Jerry Kramer Enshrinement speech
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I could say thank you for the rest of the evening and not get it done. Wonderful, wonderful moment.
Wonderful opportunity to be here, be with a great bunch of ball players, but a really great bunch of human beings. Has been a wonderful experience to get better acquainted with them for the last few days. It's some wonderful folks here. It's a real privilege to be a part of this group.
I grew up in kind of a smaller neighborhood. But before I get to that, I've got some children here, and I'd like for them to stand up. There's Tony and Danny and Diane and Jordy and Matt, and, of course, you met Alicia. Over here. Love you guys.
The light of my life, folks. The light of my life. A lot of folks to thank along the way. It's been an incredible journey. We got to go back to Sandpoint High for just a minute. Kathy Fisher and Tony Fisher, I want to thank them for their help and everything they've done. Sandpoint High is going to have to scroll on the bottom of the screen, I guess, because we put it on the tube.
But a wonderful town, a wonderful time. A small town, 3,000 people. Big lake. We had a great football team. This clumsy sophomore showed up for practice one fall, and I was ‑‑ had grown about a foot, and I couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. It was just a ‑‑ I was just a mess.
And I wanted to be fullback. I didn't want to be a lineman. I wanted to be a fullback. And my coach said, "Well, Jerry, that's wonderful. If you want to be a fullback, you'll sit on the bench; but if you want to be a tackle, you'll probably start."
Boy, I don't want to sit on the bench. I think I'd rather start. So, I started, but I wasn't all that excited about playing in the line. And we had a line coach, an older fella named Dusty Klein, who came up one day and knew where I was and knew that I was struggling, and he grabbed my hand and looked at my hand, and he said, "Son, you got big hands, and you got big feet; and one of these days, you're going to grow into them." And he said, "You're going to be a hell of a player one of these days."
And I looked at him, and I was curious, you know, a little amazed, a little amused, a little bit of everything. And he looked me in the eye, and he said, "You can if you will."
And then he started to walk away. And I said, "Can what?" And he said, "You can if you will." And he walked away and left me to think about that.
So, I thought about that for a long time. Got to the University of Idaho, a wonderful time there. We won four, tied four, and lost one. The best record in 28 years. So, it wasn't all that ‑‑ all that wonderful. But it was a great bunch of guys and a great team.
And the feeling of team is a wonderful thing. It's the thing, I think the reason, most of us play, because there's a team there and we want to be part of the team.
Got drafted in the fourth round by the Green Bay Packers. My classmate, Wayne Walker, who played with Detroit for 15 years, was waiting for me when I came out of class, and he said, "You got drafted." I go, "Great. What round was I"? "Fourth round." "Wonderful. Who drafted me?" "Green Bay." "Green Bay. Where the hell is Green Bay?"
We got a map, we honestly got a map: Oh, it's way back there by Chicago. Oh, it's on a big lake. Oh, that is a big lake.
So, we were having a wonderful time playing football in Green Bay. We weren't winning much, but we were having a wonderful time. We were professional football players and we were making a few bucks and life was good.
Our record wasn't so hot. We were 1, 10, and 1, and had the worst record in the history of the Green Bay Packer organization. We played the Baltimore Colts one Sunday afternoon. They beat us fifty –
They beat us 56‑0. They had a white colt that ran around the field every time they scored. We damn near killed him.
So, we went on to Green Bay, and I went to the Shrine Game. And I had a big contract negotiation. I'm sure these young boys would be excited by the numbers and the whole process. We're playing in the Shrine Game, and the general manager for the Packers calls me over and says he would like to talk contract with you. Okay.
So, I ‑‑ you know, we didn't have agents. We didn't have any information that was printed. We didn't have any idea what the guys were making.
So, I go to my college coach, and I say, "What kind of money should I ask for?" He said, "Jerry, if you can get $7,000, you'll be doing really good."
So, I went to San Francisco and went in to negotiate with the guy, and my general manager said, "Jerry, we'd like to sign you to a contract. What are you thinking about?" "8,000." "Okay, sign here."
So, I left a few bucks on the table. But then I recovered quickly. I said, "I want a signing bonus, too." He said, "What about $250?" "Oh, that'd be great. That'd be super."
For a bonus, right? I get to Green Bay. We get our first game check after the preseason. There's a $250 deduction from my check. I go to the general manager, and he said, "Jerry, that was an advance. That wasn't a bonus." So I didn't get a bonus.
But Coach Lombardi arrived, and the world turned around. And he ‑‑ first of all, he came in, he said: "I've never been a loser, and I'm not about to start now. If you're not willing to make the sacrifice, to pay the price, to do the things you have to do to win, then get the hell out!"
And we kind of looked at him and said, oh, you know, can't be that bad. He said, "We're going to work harder than you've ever worked in your life. There are only three things in your life ‑‑ your God, your family, and the Green Bay Packers."
And so he worked us harder than we had ever worked in our life. We had guys losing consciousness every practice, every exercise session. Two, three guys would lose consciousness. One kid showered after practice, got on the bus, went back to the dormitory, got to the line in the chow hall, passed out and fell over.
So, we were not real receptive to his philosophical comments. But he would talk to us every night about principles that he believed in. And he started with preparation, how you must be physically, mentally, emotionally prepared for the game. And he would go on and on and on, and we'd go, well, you know, everybody's got to be prepared, okay, we'll give you that, we'll give you preparation. But that's it.
And then he would talk about commitment ‑‑ mind, body, heart and soul, most of all, self. Well, you know, maybe you got to be committed if you're going to do something. If you're really going to be involved, you might as well be committed. So I'm giving commitment, too.
