Sept. 11, 2010
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Two-time University of Michigan football consensus All-American (1955-56) and All-Pro tight end Ron Kramer passed away today (Saturday, Sept. 11) at the age of 75. A mainstay at the U-M Athletic Department up until the time of his passing, Kramer made weekly visits to campus, bringing apples to the university president's office, athletic director, Schembechler Hall and others around the athletic department throughout the football season.
Kramer was a nine-time letterman in three sports at Michigan: football, basketball and track. He led the Wolverines in scoring for two seasons on the gridiron, and did the same in basketball. As a basketball player he scored 1,119 points and was the team's Most Valuable Player as a junior.
Kramer ranks among the best in the 131-year tradition of Michigan football history. His No. 87 is one of just five numbers retired by Michigan football, along with Francis Wistert (11), Albert Wistert (11), Alvin Wistert (11), Bennie Oosterbaan (47), Gerald Ford (48) and Tom Harmon (98).
A three-time All-Big Ten first team selection (1954-56), Kramer was a standout two-way player, seeing time at offensive and defensive end, running back, quarterback, kicker and receiver, often in the same game. His coach, Bennie Oosterbaan, himself a nine-time letterman at Michigan, described his blocking and tackling ability as the most valuable asset for the Wolverines.
In 1954, Kramer earned U-M's Meyer Morton Award, which honors the football player who shows the greatest development and most promise as a result of the annual spring practice. He concluded his collegiate career with 880 receiving yards which ranks eighth all-time among tight ends at U-M.
Born June 24, 1935, in Girard, KS, Kramer's family moved to East Detroit when he was five years old. Prior to attending the University of Michigan, he earned Michigan all-state honors in football, basketball and track at East Detroit High School.
A three-time MVP of the U-M men's basketball team, Kramer set the school's all-time scoring record as team captain his senior year with 1,124 points, a standard that stood until 1961. As a member of the Wolverine track and field team, he was a talented high jumper, despite his 230-pound frame.
Kramer went on to play professional football for the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi in the 1960s. As the prototype of NFL tight ends, he was named All-Pro following the 1961 and 1962 seasons, as the Packers went on to win consecutive world championships. One of the most productive tight ends in Green Bay history, he spent seven seasons (1957, '59-64) with the Packers after being drafted in the first round with the fourth overall pick in 1957. He compiled 2,594 receiving yards in 89 games, a yardage total that ranks second in team history for a tight end behind only Paul Coffman, and 16th in the team record book overall.
Kramer's 170 receptions for the Packers rank sixth on the all-time tight ends list, and his 15 touchdowns rank fifth. Kramer did not play in 1958 when he joined the Air Force -- he was also recovering from a serious leg injury at the end of his rookie season -- but after returning to the Packers in 1959, went on to post four consecutive 500-yard receiving seasons from 1961-64.
Kramer caught two TD passes from Bart Starr in Green Bay's 1961 NFL Championship victory over the New York Giants and then posted his most productive season in 1962 with 37 receptions for 555 yards and seven TDs. He was named first team All-Pro by The Associated Press and also made the Pro Bowl that year. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975.
Kramer was selected in the NFL Draft three spots after Green Bay selected Paul Hornung as the "bonus choice" and No. 1 overall pick. Following his time in Green Bay, Kramer played three seasons for the Detroit Lions (1965-67) following a trade involving their No. 1 selection in the 1965 NFL Draft. He finished his NFL career with 229 receptions for 3,272 yards (14.3 avg.) and 16 touchdowns in 128 games.
After retiring from football in 1968, Kramer was elected into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1971. In 1981, he was named a recipient of the NCAA's Silver Anniversary Award in recognition of significant professional and civic contributions spanning 25 years after completion of his collegiate eligibility.