Jerry Kramer: 'Somebody helped me' on legendary Ice Bowl block
Fifty years ago this month, the Ice Bowl became the most iconic game in Green Bay Packers history. Playing in frigid temperatures of 13 below zero at kickoff, the Packers won their record-tying third straight NFL championship, beating the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 on Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak with 13 seconds to play on Dec. 31, 1967. They went on to win Super Bowl II in Vince Lombardi’s final game as Packers coach.
This is the fifth in a series of stories and videos of Packers who played in the Ice Bowl sharing their memories of that unforgettable experience. We asked each participant what they remembered about that day: before, during and after the legendary game.
Packers guard Jerry Kramer made the block on Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh that enabled Starr to score on his sneak. Kramer is a 2018 finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Before the game:
When did you first realize how cold it was?
“I grew up in northern Idaho in the high country and we had 30, 40, 50 below and we had blizzards and we had all kinds of weather and we learned to deal with it. We learned to dress for it and we learned to play in it. And I would go duck hunting at 25 below zero and have a wonderful day, but I had down and I had underwear and I had all the necessary pieces to keep me warm.
"So when I walk out the door, I felt that blast. ‘Wow, this is really cold!’ And I knew it wasn’t above zero. I knew it was really cold. So I prepared for the game by getting thermal underwear and I cut ‘em off at the elbow and the knee so that the trunk would be protected, and then I put a wool dickey around my neck to keep my neck warm and then I was pretty much ready to go. I put on some gloves as the final piece, some brown cotton gloves and I was ready to play.”
During the game:
When did you realize that Lombardi’s high-tech heating system underneath the Lambeau Field playing surface had failed?
“Halftime. When they took the tarp off (before the game), there had been condensation under the tarp and the top (of the field) was actually slushy. The grass and the top two inches. So it was a little muddy but other than that it wasn’t bad. So at halftime we came out and it had frozen solid. And then it was a skating rink and it was a totally different footing situation in the second half. And again it was, deal with it, do what you need to do.”
Your memories of Starr’s game-winning quarterback sneak? He asked whether you could get enough footing to make the block on Pugh?
“Well, I had studied Jethro in the three previous games in the short-yardage situations and I knew he had a tendency to come up. Bob Lilly, on the other side, they both lined up with their head about 12 inches from the turf. And Lilly was low and tough and he wasn’t going to be moved. Jethro’s first move was up. So if he makes that same move, which I’ve gotta believe he will, I’m going to get into him and I’m going to block him. And it’s not going to be that big a deal. And the footing is a question: Can you get a start? And somebody helped me a little bit with that. When I got into my stance, I normally put my right foot back and I pushed off that right foot, and there was a divot, much like a golf divot, about an inch deep that I put my left foot in and snuggled it in and was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got a starting block!’ Really looked like a starting block. So I came off the ball as quick as I ever have in my life, I really had a great start. Jethro did what he had been doing in the previous three weeks and I did what I had to do.”
After the game:
What went through your mind after the winning touchdown?
“I had a great sense of relief when I turned around and looked at the ball carrier, who happened to be Bart, and I saw him laying across the end zone (line) and that we had scored. The overwhelming feeling was relief that I had got my job done and had been able to take care of my position and my business and had not let the team down.”
For more Ice Bowl 50th anniversary coverage, visit icebowl50.com