By Chuck Pool and Ron Mears
Record-setting quarterback Tommy Kramer ’77, who thrilled Rice fans and haunted opposing defensive coordinators with an aerial attack that was far ahead of his time, is among 14 former college greats and three legendary coaches who make up the 2012 National Football Foundation (NFF) College Football Hall of Fame class, which was announced this week.
“It’s not something that when you are growing up you think about, but as you get older, you appreciate it more,” Kramer said. “It’s a great honor. I’m very happy and very humbled to be a part of that unique fraternity.”
Kramer earned consensus All-America honors and finished fifth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1976 after leading the nation in passing (3,317) and total offense (3,272), the second-best totals in NCAA history at the time. The leader of the “Rice Air Corps,” as they were known, Kramer was the first player in Southwest Conference (SWC) history to top 3,000 yards in total offense and set SWC single-season records for attempts (501), completions (269) and touchdown passes (21) and total plays (562), in addition to his passing and total offense marks. He also recorded four of the top eight passing games in conference history in 1976.
“When I went to Rice, I had one idea in mind and that was playing professional football,” Kramer said. “The quickest way to get recognized back in those days was to be able to go to a school that was going to put the football in the air all the time and score a lot of points. That’s all I ever hoped to do.
“I had a great time while I was at Rice and … in Houston, which is a great city. It couldn’t have turned out any better.”
Despite Rice’s 3-8 season record, Kramer was the consensus choice for All-America honors as a senior. Kramer and John Elway are the only quarterbacks since 1970 to be honored while playing for teams with a losing record.
Kramer is the sixth Rice player to earn induction into the Hall of Fame and the first since Buddy Dial was inducted in 1993. Weldon Humble was the first Owl to earn the honor with his induction in 1961. He was followed by Froggy Williams in 1965, Bill Wallace in 1978 and Dicky Maegle in 1979. Former Rice head coach Jess Neely was inducted in 1971. Legendary coach John Heisman, who concluded his coaching career with a four-year stint at Rice from 1924 to 1927, was inducted in 1954.
After a stellar career at San Antonio’s Lee High School, in which Kramer led the Volunteers to the 1971 4A state title in the first high school game to be played at Texas Stadium, he became another in the long list of San Antonio products to play college football at Rice.
Kramer led Rice in passing for four straight years, and his career and season marks were the standard at Rice for more than 30 years until they were shattered by Chase Clement ’08, 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.
He was selected by the Minnesota Vikings as the 27th pick of the first round of the 1977 NFL draft and played 14 seasons, during which he threw for nearly 25,000 yards. He was selected for the 1986 Pro Bowl.
Kramer’s fellow 2012 inductees are Charles Alexander, LSU tailback (1975-78); Otis Armstrong, Purdue halfback (1970-72); Steve Bartkowski, Cal quarterback (1972-74); Hal Bedsole, Southern Cal split end (1961-63); Dave Casper, Notre Dame tight end (1971-73); Ty Detmer, BYU quarterback (1988-91); Art Monk, Syracuse wide receiver (1976-79); Greg Myers, Colorado State defensive back (1992-95); Jonathan Ogden, UCLA offensive tackle (1992-95); Gabe Rivera, Texas Tech defensive tackle (1979-82); Mark Simoneau, Kansas State linebacker (1996-99); Scott Thomas, Air Force safety (1982-85); and John Wooten, Colorado offensive guard (1956-58).
Also selected for induction in 2012 were collegiate coaches Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee (1992-08); Jimmy Johnson, who coached both Oklahoma State (1979-83) and Miami (Fla.) (1984-88); and R.C. Slocum, Texas A&M (1989-02).
“We are extremely proud to announce the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame class,” said Archie Manning, chairman of the NFF and College Hall of Fame. “Each year the selection process becomes increasingly more difficult, but Gene Corrigan and the Honors Court do an amazing job of selecting a diverse group of the most amazing players and coaches in our sport’s rich history. This class is certainly no exception, and we look forward to honoring them and celebrating their achievements throughout the year ahead.”
Induction for this class of Hall of Famers will be Dec. 4 at the 55th NFF Annual Awards Dinner in New York City. Kramer will also be honored by the NFF and Rice with an on-campus salute at a Rice home game this fall.