It came more than 40 years late, but the NFL Hall of Fame finally came to its senses and elected highly-worthy Sandpoint native Jerry Kramer into its hallowed halls.
Kramer’s 1,000-watt smile upon seeing Hall of Fame president David Baker on the other side of the door at Saturday’s annual unveiling told the tale.
Kramer wasn’t the only one smiling, as folks from his hometown of Sandpoint were also beaming with pride and joy. So was everyone in the Gem State, Wisconsin and if we’re being honest, every state in the U.S., as the former Green Bay Packers guard played a starring role for an iconic dynasty in the golden age of football.
During the Sandpoint basketball game on Saturday night, vice principal Derek Dickinson announced Kramer’s election to the hometown crowd, eliciting big cheers. The Bulldogs’ opponent that night was Moscow, fitting since that’s where Kramer starred in college at the University of Idaho.
On Monday, Kramer’s broad shoulders were being measured for his gold jacket, and his cranium for a bronze bust. The community of Sandpoint has been behind Kramer from day one, and can now share in the glory that one of their own reached one of the pinnacles of professional sports.
Local electrician John Elsa was in the Bee Monday morning, still floating on cloud nine and already hours into organizing a community picture for Kramer on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 1 p.m. at Barlow Stadium at War Memorial Field. Elsa, who grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, before moving to Sandpoint in 1978, has already ordered a big congratulatory banner, and is hoping “anyone and everyone” who wants will come pay homage to the hometown boy made good.
Elsa, who admitted to “feeling like a little kid” when he helped run a fundraiser for the Sandpoint Senior Center years ago where Kramer was a guest speaker, put the honor into perspective.
“I heard that one in 500 college athletes ever make the pros, so imagine the odds of making the Hall of Fame?” pondered Elsa, an avid Packers’ fan who remembers Bart Starr talking at his junior high as a youth. “That’s pretty remarkable for a community of this size.”
Former Bulldog head football coach Satini Puailoa emailed on Saturday, already thinking about possibly traveling to Canton, Ohio, in August to be there for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The Daily Bee has written about Kramer a handful of times over the years, and many community members wrote letters to the Hall of Fame senior selection committee on behalf of their hometown legend’s glaring omission from Canton.
Three years ago Kramer was in Sandpoint to present a gold football to his former high school, part of the NFL’s 50th anniversary celebration, and the former offensive guard spent the better part of three hours that night swapping tales and doling out wisdom to community members young and old. Those in attendance will remember the special night forever.
He also signed his old No. 38 Sandpoint high school jersey, inscribing it “Jerry Kramer, #64, S.B. I + II.” Maybe down the road he can add this addendum with a sharpie: Hall of Famer.
We in Sandpoint and the entire state of Idaho couldn’t be more proud and happy for Kramer and his entire family, who so deserve this long overdue honor.
Who knows why it took so long, and who cares now.
The great Jerry Kramer is now an NFL Hall of Famer, where he damn sure belongs.
Eric Plummer is the sports editor of the Bonner County Daily Bee.