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Q&A: Granddaughter remembers Ron Kramer, Michigan legend

By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 13, 2012

The Michigan football team will put Ron Kramer’s No. 87 jersey back into circulation prior to the Michigan-Massachusetts matchup on Saturday, designating Kramer as a ‘Michigan Football Legend.’

Kramer, a three-sport athlete from Girard, Kan., played offensive and defensive end, running back, quarterback, kicker and receiver at Michigan in the mid-1950s before a 10-year NFL career at tight end with the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

Kramer passed away on Sept. 11, 2010 at his home in Fenton, Mich. He was 75.

His children, Kurt and Cassie, and their families will be on hand at Michigan Stadium on Saturday for the on-field pregame ceremony recognizing Kramer.

One of Kramer’s grandchildren, Kelsey, is an LSA senior at the University. On Thursday, Kelsey took a few minutes with the Daily to remember her late grandfather, a Michigan legend.

The Michigan Daily: What are your emotions, what are your family’s emotions as your grandfather’s number is put back into circulation this weekend?

Kelsey Kramer: My family is thrilled. It’s kind of a cool thing for me, being a student here. I know a lot of kids my age don’t necessarily know about him, so for me it’s neat that it’s back on the field. It’s going to draw a lot of attention to that and the memory of him playing here, in a way.

TMD: Some have criticized that unretiring numbers is disrespectful, but as you mentioned, you’re putting them back on the field with a legend patch on them. Did you see this as a good opportunity to have your grandfather’s name associated with Michigan football in an everyday fashion?

KK: I do. Part of me feels like over time it’s going to become just a normal thing, but I think it’s nice to be able to see that number on the field. Even though it’s being taken out of retirement, it’s still something that’s special to the team and to the player wearing it. I think it’s still respectful to him, in a way. He’s still being honored; it’s not that his jersey is back and that’s the end of that.

TMD: We know your grandfather was a player here, but how did you get here? Did your parents go here?

KK: Actually, my whole family went to Michigan State except for me and my grandpa. I’ve been going to games since I was 3 years old — we’ve kept the season tickets in my family since my great-grandma was watching her son, my grandpa, play on the field. So I’ve always had a strong connection with Michigan in that way.

My grandpa volunteered at the school at the time. He was always back, bringing apples around to the president’s office and all the athletic offices. He remained really involved, and I think because of our close relationship I couldn’t have thought of another university I’d want to go to.

TMD: What was your relationship with him like?

KK: Every Football Saturday before I was a student here, we would go to the games together. I’d sit up in the press box with him. When I was a freshman and sophomore here, we’d go out to lunch once a month, and our family always spent Christmas at his house in Fenton. We were extremely close, and I think that me going to Michigan brought us even closer. He was the best, so full of life and always partying.

TMD: He played quite a long time ago, but do remember him getting recognized around games pretty often?

KK: Definitely. A lot of people that worked around Michigan football definitely recognized who Ron Kramer was. President Mary Sue Coleman knew him very well; I met her a couple times with him. Kids my age might not unless they’re friends with me.

Two guys that lived next door to me in my dorm found out that he was a Michigan football player and looked him up on Wikipedia. He only is in the Hall of Fame for the Green Bay Packers and played for the Detroit Lions. They were so mad at me for not telling them. But my grandpa never talked about his fame. He was just my grandpa to me.

TMD: Do you remember any memories he shared of his days as a three-sport athlete?

KK: He would talk about Paul Hornung — he played against him at Notre Dame (and with him in Green Bay), one of his really good friends — and Tom Nowatski (a teammate in Detroit). He used to bring me out to lunch with him. Football was his big thing, and basketball he talked about occasionally. We went to one game together when they had an event at Crisler Arena.

In track he was always told he would be a really good shot putter, and he obviously did well in it and enjoyed it, but he loved football so much more.

TMD: Sept. 11, 2010 is a day a lot Michigan fans remember for the good things — Denard Robinson going for 502 yards against Notre Dame — but obviously it was a different kind of day for you.

KK: I remember sitting in my grandpa’s house, and the coroners were there. He didn’t have his cable hooked up for some reason, so I asked his sister and my mom if they would mind me turning on the radio to listen to the game. That was what he’d be doing anyway and it was what I would be doing. I wanted to get my mind off of it and listen to Michigan football.

I definitely will not forget Denard Robinson running an 87-yard touchdown that day. That is the one thing that’s always stuck in my mind about that day, thinking, ‘My grandpa’s probably sitting up there laughing his ass off, so happy that we won.’ It just felt like he was there still, watching the game as usual.


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