Another player from Vince Lombardi's team from the early 60's is gone. A great player on the best ever NFL team.
By TOM SILVERSTEIN
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Ron Kramer, one of the best athletes to put on a Green Bay Packers uniform and a hero of the 1961 championship game victory over the New York Giants, died Saturday at his home. He was 75.
The tight end is the less famous of the two Kramers who played for coach Vince Lombardi during the 1960s, but he was every bit as important to the Packers sweep as the one who is associated with it most often.
"He was a sensational blocking tight end," said guard Jerry Kramer, a close friend but not related to Ron. "He was an integral part of getting that sweep going. He didn't get his just dues that he really deserved. But he was critical in making that run work. He blocked outside the line. He just dominated. He wiped out linebackers."
Kramer was a star athlete at the University of Michigan, and he settled there after his playing career in the NFL, operating Ron Kramer Industries in Fenton, Mich., about 35 miles north of Ann Arbor.
In recent years he had numerous health problems related to his heart, Jerry Kramer said.
"He was having a difficult time," he said. "He literally died two or three times in the hospital. He went down to the Super Bowl three or four years ago and went to the hospital because he wasn't feeling well. His heart stopped in the hospital.
"He always seemed to come through it. He was a tough guy. No one gave him much sympathy because he was so tough."
Ron Kramer was a dominant three-sport athlete at Michigan and had his number retired upon his graduation. He was a two-time All-American on the football team, most valuable player and top scorer on the basketball team and a shot putter and high jumper on the track team.
Lombardi chose him with his first-round pick in the 1957 draft, one spot after taking Paul Hornung with a bonus pick. Kramer had an injury-filled first season with the Packers, left to serve a year in the Air Force in '58 and then came back and developed into a force at tight end.
"He was such a superb athlete," Jerry Kramer said. "He just dominated that position. He's probably one of the best football players I ever saw, maybe the best athlete that ever came out of Michigan."
Hornung said in a 2003 interview: "Ron was big, strong and had great technique. Ron was what made Green Bay's sweep go. We wish he never would have gone to Detroit. If your teammates know what a contribution you made, that's. . . important."
According to the Packers' website, Kramer caught 170 passes for 2,594 yards and 15 touchdowns in 89 games with the Packers. His yardage ranks second in team history for a tight end behind only Paul Coffman and 16th in team annals overall.
He ranks sixth on the all-time tight ends list in receptions and fifth in touchdowns.
Lombardi once said of his tight end, "Having Ron Kramer on the team is like having a 12th man."
Kramer finished his career with the Detroit Lions, but it wasn't because he was a traitor. He went to Lombardi and asked him to trade him there so he could be closer to his family.
"He asked Coach Lombardi to trade him because he was trying to save his marriage," Jerry Kramer said. "Coach told him to wait a few days and 'if I don't hear anything from you I'll do it. I hate to do it.' Ron had to do the right thing for his family."
Jerry Kramer described his teammate as someone who could get under your skin, but just about the time you were about to get mad at him, he would do something "gentle and soft." He said Kramer and Hornung had plenty of fun in their day - and a lot more of it - after their careers.
He remembered being at the Lombardi Golf Classic with his teenage son, Matt, when Ron Kramer came up behind Matt and gave him a big bear hug.
"He said, 'Matt, there's something I've always wanted to tell you: I'm your real father.' We all got a good laugh out of that."
Posted on Sun, Sep. 12, 2010 03:00 AM