A familiar ring

Jerry Kramer presented with long, lost Super Bowl I ring

Standing near a statue of Vince Lombardi in front of the Lambeau Field Atrium today, Jerry Kramer looked down at his long, lost Super Bowl I ring and smiled. At last, he had reunited with an old buddy, a symbol of the Green Bay Packers Glory Years in which he was a major player.

"It's in great shape," Kramer said as the sun reflected off the ring. "It's beautiful. This is pristine."

Kramer's ring was officially presented to him by Doug Allen, president and COO of Mastro Auctions, this morning in a special ceremony. The ring was part of the company's April auction when it was brought to Kramer's attention by John Nitschke, son of the late Ray Nitschke. Kramer immediately contacted Allen, who arranged to return the ring, stolen during a flight from Chicago to New York in 1981, to the ex-Packers guard.

"The ring isn't just a diamond and some gold," Kramer said. "It's a collection of memories and moments. It's a collection of ballgames, Coach Lombardi's speeches, Hornung's and McGee's escapades, Bart Starr, Jimmy Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Willie Davis, Fuzzy Thurston … it's memories of all those guys and all those locker rooms and all those games and all those moments. It's also memories of the great fan support we've had here for so many years and still have today."

Kramer, 70, also announced that he will auction his replica Super Bowl I ring in an online auction at JerryKramer.com to establish a fund for retired players in need. Kramer had the replica made to replace the ring that was stolen and has worn it for many years. The ring is an exact copy of the original Super Bowl I ring.

Information about the Super Bowl I replica ring and the auction, which continues through May 19, is now available. Message boards, photos and details of the replica and original ring are posted as well on the site.

Kramer is hoping to raise $2 million to $3 million through the auction of the replica ring. He is hoping that other current and past players donate items in an effort to raise money for players from his era that are in need. Kramer estimated that there are about 350 former players who are in need of financial assistance due to the inadequate pension and disability compensation provided to older players by the National Football League.

"We've got 350 guys making somewhere between $128 dollars a month and $400 dollars a month," Kramer said. "That's what I want to impact. That's what is bothering my heart and making me upset. I want to focus on that and try to spend some time with that."

In the coming months, Kramer hopes to team up with other players who share the same concerns.

Kramer expressed a deep gratitude to Allen and his work in returning the ring to him.

"It really didn't take much thought on our part," Allen said. "Jerry deserved the ring back. Mastro Auctions immediately pulled the ring from the auction and began the long process of getting the ring returned to him."

Kramer felt that it might show up in five to 10 years, but never thought it would take this long. When he received a call from Allen, Kramer was far from overjoyed.

"I was angry," Kramer said. "I was like (grinding teeth) ‘I knew it would show up.'"

While on the flight to New York, Kramer took the ring off while washing his hands in the restroom. He said he forgot to put the ring back on his finger. After he returned to his seat, he realized "no more than two minutes. Jumped up, ran back to the sink and it was gone."

Kramer immediately spoke with a stewardess who notified the captain of the plane of the lost ring. The captain made several announcements, but no one came forward with the ring. A woman on the plane who proclaimed herself as a psychic tried to help Kramer locate the ring, but that didn't work, either.

"I was a bit embarrassed that I had lost it in such a casual manner," Kramer said. "I always assumed that it would show up at some time, some point in the future, but I expected maybe five or 10 years it would show up, not 25. I had pretty much given up hope that it would ever show up."

Kramer said he is interested in retracing the ring's journey between that flight and now. He asked that anyone with information contact him through his web site, JerryKramer.com.

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