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Former guard belongs in Canton

The honor is long overdue and the time to rectify the problem is now. Jerry Kramer, the guard who along with Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston led Vince Lombardi's vaunted power sweep, should be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.<p>

In 1997, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Senior Committee nominated Kramer as a finalist for induction. The Senior Committee was established to nominate players who were overlooked by the voters during their original period of eligibility. The Senior Committee's nominee is automatically a finalist and is inducted almost without fail. The only recent exception has been Kramer.

Although no official explanation for the rejection of the Senior Committee's nominee was given, the buzz surrounding the selection committee was that there were already too many Lombardi era Packers in the Hall. Presently, there are 10 Lombardi players plus Coach Lombardi honored in Canton. They are Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Forrest Gregg, Jim Ringo, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley and Willie Wood. Kramer belongs with these players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has earned it.

Kramer's accomplishments on the field were enough to get him elected to the Hall. In 11 NFL seasons, Kramer excelled as a pulling guard. He played on five NFL Championship teams and the first two Super Bowl winners. Kramer was elected to the Pro Bowl three times and was named a post-season All-Pro by the football writers five times.

The 6-foot-3, 245 pounds Kramer was also tough. In 1961, the Packers guard missed half the season due to a broken ankle. He missed the 1964 season due to a mysterious illness. Kramer lost a lot of weight and almost died. Eventually, doctors operated and found splinters of wood left in his stomach from a childhood accident. Kramer recovered and returned in 1965. He again helped the Packers win the NFL title and was named All-Pro in 1966 and 1967. Kramer endured so many surgeries his teammates nicknamed him "Zipper" because he had so many scars on his body. Still, Kramer not only continued to play, he played at a very high level.

In 1969, the NFL announced its 50th anniversary team. Jerry Kramer is one of the few players named to that team who is not in the Hall of Fame. 25 years later, Kramer was named to the NFL's "All 60s Team" which had players from both the NFL and AFL. Football historians recognize Jerry Kramer as one of the best guards in the history of the game, but while he has been a finalist for induction 10 times, Kramer has still not been called to the podium.

In addition to his offensive line play it is a little remembered fact that Kramer also did some place-kicking for the Packers. When Hornung was serving in the Army Reserves, injured or suspended, Kramer took over the kicking chores for Green Bay. His three field goals were the difference in the Pack's 16-7 win over the Giants in the 1962 NFL Championship game. In 1963, Kramer actually led the Packers in scoring with 91 points.

Kramer also provided the game memorable moments and images. He is responsible for the most famous block in NFL history. Bart Starr's quarterback sneak with 16 seconds left to win the "Ice Bowl" against Dallas in 1967 is the most famous play in the storied history of the Green Bay Packers. Starr scored on the icy turf behind a block by Kramer and center Ken Bowman on Dallas defensive tackle Jethro Pugh.

There is also the indelible image of Kramer and Thurston pulling to lead Lombardi's signature play: the power sweep. It was the play that made Lombardi's offense go; the play the team practiced more than any other. Lombardi used to say that it was the power sweep that opponents needed to stop to contain the Packers attack. NFL defenses knew the power sweep was coming but they still couldn't stop the Packers from "running to daylight". Nobody executed the sweep better than Jerry Kramer.

Kramer made his mark off the field as well. The University of Idaho alum wrote four books with the late Dick Schaap. The most famous of these, "Instant Replay" became a best seller. In 1985, Kramer and Schaap wrote "Distant Replay" about the post football life of Lombardi's Packers. It too became a best seller. Kramer's book gave fans rare insight into the coaching of Vince Lombardi and brought attention to the play of the offensive line for perhaps the first time in the history of football. Books like "Instant Replay" also helped to increase the popularity of football in the 1960s as it was overtaking baseball to become America's favorite sport. Kramer's books and numerous interviews and public appearances certainly had a part in that process. He has also been active in charities and is one of the founders of the Lombardi Legends foundation that raises funds for numerous charities in the Green Bay area.

Kramer is 68 years old. He has taken the high road and tried to downplay the fact that he is not in the Hall of Fame by saying, "It is one of the prizes that has eluded me, but I have received so many gifts from the game. You would be a complete ass to be bitter about something that someone didn't give you, when they gave you so much."

Still, he is obviously disappointed in his failure to be elected to the Hall of Fame. The time has come to correct this oversight. Kramer should be inducted while he can still enjoy the honor. The time is now for Jerry Kramer to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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