Hornung on Kramer, Hall: “Most terrific injustice”


There is something about the Pro Football Hall of Fame that I’ve never understood, and, no, it has nothing to do with Terrell Owens. But it does have everything to do with Jerry Kramer.

The former Green Bay Packers’ star was one of the game’s most accomplished guards. Ever. In fact, he was so good he was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team. He was a six-time All-Pro, including five as a first-team choice, and five-time NFL champion.

Moreover, he was the key component to Vince Lombardi’s Power Sweep, the signature of those great Packers’ teams, and was named to the 1960s’ all-decade team, the NFL’s 50th anniversary team and the Packers’ Hall of Fame.

So why on earth isn’t he in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I mean, if he was the best guard in the first 50 years of the game why hasn’t he been enshrined in Canton?

“I guarantee you one thing,” said former teammate and Hall-of-Famer Paul Hornung, “I’ve asked that question more than you have.”

Hornung was a guest on this week’s Talk of Fame Network broadcast, mostly to talk about his career at Notre Dame as we kick off our six-part college draft series. But shortly before he signed off, we asked about Kramer and his inability to reach the Hall despite being a 10-time finalist.

The most terrific injustice I’ve ever seen in the NFL is Jerry Kramer not being in the Hall of Fame.

Good thing, too. Because it was then that Hornung became animated and did what he did best as a Green Bay Packer — took the ball and ran with it.

“I can’t believe that he’s not in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “Four or five years ago, I wrote a letter to who I thought were all those people who voted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and tried to get them to acknowledge that this is a terrific injustice.

“Along with Forrest Gregg, I think they were the two best offensive linemen in pro football during those days. It might have been an inability … as far as the voters were concerned … when you saw our team, and you were voting on three Hall of Famers in the backfield — Jimmy Taylor and Bart Starr and myself — and then you had Forrest Gregg, who was another Hall of Famer playing right tackle, it kind of overshadowed Jerry’s abilities. But it didn’t overshadow him as far as were concerned.

“I thought he was the best guard in pro football all the years I played with him. And I think he was.”

Kramer’s Hall-of-Fame future is in the hands of the Hall’s senior committee, which this year has two candidates it can push for the Class of 2018. That’s the good news. The bad is that Kramer hasn’t been proposed as a finalist since 1997, meaning his candidacy is either limping to the finish line or provokes no urgency among voters.

Or both.

Whatever it is, Hornung doesn’t like it — and, frankly, neither do I. How can you name someone as the best guard in the NFL’s first 50 years and then not name him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? It simply doesn’t add up. And keep this in mind: He’s the ONLY first-team member of that team not in Canton.

So explain that to me. Better yet, explain it to Jerry Kramer and Paul Hornung.

“The most terrific injustice I’ve ever seen in the NFL is Jerry Kramer not being in the Hall of Fame,” Hornung said. “I keep trying to push it every year to get him involved. And every time I come into contact with anybody in Canton, Ohio, that’s the conversation we end up with.

“Maybe next year it will be the year. We all pull for it every year that he gets the opportunity to come into the Hall of Fame.”

Maybe.

It took the game’s greatest punter, Ray Guy, over two decades to make it. Kramer has been waiting over four. So maybe, just maybe, Hornung is right, and voters wake up and put Jerry Kramer where he belongs … and has belonged for too many years.

 

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16 Comments

  1. March 9, 2017
    Reply

    Excellent piece, Clark! I couldn’t have said it better. As Paul Hornung said in his letter to the Pro Football Hall of Fame a few years ago…

    “Jerry Kramer was on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team at guard and every member of that team is in the Hall except him. That is just unbelievable!

    “To conclude my opinion on how the Hall of Fame is keeping Jerry Kramer locked out, I will have to quote Vince Lombardi once more…

    “What the hell is going on out here?!”

    • March 9, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks, Bob. Get the word out if you can. Thought Hornung’s comments were dead-on and am surprised by the relatively passive response we’ve had so far. Thought there would be more of a response by outraged Kramer/Packers fans. Kramer not being in Hall is one I just do not get … and won’t until he’s admitted.

  2. Rich Quodomine
    March 9, 2017
    Reply

    The fact that Kramer wasn’t in when I was in High School is a misdemeanor. That he isn’t now is treason-level criminality by the HoF selectors.

    • March 9, 2017
      Reply

      That’s what I like, Rich: Swing for the fences. And you cleared them. You are right, of course. Not sure why it hasn’t been corrected by now. Hall has two senior nominees this year. Here’s hoping he’s one of them.

  3. Jeff
    March 10, 2017
    Reply

    Peter King makes the argument that Kramer has had tons of opportunities as a finalist and didn’t make it in, and the voters who actually watched him play are gone now, and they’re the experts so why should modern voters overrule those guys? A total cop-out in my opinion – I like Peter King and I give him credit for addressing it, but he’s smart enough to evaluate Kramer on his own (just like he does every other Senior nominee that comes along – if you can vote for Dick Stanfel or Mick Tingelhoff, then you can vote for Jerry Kramer). I don’t get it at all, and I never will. I’ve always just assumed that somewhere along the way, Kramer did something to tick off the wrong person or people.

