Happy Birthday to San Antonio Lee and Rice alum Tommy Kramer. Kramer was a revolutionary player in SWC history, leading the nation in passing in 1976 and finishing fifth in Heisman voting that season, the last Owl to finish in the top 5.
Kramer played high school ball at Lee High School in San Antonio, in two years as a starter the Volunteers would finish 27-1-1. He led Lee to the 1971 4A State Championship, beating Wichita Falls in the title game. The next season the Vols would make the State semis before bowing out to Baytown Sterling.
Kramer went to Rice and was immediately thrown into the fire starting against eventual National Champion Notre Dame. In his junior season Kramer led the SWC in passing yards and total offense. As a senior Kramer set the league on fire, even if the Owls as a team struggled. In his senior year Kramer:
- Was the first 3,000 yard passer in SWC history.
- Recorded four of the top eight passing games in league history.
- Set single season records for passing yards, attempts, completions, touchdowns and total offense.
- Was a Consensus All-American. Only Kramer and John Elway achieved the honor on losing teams.
- Finished with the second most passing yards (3,3,17) and total yards (3,272) in NCAA history.
- Finished fifth in Heisman Trophy Voting.
The Rice Air Corps as it was known in '76 put fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators, even if the Owls finished 3-8. Kramer's favorite target was James Sykes from New Waverly who's 76 catches set a league record.
To put Kramer's '76 season in context, Texas Tech's Rodney Allison finished second in passing yards in '76 with 1,651, less than half of Kramer's number.
Kramer was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and threw for over 25,000 yards as a pro, making one Pro-Bowl. Kramer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012. His passing marks at Rice stood for over 30 years.
Happy Birthday Tommy Kramer!