88 days to football: Ron Kramer


With 88 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day, Thursday, Sept. 4, when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks will focus on the the number that represents the number of days remaining … today it’s #88.

We highly recommend “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore Them,” by John Maxymuk. The book, which chronicles every Packers jersey number was published in 2003, so it may be a bit incomplete, but it provides a strong background of information about Packers players and their jersey numbers up to that point in time.

Ron Kramer (88) in the open field against the Minnesota Vikings.

Yesterday, we focused on Hall of Famer Dave Robinson, who was, without question, the most popular and productive player to wear #89.

Today, we highlight the best Packers player ever to wear #88 – tight end Ron Kramer.

But what about fellow tight ends Bubba Franks and Jermichael Finley?

Both were very good players for the Packers, but played in different eras than did Kramer, who helped rewrite the job description for the position 50 years ago.

But like yesterday’s number, there were those failures who wore #88, such as Terry MickensRon Jones, and Dick Capp.

On the flip side, there have been some players who have worn #88 who had pretty decent careers with the Packers.

Who can forget how Keith Jackson came to the Packers and with the help of fellow tight end Mark Chmura helped the Packers to two straight Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997?

See the list below to see the players who have worn #88 over the past 50 years … most of these guys you may not remember – no, neither do I.

But for us longtime Packers fans, we love to remember tight end Ron Kramer. For those of us lucky enough to remember his playing days, we remember his ability to catch the ball in traffic, to block and to play the kind of football that coach Vince Lombardi demanded. We remember him looking like wide receiver in tight end’s clothing.

At 6-3, 234 pounds, Kramer played 10 years in the NFL, seven of them in Green Bay. He played his final three years for the Lions in his home state.

Kramer was a rookie in 1957, and had a breakout season with 28 catches for 337 yards. In 1958 and 1959, he spent time in the military, but when Lombardi started utilizing him more in 1960, his statistics began to increase. Between 1961 and 1964 (his last year in Green Bay), he had 138 catches for 2,202 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Over the course of his career in Green Bay, he caught 170 balls for 2,594 yards (15.3 yards per catch), and 15 touchdowns.

Here is how Maxymuk describes Kramer:

"At the University of Michigan, Ron Kramer was known as the ‘Terror of the Big Ten.’ He caught passes, place-kicked, punted, and blocked on offense; on defense he played defensive end in a bruising style that got him thrown out of the Ohio State game as a senior for unnecessary roughness. In addition to being a two-time All-American in football, he played center on the basketball team where he was three-time team MVP, and also lettered three years in track.Drafted in the first round by the Packers in 1957, his pro career fell into three equal phases. In his first four years, he looked like a flop. As a rookie, he caught 28 passes, but then missed more than a year in the military. By the time he reported to the team in 1959, he had missed training camp and was out of shape. He did not catch a pass all year. In the following year, he won the starting tight-end job in training camp. However, Lombardi sent him back to the bench after he ran the wrong pass patern in the opener, causing a crucial pass interception in the loss to the Bears. He caught only four passes all year wile being stuck on the pine.Kramer rededicated his effort the next year and began the second phase of his pro career. From 1961064, he was the prototypical tight end, a true blend of lineman and receiver. As Kramer described it, the tight end is a “loose tackle.” The Bears’ Mike Ditka and the Colts’ John Mackey were more central to their teams’ passing offenses and caught more passes, but Kramer was a powerful force at the line of scrimmage for Green Bay. His ability to handle a defensive end by himself freed the Packer interior linemen to expand their own blocking range."

Like Ditka and Mackey, Kramer helped to establish the position for the modern game. Guys like Jermichael Finley and Tony Gonzalez can thank their predecessors for their work.

Kramer will long be remembered as one o the best in Green Bay.

Provided by Pro Football Reference, here is the list of players over the past 50 years who have worn #88.

Bill Anderson196519661
Jahine Arnold199919990
Bert Askson1975197710
Albert Bell198819880
Dick Capp196719670
Ron Cassidy197919842
Preston Dennard198519851
Jermichael Finley2008201327
Bubba Franks2000200718
Len Garrett197119731
George Hays195319530
Darryl Ingram199219930
Keith Jackson199519965
Reggie Johnson199719970
Ron Jones196919690
Ron Kramer1957196431
Aubrey Matthews198819893
Phil McConkey198619860
Terry Mickens199419940
Roell Preston199719983
Gene White195419540
Charles Wilson199019915

Here’s a video tribute to Ron Kramer: