Nobody in the Class of 2018 … heck, nobody in almost any class, period … waited on the Pro Football Hall of Fame longer than former Green Bay guard Jerry Kramer.
He was in his 45th year of eligibility and had failed in 10 previous attempts as a finalist — including his last time, 1997, as a senior. Furthermore, he was so confident he would make it 21 years earlier that a friend of his threw a private party for him in a renowned restaurant in New Orleans … with printed shirts waiting to be worn when Kramer was elected.
“And, of course it, didn’t happen,” Kramer said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “Nothing can really prepare you for 10 failures except other failures. There’s no relationship to success. So I hadn’t a clue what to do the 11th time. I certainly wasn’t overconfident.”
Given his history with voters, how could he be? So we were curious what it was like when he found out … when he was told that after 45 years and 11 tries as a finalist … that he joined 11 others from the 1960s’ Packers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“They wanted us to be in the (hotel) room between 3 and 4 in the afternoon,” Kramer said, “and the (word) was that if we were selected that Mr. (David) Baker, the chairman of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, would come knocking on the door and let you know that you had made it. And if you didn’t make it, somebody else — like maybe the janitor — would come and tell you to get yourself together and get the hell outta there.
“So that’s the way it was set up. I see a presentation (on the NFL Network) by Rick Gosselin … just a bit of it, I didn’t get to really see it all … just a glance of it, and I knew who it was. And that was fairly early in the morning. So, logically, I said, ‘They’ll finish with the seniors first, and they’ll notify us first in the afternoon.’ So if it’s like 3:10 or 3:15 … something close to 3 … we have a pretty good chance. But if it’s a quarter to four it may not look so hot.
“I was up and down, up and down, and counting the minutes, till something might happen. So I’m counting down from 3 o’clock to 3:15 to 3:20, 3:25, 3:30, 3:31 … and there’s a knock on the door. And everybody in the room … I got six kids … and they go ‘schizo’, and they’re hollering and cheering and yippeeing … and I got eight or 10 friends and everybody’s just squealing and carrying on … and we go open the door and …
“It’s the maid. And she’s standing there like a deer in the headlight, right? And she doesn’t know what to do; certainly doesn’t know what’s going on. She never had this kind of reception when she knocked on the door before.
“So that passed, and we go back to waiting … and I’m going downhill every minute, every three seconds. I’m about at the point where I’m thinking it’s not going to happen, it’s not for me, it’s not my time, not this year, it’s not going to happen, and we hear this boom! boom! boom! on the door. Now this is like no knock you’ve ever heard. This guy is 6-9, 400 pounds … and he knocks like it.
“I knew, of course, that it was him. They mentioned that we could recognize his knock, and I got halfway to the door … and, being the smart aleck that I am, I said, ‘Who is it?’ He’s giggling when I open the door, and he gives me a big hug, and I look up at him and say, ‘You may be the most beautiful man I have ever seen.’ ”
The news ended a long and painful wait for the only member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team not included in the Hall, but it did more than that. It allows Kramer — who will have his daughter, Alicia, present him at his August induction — do what he hasn’t done in his life.
Visit the Hall.
Though he admitted he thought about going more than once, he never did … and there’s a good reason.
“By and large it wasn’t an anger,” he said. “It was just, nope, nope, haven’t been invited; not going. Thank you very much. So that’s all over. Thank you very much.”