Erik Kramer
No. 10, 12
Position:Quarterback
Personal information
Born: (1964-11-06) November 6, 1964 (age 57)
Encino, California
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:204 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High school:Burbank (CA) Burroughs
College:NC State
Undrafted:1987
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
TDINT:92–79
Yards:15,337
Passer rating:76.6
Player stats at NFL.com

William Erik Kramer (born November 6, 1964) is an American former football quarterback. He attended John Burroughs High School in Burbank, California. After attending Los Angeles Pierce College and playing as their quarterback, Kramer transferred to North Carolina State University. He was not drafted by an NFL team, but did see action in 1987, when he played for the Atlanta Falcons as a replacement player during the NFL players strike. He would then spend some time in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders. Kramer would return to the NFL in 1991, when he became a surprise starter for the Detroit Lions after injuries sidelined Rodney Peete. Kramer played in 13 games, led the Lions to a 12–4 record, their only playoff victory since 1962, and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.

College career

Kramer played quarterback at Pierce Junior College, but became interested in transferring to NC State when the school won the national basketball title.[1] He played two seasons for the NC State, starting all 11 games both seasons. His 1985 junior season he compiled just a 3–8 record, though he led the ACC in completions (189), attempts (339), and passing yards (2,510). His senior year, despite slightly less offensive output (145–227 for 2,092 yards), saw the team improve to 8–3–1. This included a dramatic Hail Mary game-winning pass to defeat South Carolina in game 8 to take them to their highest ranking of the season at 15th.[2] On the season, Kramer had 14 passing touchdowns and ran for five more, and was named ACC Player of the Year.[3] Though NC State lost the 1986 Peach Bowl by one point to Virginia Tech, Kramer was still named player of the game.

Professional career

Kramer signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 1987, appearing in three games as one of five quarterbacks to start for the Falcons that season. In the last of these, he set four franchise rookie records with 27 completions on 46 attempts for 335 yards and three touchdowns.[4]

After three years in the Canadian Football League, he returned to the NFL in 1991 as a some-time starter for the Detroit Lions, compiling a 10–5 record over three seasons. Kramer's nickname in Detroit was "Brass", a media-friendly redaction of "brass balls". The moniker apparently originated after Kramer called an audible on his first series as Lions' quarterback, having just replaced the injured Rodney Peete. One Lions' offensive lineman turned to another and said, "This guy's got brass balls." Kramer proved to be quite successful as a signal-caller in 1991 and the nickname stuck. His other nickname was "Cosmo", which was due to him having the same last name as the character Cosmo Kramer from the popular TV show, Seinfeld. He shared QB duties with Peete and Andre Ware. In the 1991 playoffs, he led the team to a 38–6 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys, on a franchise postseason record 29 completions for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He also had the team's only touchdown in a loss to the Washington Redskins in the championship game. He remains the franchise leader in postseason completions (50), attempts (71), yards (590), and sacks (5) in a single season.[5] Combined with a loss in the 1993 postseason, he holds the career franchise postseason records for touchdowns (5 with Tobin Rote), passer rating (99.2), sacks (9), and yards per attempt (8.2) as well.[6]

In 1994, he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears, and spent the next five years there. In his two full seasons as a starter (1995 and 1997), Kramer was highly productive and passed for over 3,000 yards. Kramer currently holds the Bears' single-season record for passing yards (3,838) and touchdown passes (29),[7] and attempts in a single game with 60 on November 16, 1997. Kramer signed with the San Diego Chargers in the 1999 offseason, but retired midseason due to a neck injury. Though he also missed much of the 1996 season with a neck injury, the two injuries were unrelated.

Kramer finished his 10 NFL seasons with 1,317 completions for 15,337 yards and 92 touchdowns, with 79 interceptions. He also rushed for 217 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.

Post-playing career

After retiring from the NFL, Kramer went into sports broadcasting, covering the Detroit Lions as an in-studio analyst and then the Chicago Bears.

Kramer appeared as himself in an episode of Married... with Children, during which the series' protagonist, Al Bundy, sells his soul in order to lead the Bears to the Super Bowl.[8]

On October 30, 2011, Kramer's 18-year-old son, Griffen, a senior at Thousand Oaks High School, was found dead at a friend's home from a heroin overdose. Sheriff’s investigators charged four people, including two juveniles, with involuntary manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance.[9]

On August 19, 2015, Kramer attempted suicide by renting a hotel several miles away from his home and shooting himself in the head; because of his inexperience with firearms, the shot failed to inflict a fatal wound, and Kramer survived.[10] According to Kramer's ex-wife, her husband has a "beautiful soul" but is not the same man she married due to head injuries suffered during his time as an NFL quarterback.[11] Kramer attributed the suicide attempt to existing depression, made worse by Griffen's death and the deaths of both of his parents from cancer; the antidepressants that Kramer had been taking to manage his depression were no longer effective, nor were any other attempts to treat the condition.[10] Kramer did not rule out that head injuries were a factor in his worsening mood, but also noted that he lacked the ability to assess whether close family members truly loved him or knew he loved them even before his playing career.[10]

In the months following the event, a woman named Courtney Baird convinced Kramer to marry her, despite Kramer admittedly having the mental capacity of a preschooler at the time, and the courts consented to the marriage. However, per legal documents obtained by TMZ Sports, Kramer said he "suffered a traumatic brain injury" after attempting suicide in 2015 that "left him with a lack of mental capacity to legally consent to marriage."

On June 13, 2018, Baird called police and reported Kramer had committed domestic violence. In February 2020, Los Angeles County dropped the domestic violence charges against Kramer, but Baird was arrested and charged with 12 felonies, including counts of elder abuse, identity theft and forgery.[12] In petitioning to have his marriage annulled, Kramer said Baird stole $50,000 from him before they were married. Kramer added that Baird "exerted undue influence upon me to convince me, given my weakened mental state, that her actions were not wrongful" before the couple got married in 2016. On January 28, 2019, a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles nullified the marriage.

Kramer eventually regained his mental faculties in 2020, describing the event as a "wak(ing) up."[13] The extensive rehabilitation also cured Kramer of his long-existing depression, to the point where he now, as of 2021, lives a largely normal life.[12]

References

  1. ^ Gravley, Jeff. "Kramer's Hail Mary cements his spot in NC State lore :: WRALSportsFan.com". WRALSportsFan.com. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Carolina, N.C. State have a history".
  3. ^ College stats
  4. ^ Falcons rookie single-game passing records
  5. ^ Lions postseason passing records, season
  6. ^ Lions postseason passing records, career
  7. ^ "Chicago Bears Single-season Passing Leaders - Pro-Football-Reference.com". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  8. ^ "12 things to know about Erik Kramer". Los Angeles Daily News. 20 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Four charged in death of ex-NFLer Erik Kramer's son Griffen Kramer". ESPN.com. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Dunne, Tyler (June 25, 2021). "The fight for Erik Kramer's life: Part 1". GoLongTD.com. Retrieved June 25, 2021.
  11. ^ "Erik Kramer Suicide Attempt: Former NFL QB Shoots Himself In Suicide Attempt, Law Officials Say". Headlines & Global News. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  12. ^ a b "Depression almost ended the life of ex-NFL QB Erik Kramer. A sham marriage and alleged theft threatened to break him again". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  13. ^ Dunne, part II