There were a lot of good things about writing Green Bay's Greatest: Profiles of the Packers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the most enjoyable was undoubtedly interviewing Packers legend Jerry Kramer.
I have done some writing for Packerland Pride magazine and their editor, Greg Bates, was kind enough to pass along Jerry's number several years ago. I had to do a doubletake when I received the email, with Jerry's name and phone number. Jerry...... Kramer! I knew had to take advantage of that bit of good fortune!
The first time I talked to Jerry was October 2020, and I was pretty nervous! I called him Mr. Kramer, and I think I did a time or so after that, before finally being comfortable enough to call him Jerry. The man is a treasure trove of Packers knowledge, and it was not easy to take notes and fathom what this Packers great was telling me at the same time! Naturally, his famous Ice Bowl block that sprung Bart Starr's sneak that won the Pack another championship, and his all-too-lengthy wait to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, came up in conversation.
That said, I wanted to focus more on other aspects of his career that aren't as well known. One such story was how, filling in for regular kicker Paul Hornung who was injured, Jerry booted three field goals in bitter cold and swirling winds at Yankee Stadium, to help defeat the New York Giants for the 1962 championship, 16-7. He joked how linebacker Ray Nitschke earned MVP honors, winning a Chevy Corvette, while he had settle for the game ball.
Also not as well known among non-hardcore Packer history buffs, was the story about the mysterious illness that cost him almost all of the 1964 Packers season. What was causing his severe abdominal pain? Stemming from a childhood incident involving a splintered board, it turned out that, unknown to doctors at the time, splinters had remained in his body for 11 years!
Even after doctors removed the last of the splinters in 1965, Jerry was still not out of the woods to return to the team. He had lost a lot of weight and had to not only recuperate, but get in good enough shape to play professional football - and under the demanding Lombardi no less!
Packers placekicker Don Chandler helped him complete the exercises he could not yet do until Jerry was more physically ready. He credits Chandler for saving his career.
There were other stories, but those were among my favorites. Jerry Kramer is truly one of a kind, and I am blessed to have interviewed him for my book. They will remain special memories.
Packers guard Jerry Kramer was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. He was a five-time first-team Al-Pro and named to the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. He wrote Instant Replay (with Dick Schaap), which chronicled the Packers' 1967 championship season. he is also the subject of a 2021 documentary (and CD), You Can if You Will: The Jerry Kramer Story.