MINNEAPOLIS – As Jerry Kramer awaited his Hall of Fame fate late Saturday afternoon in his Minneapolis hotel room, he finally heard a knock on the door.
“It was the maid,” Kramer joked.
The next knock was the booming rap of Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker with the news that Kramer had waited decades to hear.
Jerry Kramer is a Hall of Famer.
“It’s like the archangel, right? Like somebody from heaven came down,” Kramer said Saturday night, with his 82-year-old wit, wisdom and storytelling in full force during what he called one of the best days of his life.
“Boom, boom, boom … That’s it. That’s it!”
Kramer’s selection to Canton’s class of 2018 rights what many consider the Hall of Fame’s greatest wrong. Longtime NFL writer, voter and senior committee member Rick Gosselin, who presented Kramer’s case as a senior nominee during Saturday’s day-long selection meeting, had been on record for years saying so, and he wasn’t alone.
This was Kramer’s 11th time as a Hall of Fame finalist, nine times via the regular modern-day route and now twice via the senior committee. His last time as a finalist was 21 years ago.
He’s no longer the player named a finalist the most times to not receive induction. He’s no longer the only member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team not in the Hall. He’s no longer the player from Vince Lombardi’s five-time championship team of the 1960s so many assumed was enshrined already.
“I think he’s kind of the one everybody’s like, ‘Why is Jerry not in?’” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said from the NFL Honors red carpet just a couple of hours before the news was announced. “He’s a fantastic Packer and it would be great to kind of cement those Lombardi teams with him in the Hall.”
Also from the red carpet, former Packers Sterling Sharpe and Charles Woodson jointly fell into the “what-took-so-long” camp.
“When Jerry Kramer played, he was one of the best offensive linemen in the National Football League,” Sharpe said. “I don’t think that changed.”
Added Woodson: “This guy was regarded as the best of an era, and it’s kind of hard to believe you have that title and you’re not in the Hall of Fame, and we’re still talking about it in 2018.”
Gratefully, it need not be talked about anymore.
The five-time first-team All-Pro who threw the most famous block in NFL history on the goal line in the Ice Bowl will become the 25th member of the Packers – and the 13th of the Lombardi Packers, including the coach himself – to be inducted when the Hall holds its annual ceremonies this coming summer.
Kramer has never actually visited Canton, Ohio, refusing to stop anytime on his way by as a quiet personal protest. His first visit will mean the world.
“I can’t wait, of course,” he said. “It’s just a whole different deal, a whole different thing. I’ve been invited. I’m welcome.
“We’ll have us a big party in Canton. We’re going to blow the roof off actually is what we’re going to do.”
Kramer didn’t make it official, but he strongly suggested he’s going to have his daughter, Alicia, who has long spearheaded his induction campaign, present him in August for enshrinement.
He also thanked countless teammates and fans who have supported him, calling Packers fans “beyond description and beyond words.”
Kramer long ago shied away from self-promotion, having heard all the reasons he wasn’t in – that the books he authored rubbed people the wrong way, that too many Lombardi Packers were enshrined already, that he had enough chances – and he’d accepted that it wasn’t going to happen.
Yet it’s fitting that the candidacy of a player who battled through everything he did to play from 1958 through 1968 never actually went away.
Kramer the storyteller rattled off his injuries on Saturday night: “I separated the bones in my ankle, broke the leg below the knee, broke the ribs, chipped the vertebrae, broke the thumb, detached retina, concussions … Nothing serious, but quite a list,” he said. “It just didn’t occur to me to quit.”
No one working behind the scenes or in the public realm quit either, and thoughts of them were among the “45,000 emotions” running through Kramer upon hearing the news, which he said put him “over the top.”
“I don’t think it can get sweeter,” Kramer said of having to wait so long. He also waxed a bit nostalgic about everything that will come with the honor – the gold jacket, the bronze bust of immortality, his name on the Lambeau Field façade.
“There were 10 times I was waiting for a knock on my door and it didn’t come,” he said. “So there wasn’t a great deal of confidence that it was going to happen this time.
“It was something I was afraid to believe in, I was afraid to hope for. So I kept trying to keep those emotions out there somewhere. But hey, I’m here and I’m part of the group. Thank you very much.”