Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer, an all-pro during the mid-1980s and one of the franchise's leaders in passing yards and touchdowns, made his way to St. Michael-Albertville Saturday for some one-on-one instruction with aspiring football players here.
Kramer, now 58, was the starting quarterback for the NFC in the 1986 Pro Bowl, and still holds the record for most passing touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers in a single game with six.
But Saturday was about reaching out to kids, Kramer said, and teaching them the basics of throwing the ball. He spent the moring with youth football players at the fields near St. Michael-Albertville Middle School East. A crowd of parents, many in purple in gold, looked on.
"This is always a great time," the Texas native said with a drawl. "You get them at this impressionable of an age, and you can teach them something they'll never forget. These kids learn quick. And it's great to see how quickly they pick it up."
Kramer remains one of just three quarterback the Vikings have ever drafted in the first round (Daunte Culpepper and Christian Ponder being the other two). He said he remembers his day as a Viking fondly.
"I left in 1992, but I'm still connected here. It's great to see the fans come out. It's fantastic. They're some of the best."
Kramer said he's been keeping in touch with his representative here in Minnesota, Twin Cities resident Jeff O'Brien, about the stadium issue.
"It would have been plain stupid for this city and this franchise to part ways. I'm really glad that won't happen," he said. "I was able to play outside and indoors here. I can tell you we had some cold practices, but I was never cold during a game. You lived for that game. And the field indoors [at the Metrodome] was terrible. It was always like playing on a concrete floor," Kramer said.
He still attends about four home games per year, coming up from Texas.
"I enjoy it. It's great to stay in touch with the organization and the fans. They're who got us here."
O'Brien said Kramer works with kids at all levels. Kramer was outstanding throughout his career, holding high school records (winning a Texas state championship), earning All-American status at Rice University and then entering the pros with the Vikings.
His favorite memory in purple–actually two–include coming off the bench to beat the San Francisco 49ers in 1977, when he threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter; and defeating the Cleveland Browns in 1980 with a "Hail Mary" pass to Ahmad Rashad, earning a playoff spot.
"I remember Bud [Grant] looking over to me and telling me, 'Hey rook! You're in!' I nearly dropped the sauna rocks I had in my pockets right on my feet when I took off my stadium jacket. But I was ready," Kramer said.
He touched on that opportunity when he spoke with the campers after practice.
"It's all about preparation meeting opportunity," Kramer said. "I think if you're always prepared, then you're going to get out what you've put in. So dream big. If you guys work hard you will find that, in the end, you're usually going to succeed at what you want to do."