Jerry Kramer’s long odyssey to enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame has taken many emotional twists and turns over the years.
Although he earned All-NFL acclaim five times (1960, 1962-63, 1966-67), was voted to three Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s, the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team and the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team, the Hall of Fame was the honor that eluded him for decades after his retirement.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday in advance of the Aug. 4 festivities in Canton, Ohio, Kramer admitted to transforming from feeling frustrated and disappointed early in the process to outright disdain for the Hall after several years of missing the cut.
“The emotional package that comes with this is all over the place” Kramer said. “First, back when I was first nominated, there was high hopes and joy. I had made the all-time 50-year team and I’d made a lot of All-Star teams, so I kind of anticipated that I would go into the Hall of Fame. So, obviously, when I didn’t get selected, there was disappointment.
“Then, somewhere around the fifth or sixth nomination, I got angry.”
Kramer went on to equate that anger with what one of his fellow enshrinees is most likely feeling.
“I remember (thinking), ‘Well, they can take that and they can put it where the sun doesn’t shine,’” Kramer said. “I went through probably the same emotional package that Terrell (Owens) is going through.”
Owens, the former All-Pro wide receiver who was among the other players elected along with Kramer in February, has created a buzz by deciding not to attend the ceremony because of the perceived slight of having to wait two years to be enshrined. Owens has said he’s doing so to honor “guys like Jerry” who were made to wait.
“I went through a period where I didn’t want to hear about the Hall of Fame, I didn’t want to talk about the Hall of Fame. I wanted nothing to do with it,” Kramer said. “I literally drove by the Hall of Fame three or four times and I wouldn’t go in, because I was not invited in and I was not going in until I was invited.
“There’s a huge range of emotions that you don’t discuss, generally. You pretty much keep to yourself, at least in my case.”
Former Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer shares memories from the Ice Bowl, which was played 50 years ago on Dec. 31, 1967.
Kramer went on to describe a big party that was thrown in 1997 in New Orleans with his "Instant Replay" co-writer, journalist Dick Schapp. The party was put together in anticipation of his finally getting into the Hall. Once again, it didn’t happen. Once again, Kramer felt a kaleidoscope of emotions, from disappointment to anger to sadness at the thought it might never happen.
“Then I started thinking about it," Kramer said. "I said to myself, ‘You know, in the grand scheme of things, I’ve been pretty damn lucky and pretty fortunate to have been with the Green Bay Packers, with Coach (Vince) Lombardi, with my teammates. It’s been a wonderful ride.'
“Packers fans have been so wonderful and so supportive and so nice, that it just occurred to me, if I was going to be angry over the one honor I didn’t get and trash the hundreds of honors that I did get, that would be stupid. So I started to think about all the wonderful things that happened to me in professional football.
“I just ultimately felt that I had been gifted and it had been a wonderful ride. If I didn’t get the Hall, I didn’t get the Hall, but it wasn’t going to ruin my life and it wasn’t going to ruin my attitude.”
Summing up the experience, from the dark days of thinking he’d never get in to the moment when he got the knock on a hotel door with the message of acceptance from the Hall, Kramer said, “From deep pits, as deep as you can go into the Earth to cloud high.
“It’s a fascinating journey.”