    • March 11, 2017
      Reply

      Don’t buy that logic at all. Bob Hayes had ample opportunities, too, and he was elected after 29 years. Ray Guy had ample opportunities, and he was elected three years ago. The board is not infallible. People can overlook players, and there are plenty there. I just don’t know how you can argue that the only guard who was elected to the 50th anniversary team — ergo, the best guard in the first 50 years — does not belong in the Hall of Fame. I would like to hear the logic of that.

  4. Jim
    March 11, 2017
    Reply

    The article us about Hornung (5) speaking out for Kramer (64). So why do they show a picture of Kramer blocking for Pitts (22)? A proper photo is easy to find if you are not lazy. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/547e4e61e4b088a186fba8fe/t/54ac4f4fe4b041e8312febdb/1420578640455/upload.jpeg

    • March 11, 2017
      Reply

      Trust me, Jim, lazy is not what we do here. We simply do not have that photo. If you do, please pass it along. We would be more than glad to use it. Thank you for your response.

    • March 11, 2017
      Reply

      Well, now, I spoke too soon. I guess I was lazy then. Thank you for passing along the photo. Will put it in our file and, hopefully, download it as soon as we can. Again, thank you for your response.

    • March 11, 2017
      Reply

      Congratulations, Jim. You have been put in charge of our photo department. Thanks for sending the Hornung shot along. It has been posted. And report to work Monday.

  5. Sam Goldenberg
    March 11, 2017
    Reply

    Clark: Thanks so much for writing this article. You know my feeling on this. I have campaigned for Kramer’s nomination for years now. I really hate Peter King’s take on why Kramer wasn’t inducted after he retired. I really believe some sportswriters back then had a personal gripe against Kramer because he wrote a best selling book and they did not. Just enough for him not to get nominated and inducted. The man should be (and should have) been judged by what he did on the field, and for the greatest guard in the NFL’s first 50 years to not be in the Hall of Fame is a travesty. The most difficult thing about this is that Kramer is now 81 years old. It would be such a great thing for Kramer to be able to inducted while he is still in good health so he and his family can enjoy the honor. Clark, I have to tell you I am growing frustrated with the Senior Committee. I know Rick and Ron are Kramer proponents, but it appears their influence is limited. Each year the Sr. Committee chooses a candidate inferior to Kramer. People like King cry well nobody now saw Kramer play. That is also BS. Doesn’t a person like Paul Hornung count? And what about the other 30 or 40 Hall of Famers who have sent letters of support for Kramer. These are the people with first hand knowledge of his greatness. Guys like Mike Ditka, Bob Lilly and on and on and on. I will be supporting Kramer again this year with a letter detailing his accomplishments, as will hundreds of other Kramer supporters. i only hope the committee reads these letters and considers them. All I can say is thanks again for a great article and your support. Best always.

    • March 12, 2017
      Reply

      Sam, very kind. I wrote it because I believe it. Rick and Ron are proponents, but they\re two persons on a nine-person subcommittee. I believe with guys like Hornung speaking out it may … and I say may … put pressure on the senior committee to bring him out. I’ve heard guys say the time isn’t right. Well, when IS is right? Last time he was in that room was 1997. I would force the issue and bring him out now, and see who says no. Again, thanks for the note. Appreciate it.

  6. Bill Greco
    March 13, 2017
    Reply

    Great article. Mind boggling that #64 has not been elected to the NFLHOF. I fear that Kramer will become the NFL’s version of Ron Santo. Santo wrongly was not elected to the MLB’s HOF while alive. Heartbreaking. Let’s right a wrong and get Kramer elected while he’s still able to know and enjoy the honor!

  7. Sam Goldenberg
    March 13, 2017
    Reply

    I agree Clark the time is now. It just baffles me that we have to justify Kramer’s greatness. He should have been indicted years ago. As I mentioned over the years 30 or more Hall of Famets wrote letters of support for Kramer. I just don’t understand why these are not considered. These are the most relevant accounts of Kramer’s greatness., and most were legendary players, and hundreds of fans write letters of support year after year. I can’t imagine any other candidate has this type of support, but year after year Kramer is denied. What can we do to get him over the hump?

    • March 13, 2017
      Reply

      You’re not going to like what I have to say, Sam, but … trust the senior committee. These guys are sharp, and they are aware of all the qualified guys who are waiting. Rick and Ron are Kramer advocates, and there are two candidates this year. Maybe, just maybe, they bring him out. It’s been way too long.

  8. Sam Goldenberg
    March 14, 2017
    Reply

    I hope this is the year Clark. Thanks for your support,. I enjoy reading all your work. Best always

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