A Childhood Idol The Lessons I Learned From Jerry Kramer
With September signifying the beginning of football season, I wanted our headline this month to be tied to the gridiron. Former NFL great Jerry Kramer lives just down the road from us and was inducted last month into the NFL Hall of Fame to honor his playing days as a member of the Green Bay Packers. My first recollection of Jerry was in 1973, as a third-grader, when I picked up a copy of his book “Instant Replay.” At the time, it was the best-selling sports book in history. Youngsters from Wisconsin to Idaho and everywhere in between were proud to don the green and yellow number 64 jersey — including myself. As luck and hard work would have it, I had a chance to meet Jerry face-to-face in 1985 during my senior year of college at the University of Idaho. Jerry was working with a visiting broadcast team. Since I hailed from his alma mater, he generously accepted the offer to make a guest appearance during the halftime show of our student broadcast. I thought I was big stuff interviewing my childhood idol during halftime. I was just beginning my career in broadcasting as he had ended his career in football. What an incredible boost for this young kid to speak with this giant of a man who was good-humored and smooth-speaking — every knuckle gleaming with NFL Super Bowl gold. Even in the ‘80s, he remained grounded to his Idaho roots, from the boyhood years in
Sandpoint to the young men who helped shape his playing style as a Vandal.
shown in my eyes. He explained, “If you will work hard enough, you can realize all your dreams … You can, if you will.” If you happened to watch his speech at the NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he told the story one more time. Always a leader and a teacher, Jerry ended the speech describing how life is not so much a matter of chance as it is a matter of choice. We choose to do the right thing and we choose not to do the right thing. When the lights of the stadium are out and you’re done playing, it’s up to you to make this old world a better place because you were in it. “You can, if you will.”
It was a charmed moment that continued to bolster my courage as I pursued a career in sports broadcasting. I could hang with the best of them. Our paths did cross several more times. Jerry never forgot my name, and in fact, he became a friend and mentor to me. As his time freed up in retirement, he agreed to join me in the broadcast booth as a color commentator for college football games. His stories from time spent on the line and in the locker room were often more captivating than the action on the field. Above all, Jerry is a giant of a gentleman. He’s treated me as a friend over the years, and we’re working on a project to record “Instant Replay” as an audio book. Last month, I was honored to be named Best Play-by-Play radio broadcaster in Idaho. Even though my sports broadcasting projects take a backseat to my “day job” as coach and consultant, it is a great honor to be recognized for something I love to do. I owe a lot to J. K. for always making me believe a guy from Idaho could make it. He told me many stories of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. But my favorite story was the one about his own high school coach back in Sandpoint — about an hour away from where I played high school ball. Jerry told me, “David — you can, if you will.” I didn’t understand, and it must’ve
Thank you, Jerry Kramer HOF 2018. -Dave Tester
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