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The First and Only: At 82, former Idaho Vandal Jerry Kramer makes the Hall of Fame 

click to enlarge UI legend Jerry Kramer
  • UI legend Jerry Kramer

"You can if you will." Jerry Kramer looks over the crowd in Canton, Ohio, and repeats the phrase a few more times. It's something his high school football coach told him and it's stayed with him throughout his illustrious football career. He partly credits that phrase with helping get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame exactly 50 years after his retirement in 1968. The road to the Hall of Fame was a long one for Kramer, now 82, but on the day of his induction he claims the wait was worth it.

On Aug. 4, Kramer became the only Idaho Vandal to ever reach the Hall of Fame, inducted in a class alongside much younger superstars like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins, Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis.

After graduating from Sandpoint High School in 1954, Kramer accepted a football scholarship to Idaho. There, Kramer was a standout offensive guard and kicker while also lettering in discus and shot put. In the NFL, Kramer won five NFL championships and two Super Bowls over 10 years with the Green Bay Packers. Kramer was a five-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1960s.

Kramer's career accomplishments seemed to warrant an obvious induction into the Hall of Fame, but over the years he was repeatedly overlooked. Kramer was a finalist 10 different times but never selected, and was named the best player in NFL history to not be in the Hall of Fame in 2008 by the NFL Network. Alicia Kramer, one of Kramer's daughters, was able to get testimonials from 60 current Hall of Fame members all recommending that Kramer be inducted.

Finally, a half-century after he last wore a football uniform, Kramer was given the highest individual honor in football. And in what was probably the most touching moment during the induction ceremony, Alicia was able to present the ceremonial gold jacket to her father. 

The original print version of this article was headlined "THE FIRST AND ONLY"

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