Tommy Kramer
refer to caption
Kramer in 1980s
No. 9
Position:Quarterback
Personal information
Born: (1955-03-07) March 7, 1955 (age 67)
San Antonio, Texas
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:200 lb (91 kg)
Career information
High school:Robert E. Lee
College:Rice
NFL Draft:1977 / Round: 1 / Pick: 27
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
TDINT:159–158
Yards:24,777
Passer rating:72.8
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Thomas Francis Kramer (born March 7, 1955) is an American former professional football player who was a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) from 1977 to 1990. He played college football at Rice University and was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round (27th overall) of the 1977 NFL Draft after being named MVP of the 1977 Senior Bowl. He was inducted with the 2012 class into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Early years

Kramer at San Antonio Lee High School
Kramer at San Antonio Lee High School

Kramer played his high school football at Robert E. Lee High School in San Antonio. He guided the Volunteers to a state title in 1971 and then to the state semi-finals in 1972. The state championship game in 1971 was the first high school game played in the new Texas Stadium (Dallas Cowboys) in Irving, Texas. Kramer guided the Lee Volunteers to a 28–27 victory which has been hailed by some as the best high school game ever played in Texas. Kramer's high school teammates included Pat Rockett (played major league baseball for the Atlanta Braves), and Richard Osborne (played for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles).

The Volunteers went 27–1–1 during Kramer's two years on the varsity, beating Wichita Falls High School 28–27 for the Class 4A state title in 1971[1] and losing to Baytown Sterling 21–20 in the 1972 state semifinals.[2] Guided by head coach John Ferrara, the 1971 team finished 14–0–1[3] – a 7–7 tie with rival Churchill kept the Volunteers from being perfect – and the 1972 squad went 13–1. In an era when most Texas high school football teams churned out yardage with ground-oriented offenses such as the wishbone or the veer, Lee achieved success by throwing the ball.

Kramer passed for 2,588 yards as a senior, then a state record, and completed 149 of 294 passes for 28 touchdowns. In two seasons, he completed 327 of 597 attempts for 5,489 yards and 54 TDs. Surrounded by sure-handed receivers Richard Osborne, Pat Rockett and Gary Haack, Kramer was a master at picking apart defenses with his deft passing. Kramer started all but one game as a varsity player, going 26–1–1. He made his debut in the 1971 season opener, replacing starter Bruce Trimmier and rallying Lee to a 7–3 victory over Alamo Heights on a rainy night. It is here that he acquired the nickname "Two-Minute Tommy", which stuck on for the rest of his football career. [4]

College career

After a stellar career at Lee, Kramer became another in the long list of San Antonio products to play college football at Rice University.

Kramer led the Owls in passing for four straight years and his career and season marks were the standard at Rice for over 30 years until they were shattered by Chase Clement, another San Antonio signal caller. Kramer left Rice with school records in single-season passing yards, career passing yards (6,197); season total offense (3,272), career total offense (6,336), season touchdown passes (21), career touchdown passes (37), season total touchdowns (25) and career total touchdowns (48). He was the 1976 George Martin Award winner as Rice's MVP in 1976 and was elected to the Rice Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984.

Kramer played in the Senior Bowl and the Blue-Gray Game in 1976 and was named MVP of the Senior Bowl. He also received the Fort Worth Kiwanis Sportsmanship Award in 1976.

In 2012, Kramer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Professional career

Kramer appeared in five games of his rookie season in 1977, with one start and four mop-up roles as the heir apparent to replacing Fran Tarkenton, although when he was hurt late in the season, Bob Lee would be the starter for four of the last five games. In the 12th game of the year, the Vikings trailed 24-7 in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers and Kramer was brought in to replace Bob Lee. Kramer would go 9-of-13 for 188 yards with three touchdowns to win 28-27.[5] The following week, he made his first ever start against the Oakland Raiders. He went 16-of-34 for 177 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in the 35-13 loss. [6] The following year, Kramer would end up in mop-up duty as Tarkenton started each game for his final season.[7] For the 1979 season, Kramer would become fully installed as the starter.

He earned the nickname "Two-Minute Tommy"[8] for his reputation with comebacks, as he would lead the Vikings to nineteen comebacks (and one in the playoffs), with fifteen in the fourth quarter, with 1980 and 1985 having four from Kramer in each year. [9] However, Kramer would plagued by injuries in his eleven seasons spent with the Vikings, since he started 109 of a possible 152 games for the team over his tenure, and he started each game of a season just twice (1979 and 1982), plagued by knee and shoulder injuries to go alongside concussions. His had knee and shoulder injuries, multiple concussions and a 1987 preseason spine injury that he said “basically pretty much ended my career.”

