also one of the biggest ambassadors of the team, constantly making public appearances and representing the team across the country.

That said, so much has been written about the guy there are few acclamations that haven’t been thrown his direction.

But John Maxymuk, the author of  “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” had this to say about the man:

Jerry Kramer has packed a lot of living and near-dying into his time on earth. He has been a football star, best-selling author, successful entrepreneur and businessman, and rancher. He was also once known as “Zipper” for his frequent medical mishaps: getting his shirt caught in a lathe, accidentally shooting himself in the side, having his groin punctured by several seven-and-one-half-inch slivers of wood, and having a colostomy as well as enduring such football injuries as concussions, chipped vertebrae, a detached retina, a broken ankle, broken ribs, a broken thumb and pinched nerves. Not to mention two marriages, two divorces, and six kids. He has had an activee life.

Above all else, Kramer has been the historian of a special time, a special coach, and a special team, having had a hand in four books about the 1960s Packers. “Instant Replay” was his diary of the historic 1967 season that culminated in the Packers’ third consecutive championship. It was edited by Dick Schaap and had a most fortuitous climax of Kramer himself opening the hole for the winning touchdown in the Ice Bowl, thereby becoming a household name and making this book a tremendous best seller. In 1969, he and Schaap followed that up with “Farewell to Football,” his autobiography in the wake of his retirement after 1968.

Kramer flew solo in his third book the following year in 1970, “Lombardi: Winning is the Only Thing,” which was a compilation of interviews with friends and former players of the coach.

For “Distant Replay” in 1986, Kramer was again assisted by Dick Schaap. It told the story of the 1966 Packers on the 18th anniversary of their Super Bowl I championship. It was a brilliant idea to relay what had happened to those players in the two decades, and was another best seller.

As center Ken Bowman put it, “Jerry had more of a sense of history than the rest of us. He came in there in that last year that Lombardi coached and started at the beginning of training camp with his little tape recorder. We all rode him a bit about this. He was chronicling everything that was going on and we kind of teased him about it, and he took it good-naturedly.”

During his career, he was a highly respected player. He was first team All Pro five times, second team twice, and played in three Pro Bowls. He also scored 177 points as a kicker, stepping in when Paul Hornung was banged up in 1962 and suspended in 1963.

In the 1962 title game victory over the Giants, he hit there of five field goal attempts in a swirling wind and scored 10 of the Packers 16 points.

Although Henry Jordan would joke about Jerry’s kickoffs that, “We’re the only team that kicks off and then goes into a a goal line defense.”

Henry Jordan would joke about Jerry’s kickoffs that, “We’re the only team that kicks off and then goes into a a goal line defense.”

And then there is that block to win the Ice Bowl – probably the most famous block in football history.
ken Bowman, his silent partner on the block, sized up the men with whom he rubbed shudders: “Fuzzy probably makes more blocks than Jerry, but they air’ as pretty. Jerry used to go out there and he’d just drill somebody, and you’d see the bottoms of the soles of their shoes. They’c be flying through the air and landing not heir backs.”

Kramer was selected as the greatest guard of the first 50 years of the NFL in 1969 and inducted in to the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975, but he has not been elected to Canton.

Kramer was not only overexposed, but seemed to get a little punch-drunk on his own fame. Jerry himself tells the story of being invited to a Frank Sinatra recording session in the early 1980s and afterward telling Sinatra how his approach to the song he had just recorded was all wrong. Sinatra, of course, just stared at him and would not dignify Kramer’s arrogance with a response.

As Kramer sums it up, “Would you believe that it still took a few years before I realized that I better stop listening to the wonderful sound of my own voice?”

Even taking Jerry at his word, that he got over his cockiness, that sort of behavior over time could grate on people. Not everyone would be able to forgive or look beyond such past history.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether Jerry Kramer is ever elected to the Hall. He had a spectacular career on the creates team of his time, and his books have not only kept alive that team and thea teachings of his unforgettable coach, but they have given Kramer a special place in Football history as well.

I agree.

Regardless of whether Kramer is elected to the Hall, he has brought Packers fans and the team a lifetime of memories that won’t soon be forgotten.

The following are Kramer’s career statistics:

 

The following is a complete list of players who have worn #64 in the past 50 years:

  From To AV
Adrian Battles 2011 2011  
Steve Collier 1987 1987 3
Ernie Danjean 1957 1957 0
Paul Fenaroli 2011 2011  
Ted Fritsch 1950 1950 0
Kevin Hunt 1972 1972 1
Alcender Jackson 2002 2002 0
John Jurkovic 1993 1995 18
Syd Kitson 1980 1984 9
Jerry Kramer 1958 1968 76
James Lee 2004 2004 1
Mike McCabe 2012 2012  
Alex Neutz 2012 2012  
Cecil Newton 2011 2011  
Tony Palmer 2006 2007 0
Greg Van Roten 2012 2013 1
Jake Vermiglio 2011 2011  
Vince Villanucci 1987 1987 0
Bruce Wilkerson 1996 1997 4

A year or so ago, we had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Kramer.

The result of that interview is included in the following videos:


 

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