And discipline. You don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. So, we got into discipline. Consistency. Pride. Tenacity. Belief in your team, and belief in yourself.
And it was an incredible experience to be with him and to have him bring you along. He could be both very, very harsh and very, very gentle.
We're working awfully hard, and I'm having a bad day. We're all having a bad day on offense. We're on the one‑yard line, and we were scrimmaging the defense for about 30 to 40 minutes, and we're getting stuffed. And we're really having a difficult day.
I jump offsides ‑‑ no, I miss a block first. I miss a block, and I come in for some attention. A little bit later I jump offsides, and the coach comes running across the field, and he gets about ten inches from my nose and goes: "Mister, the concentration period of a college student is five minutes; high school is three minutes; kindergarten is 30 seconds. And you don't have that? So where does that put you?"
Put me checking my shoeshine. Practice ended shortly after that. I go up in the locker room. He's out with Bart and the wide receivers about 40 minutes longer. And I'm setting in front of my locker, shook my hat and my shoulders pads off and looking at the carpet and wondering what I'm going to do with the rest of my life.
And I'm thinking about maybe another football team, maybe another job, maybe something else. And I'm deep in thought and totally wrapped up in it, and he comes in the door, sees me down at the far end of the locker, comes down, pats me on the back of the neck, messes up my hair, slaps me on the shoulder: "Son, one of these days you're going to be the best guard in football." And a –
Thank you. A surge of energy entered my breast and filled me up. It just ‑‑ it was his approval and his belief in me that he was passing on to me, and it made a dramatic difference in my life.
Approval and belief, Mom, Dad. Approval and belief. Powerful, powerful tools.
So, from that point on, I wanted to play a perfect football game. If he believed in me, I could believe in me. And so, I tried to play a perfect game. And we had a wonderful group of guys, the golden boy sitting over here, one of my all‑time favorite ball players and runners, Mr. Robinson back here. A great guy. He's a great teammate. Bart Starr, Max McGee, Fuzzy Thurston, Forrest Gregg, Bob Skoronski, Nitschke, Caffey, Wood and Adderley, Hart, just an incredible, incredible group of guys.
But we also had a wonderful team, and I believe a team that played as a team and lived as a team and enjoyed one another as a team.
And my best example of that is in the 1965 season, I had nine operations. I came back in the next season. I weighed 189 pounds at one point during the offseason, and when I had nine operations, when I got done, I got up to 218.
And I went into the coach's office to talk contact with him. And he said, "Jerry, go home. Just go home. I'll pay your salary, take care of all your hospital bills, take care of everything, just go home." "Coach, I can't go home. If I go home, I'll never play again. I missed the whole season. I'll miss another season. I'll probably never play again."
"Well, I can't count on you." "Well, I don't care if you can count on me. I'm going to play." "Jerry, I wish you'd just go home." "No, I'm not going home."
We did this for 45 minutes. Finally, he says, "Okay, I'm going to put you with the defense." I said, "Great, I always wanted to play defense anyway." So, I was at least cocky because I was getting on the field, and I certainly wasn't prepared for it.
But a month later I take the field, and I'm about 230 now ‑‑ no, I'm not ‑‑ still not, I'm about 220. Anyway, we have a tradition where we run three laps around the field. I ran a lap and a half, and my lungs seized up. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't get any air. I couldn't do anything at all.
And Don Chandler, my teammate, kicker, came over to me and said, "What's wrong, pal?" "I can't breathe, can't breathe." He says, "How much did you run?" I said, "A lap and a half." But he said, "I'll run the other lap and a half."
We were supposed to run three laps. So, I got one and a half in, so he ran the other lap and a half. And he said, "You and are I going to set together doing calisthenics."
So, I said, "What are we going to do?" He said, "Well, you're going to do whatever you can do. If you can only do five sit‑ups and they do 50, I'll do 45. I'm a kicker, and I don't have to do anything if I don't want to. But they do. And I don't normally. But if they do 50 push‑ups and you can only do three, I'll do 47. But between you and I, we'll do what one of those guys does."
So, Don Chandler set beside me for 35 days, and he helped me every step of the way.
Yep. Yep. The end of that 35 days, I could do the calisthenics. I weighed about 235 at that point, and I could do all the exercises. And so, they put me back on offense, and we won a title in '65, we won one in '66, we won in '67. We had ‑‑ my book was published in '68.
So, a great part of my life followed that probably would never have been without Don Chandler. So, we had a wonderful group of guys and a wonderful emotional bond on that team and a wonderful feeling between us.
I got a couple thoughts from other voices, other people that I'd like to share with you about accomplishment and approval and those kind of things. There's a poem called "Invictus"; that if you're going to be an achiever, you're going to be a doer, you're going to make something out of yourself, there's certain principles and certain qualities you need.
And this poem kind of reflects the thought process of an achiever. It goes something like: "Out of the night that covers me, dark as the pit from pole to pole, I thank the Lord above for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. And under the bludgeoning's of fate, my head is bloody but unbowed. In the pale of glume and tears looms but the shadow of the glade, and yet the passing of the years finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, and I am the captain of my soul."
There was a fellow by the name of William Jenning Bryan who was a lawyer and an orator and a really brilliant man, and he said success in life is not so much a matter of chance as it is a matter of choice. We choose to do the right thing, and we choose not to do the right thing.
So, a great deal in life is a matter of choice. Coach Lombardi, to sum it all up, after the game is over, stadium lights are out, parking lot is empty, you're back in the quiet of your room, championship ring is on the dresser, the only thing left at this time is for you to lead a life of quality and excellence and make this old world a little bit better place because you were in it.
You can if you will. You can if you will. Thank you.