Alicia Kramer hadn't been born yet when her father became one of the superstars of the National Football League. But her life's work and passion is to see that her dad, Jerry Kramer, is immortalized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After growing up in Sandpoint and playing for the University of Idaho, Jerry was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1958. It was on Green Bay's iconic Lambeau Field that Kramer excelled as right guard and kicker for the Packers during the team's 1960s championship years: five-time NFL champions and two-time Super Bowl champions.
Yet, Kramer is the only member of the NFL's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team not to make it into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His daughter wants to change all that, in spite of his desire to keep things low key.
When did you first recognize that your dad was a sports legend?
I grew up on a farm in Parma. Dad chose to raise the family away from the limelight. When I was little, I was running around in my dad's jersey, but I didn't really know what was going on. I knew something was up because people were always approaching him and I didn't understand why. I remember he had these huge [Super Bowl] rings, which was different than anything I had ever seen. And I remember when I was 9 years old, riding with him in a car at a big parade at the University of Idaho.
But soon enough, you must have realized what a big deal he was.
I remember once when we were vacationing in Hawaii. I was on the beach, playing volleyball with [NFL greats] Boomer Esiason, Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde. I really had no idea of who they were, but they were so nice.
I'm guessing that you have traveled to Green Bay with your dad over the years.
It's like a second home.
What is that experience like?
People stare and some take pictures from a distance. Some people even ask me for my autograph. And then walking onto the turf at Lambeau Field, wow.
I need to note that your eyes are welling up with tears as you're talking about this.
It's so emotional for me. Last September when Dad stepped onto the field, and the stadium cheered and cheered and he looked over at me with tears in his eyes. He's truly surprised that people still remember. Dad is a very humble man. All of his Packers stuff is in trunks. I'm the one who takes it out to look at it.
Unlike most sports teams, you could go into any corner of this country and find Green Bay Packers fans.
We were in Grand Cayman once and some locals took us to a spot on the far side of the island. When we walked in, we realized it was a Packers bar.
Hasn't your dad been introduced mistakenly as a Hall of Famer?
That happens a lot. I should really point out that my dad was against the initiative to get him into the hall. Each year, my dad would tell us, "They didn't nominate me this year, but it's OK."
Aren't sportswriters the ones to decide who gets nominated?
Yes, but I had to be very careful, because some people were really upset that dad wasn't in the Hall of Fame, and they would badger the sportswriters through social media.
Athletes are not known for heaping praise on their peers, but some of the all-time greats have really stepped up to advocate for your dad.
Here's another excuse: Many of today's sportswriters are too young to remember your dad.
That's true to a degree. I've talked to some of them and they want to see footage of Dad. But that's all film, not video. Plus, they like to hear from players who played with and against Dad, and some of them aren't around anymore.
How's your dad's health?
He's 76 years old. For a guy whose lifespan was only supposed to go until his 50s, according to an NFL study, he's doing pretty well. But he had 22 major operations. His teammates used to call him zipper because he had so many surgeries.
Does he still receive things in the mail to autograph?
Every day. People send pictures, magazines, footballs, even guitars. In Green Bay, somebody recently had him sign a car. But he draws the line at babies.