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. Kramer threw the touchdown pass, his third of the night, with just over two minutes to play to tie the game and then kicked the extra point for the win. The 1971 championship was the first high school game played at Cowboy Stadium in Irving.
The next season the Vols would make the State semis before bowing out to Baytown Sterling 21-20. This was back in the day when ties were decided by something called penetrations, or trips inside your opponent’s 20-yard line. Most penetrations would win and with Kramer’s Lee team down in penetrations 6-5 the Vols had to go for two. The Rangers stopped Kramer on his two-point attempt and Sterling went on to lose to mighty Odessa Permian 37-7.
Kramer went to Rice in the fall of 1973 and after backing up Fred Geisler for a couple games then was thrown into the fire in his first start against eventual National Champion Notre Dame. Kramer missed half of his sophomore season with injury but did lead the Owls to an improbable win over a decent Texas Tech squad.
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.
The Minnesota Vikings took Kramer in the first round of the 1977 draft as the heir apparent to legend Fran Tarkenton. Kramer took over in 1979 and threw for over 25,000 yards as a pro, making one Pro-Bowl. The College Football Hall of Fame inducted Kramer into its ranks in 2012. His passing marks at Rice stood for over 30 years.
Happy Birthday Tommy Kramer!