1980 proved a pivotal moment for him and the Vikings. He would go 8-7 as a starter while leading the Vikings back to the postseason for the first time since 1978. He threw 3,397 yards with 23 touchdowns to 24 interceptions while having a 55.7 completion percentage. He saved his best for near-last in the season. Facing the Cleveland Browns in the penultimate game of the regular season, he would take part of an iconic moment for the Vikings, as he threw a game-winning Hail Mary pass with six seconds left. They had trailed 23-9 in the fourth quarter, but Kramer threw three touchdowns in the quarter, including two to Ahmad Rashad late. On the final play of the game, Rashad was clustered in a group of Browns defenders but managed to catch the ball and carry himself into the end zone. The play, known as Miracle at the Met, clinched a division title for the Vikings. Kramer had his best game to that point, throwing 38-of-49 for 456 yards with four touchdowns. He is still the only quarterback for the Vikings to throw for over 450 yards. [10] In the postseason that year, he faced off against the Philadelphia Eagles. Although they led 14-7 at halftime, a series of turnovers led to a 31-16 loss, and Kramer threw 19-of-39 for 209 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions. [11]

In 1982, Kramer led the Vikings to the postseason with a strike-shortened 5-4 record. Facing the Atlanta Falcons in Minnesota, the Falcons led in the fourth quarter 21-16 before Kramer led them to a comeback to pull off a 30-24 win. He threw 20-of-34 for 253 yards with two touchdowns and one interception to lead the Vikings to the second round of the playoffs.[12] Facing the Washington Redskins the following week, Kramer could not quite generate magic, as Washington won 21-7 on their way to the Super Bowl. Kramer threw 18-of-39 for 252 yards. [13]

Kramer had his last flash of brilliance in 1986. He went 7-6 in his thirteen starts while throwing for 3,000 yards with 24 touchdowns to ten interceptions while leading the league in passer rating with 92.6. Kramer had his highlight day on September 28, 1986, as he torched the Green Bay Packers, even though his overall record against the Packers was 6-9, for six touchdown passes (with four in the first quarter) on a 16-of-25 day for 241 yards. [14] He was named to the Pro Bowl for the first and only time. [15] It was the last season with him as primary starter for most of the games (starting thirteen games). In 1987, Kramer would split time with Wade Wilson (who had been on the team since 1981), with Kramer starting five games and Wilson starting seven, with Kramer noting a preseason injury to his spine as the injury that hastened his end of career. [16] Kramer threw four touchdowns to three interceptions in his 81 passes for six game appearances. Kramer was the starting quarterback when the Vikings sneaked into the playoffs at 8-7, although he was taken out after a few drives for Wilson. Kramer (who was hurt on the first play of the game) was 5-of-9 on 50 yards as the Vikings rolled to a 44-10 win over the New Orleans Saints with Wilson at the helm. From there, the Vikings went to the NFC Championship Game with Wilson starting the next two games. [17] For 1988, he made six starts with appearances in four other games. While going 4-2, he threw for 1,264 yards with five touchdowns to nine interceptions on 173 total pass attempts. For 1989, he closed out his Vikings career with appearances in eight games and four starts while throwing 906 yards and seven touchdowns and interceptions. His final appearance in a Vikings uniform was mop-up duty late in a playoff loss to San Francisco. He went 9-of-19 for 110 yards and an interception in the 41-13 loss. [18] He was released after the season.

He was signed by the New Orleans Saints in 1990. He appeared in only one game for the Saints (against the Vikings) and retired after the 1990 season.

Personal life

Kramer on camera with FOX News (KVRR) during a youth football clinic June 25, 2011, at Shanley High School in Fargo, ND.
Kramer on camera with FOX News (KVRR) during a youth football clinic June 25, 2011, at Shanley High School in Fargo, ND.

Kramer spent the next thirty years in Texas before returning to Minnesota after his third divorce in 2020.[19]

See also

References

  1. ^ "1971 4A Football Playoff Bracket" (PDF). uiltexas.org. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  2. ^ "1972 4A Football Playoff Bracket" (PDF). uiltexas.org. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  3. ^ "1971 State Football Championship Conference 4A" (PDF). uiltexas.org. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  4. ^ "Got a minute? Former Vikings QB Tommy Kramer still has two". August 14, 2020.
  5. ^ "San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings - December 4th, 1977".
  6. ^ "Minnesota Vikings at Oakland Raiders - December 11th, 1977".
  7. ^ "Tommy Kramer 1978 Game Log".
  8. ^ Fachet, Robert (January 12, 1983). "Vikings' Kramer: 'Two-Minute Tommy,' in Tournament Time". Washington Post. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  9. ^ "Tommy Kramer's Career 4th quarter comebacks and game-winning drives".
  10. ^ "Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings - December 14th, 1980".
  11. ^ "Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles - January 3rd, 1981".
  12. ^ "Wild Card - Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings - January 9th, 1983".
  13. ^ "Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins - January 15th, 1983".
  14. ^ "Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings - September 28th, 1986".
  15. ^ "1986 NFL Passing". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  16. ^ "Former Vikings QB Tommy Kramer is back in town, and he just might stick around". December 4, 2020.
  17. ^ "Wild Card - Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints - January 3rd, 1988".
  18. ^ "Tommy Kramer 1989 Game Log".
  19. ^ "Former Vikings QB Tommy Kramer is back in town, and he just might stick around". December 4, 2020.