GREEN BAY — If Rick Gosselin gets his way in Minneapolis next weekend, Jerry Kramer will at long last be able to pack his bags for Canton, Ohio.
And, Gosselin believes, the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee will have righted a wrong that has stood for nearly 50 years.
Gosselin, one of the NFL’s most respected national writers, is set to present the legendary Green Bay Packers guard’s case for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame next week in the Twin Cities in advance of Super Bowl LII.
“This is such a woeful oversight by this committee,” Gosselin said. “He belongs in. And I want to get him in.”
Kramer, who turned 82 on Tuesday, is one of two candidates put forth by the senior committee this year and this will mark the 11th time his candidacy has been discussed by the selectors — but the first time since 1997, when he was also presented as a seniors committee candidate but was not elected.
“I think he’s the most deserving player not in Canton,” Gosselin said during an appearance on ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch” Tuesday morning. “I think this is the biggest oversight in the Hall. Why he’s not in after 45 years still boggles my mind.
“I think the credibility of the committee is at stake here.”
The 48-person selection committee will meet on Feb. 3, with the Hall class then being revealed during the annual NFL Honors awards show that night on the eve of the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Gosselin, a longtime NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News who has covered the league for more than four decades and is one of the founders of the Talk of Fame Network, is in his 24th year on the Hall of Fame selection committee. He is on the seniors committee and volunteered to present Kramer’s case because he feels so strongly about him.
Gosselin was in the room for a discussion of Kramer only once, in 1987. That year, the committee chose the Oakland Raiders’ Gene Upshaw, who was the only guard the committee elected to the Hall of Fame from 1967 to 1990.
“Clearly, there was no agenda to push guards through the room during that 24 years that were essentially Kramer’s eligibility window,” Gosselin said.
Now 50 years removed from his crucial block on quarterback Bart Starr’s historic Ice Bowl sneak, Kramer is one of 18 finalists, along with one contributor nominee and 15 modern-era finalists. As many as eight inductees can be selected, if each receives 80 percent of the vote from the committee.
Kramer, a five-time All-Pro and the only member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team not in the Hall of Fame, is widely regarded not only as the greatest Packer not in the Hall but also as the greatest NFL player who hasn’t been given the honor. He was also on the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade team, playing on five championship teams (including two Super Bowl champions) in his 11 NFL seasons before retiring in 1968.
Over the past five years, all eight senior finalists presented by the committee have been elected, including Packers linebacker Dave Robinson in 2013.
“This same committee voted him the best guard in the first half-century of the NFL. This committee voted him one of the two guards on that 50th anniversary team. This committee voted him first-team all-decade for the 1960s,” Gosselin said. “Those are the eyes I want people to judge Jerry Kramer by.
“Why has he had to wait 45 years with those accolades? Lesser guards have gone in.”
For his part, Kramer has said in recent years he had made his peace with not being in the Hall of Fame. Last June, he made it clear he didn’t want to get his hopes up.
“My life has been storybook,” Kramer said in an interview in June. “The number of things I’ve been able to do have been amazing. I grew up in a little town in Idaho of 3,500 people. And I thought I’d end up driving a logging truck someday if I got lucky.
“I have no animosity. I was a little angry and a little upset about things when I expected to go in back in ’75 or ’80, somewhere in there, and I couldn’t understand exactly what was happening.
“And then I looked around and said, ‘The game has given you 100 presents. It’s just been a sensational life. And you’re going to get angry and upset because it didn’t give you one more? That’s kind of silly — and stupid, really.
“All in all, when I look back on the journey, it’s been a wonderful ride. I wouldn’t change any part of it. It’s just been a special, special thing that I never could have dreamed growing up as a young boy in Sandpoint, Idaho, and thinking that someday I might be driving a logging truck — if I got lucky.”