‘You can, if you will’ Kramer speech full of inspiration

SPORTSBEAT
Dave Boehler • REVIEW SPORTS EDITOR

Read this. Cut it out.

Tape it to your fridge, locker, desk, wherever.

No matter your age, what sport you play or job you work, parts of Jerry Kramer’s NFL Hall of Fame induction speech Saturday were full of inspiration.

The Green Bay Packer great remembered his high school days and admitted he could not walk and chew gum at the same time. Nevertheless, he wanted to be a fullback and not a lineman.

His then-coach said: “Well, Jerry, that’s wonderful. If you want to be a fullback you’ll be on the bench. But if you want to be a tackle, you can probably start.”

Kramer rather play than sit, but he was not excited.

Then one day his line coach came up to him because he knew he was struggling and said: “You can, if you will.”

Kramer wondered: “Can what?”

The coach started to walk away and again said: “You can, if you will.”

The legend also talked about the importance of team.

Having already had nine surgeries, the Packers were supposed to run three laps around their practice field. Kramer was half-way through when his lungs seized up and he could not breath.

Kicker Don Chandler asked what was wrong and then ran Kramer’s final laps. Chandler also sat with him for calisthenics and said if the team has to do 50 sit-ups and Kramer could only do five, he’ll do 45. If they do 50 pushups and Kramer could do just three, Chandler offered to do 47.

“So Don Chandler sat besides me for 35 days,” Kramer said. “And he helped me every step of the way.”

There were also funny moments in the 18-plus minute speech, including the time Kramer got drafted out of Idaho and his college teammate informed him after class.

“Great! What round was I?” Kramer replied.

He was told the fourth round.

“Wonderful! Who drafted me?” Kramer asked.

Green Bay.

“Where the hell is Green Bay?” Kramer wondered. “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.”

Then there was the time – before the Super-Bowl winning seasons – Green Bay lost to the Baltimore Colts, 56-0.

“They had a white colt that ran around the field every time they scored,” Kramer recalled. “We damn near killed him.”

But what stood out the most – to me, anyway – was when Kramer had an awful practice early in his career and got chewed out by Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi.

Kramer recalled sitting at his locker room, as he looked down at the floor thinking his Packer days were over.

Lombardi approached him, rubbed Kramer’s head, hair and shoulders, and then told him he was going to be the best guard in football.

“A surge of energy entered my breath and filled me up,” he said. “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 and dad. Approval and belief. Powerful, powerful tools.”


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