Honoring the lifelong friendship of Willie Davis and Jerry Kramer

Born during a pivotal time in the civil rights era, the friendship between NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Kramer and Willie Davis taught the world that human connection can transcend race and time.

The Door County Boys and Girls Club celebrates that friendship with a scholarship they’ve named 64/87, in honor of the two men who wore those numbers during the Packers Glory Years.

The 64/87 scholarship will award $8,700 to selected high school students who have either worked for or been members of the club.

“I had done some fundraising for the club, and they called and said they’d like to honor me by naming a scholarship after me,” Jerry said. “I said I thought the scholarship was a great idea but I’d really rather you name it after Willie Davis instead of me. Willie is a wonderful example of education, application and humor.”

By naming the scholarship 64/87, the Club honored them both, which seems especially appropriate for the two men who became one of the NFL’s first interracial roommates and lifelong friends.

As all the best ones do, Willie and Jerry’s friendship grew from a mutual respect.

“Willie Davis came up to me after a game. It was at the end of the season, and we were in LA,” Jerry said. “I was on my way into the showers, and I had a towel over myself. Willie went by and he said, ‘J, you had a hell of a year. I think you ought to be an All Pro.” The All-Pro teams were coming out and I said, ‘Well, thank you, Will!” I continued the conversation I had been having and he went into the shower. I was thinking, ‘Damn. That was a real nice thing to say.’ so I went back over to him, and I said, ‘Hey Will. I think you’re going to be All Pro too. You really deserve it.’ That conversation sparked a lifetime friendship.”

Both players were right in their assessments. Among many other accolades, both players were named All Pro five times during the Packers’ prolific run.

As with many Lombardi players, that success on the field translated into a desire to succeed off the field as well.

“Willie was an extremely bright kid,” Jerry said. “One day we we’re talking about business after football. He wants to invest in a new franchise so we go down and have lunch there during our time off. We have a nice meal and we come back and we’re just flapping our gums. I’m excited about the business venture. It’s a great spot and looking pretty positive. Willie and I are talking and we go into my room and we’re sitting on opposite beds. We’re not thinking about anything else but the conversation. And, Willie says, ‘Hey J I have to get back to my room.’ And I had a thought. I didn’t have a roommate at the time and I said, ‘Why don’t you just room with me?’ And, we did. We were just a couple of guys bullshitting and it worked out great. He was a hell of a guy. I treated him like a brother and he treated me like a brother.”

Though Willie died in April 2020, that brotherhood lives on in many ways, including the stories they’ve told and the charities they’ve supported.

Jerry began helping the Door County Boys and Girls Club 12 years ago, when Dave Resch brought him some footballs to sign.

“He asked me what I was going to do with the footballs and I explained that we were going to auction them off at a golf outing to raise funds for the Door County Boys and Girls Club,” Resch said. “He said, ‘You know, I like to golf but I really like to fish. If you can arrange a fishing event in Door County, I’ll come and I’ll bring my friends.’”

True to his word, Kramer brought Doug Hart to the outing that next year and has been offering his support to the club ever since.

“Over the last 10 or 11 years, I’ve gotten to know Jerry. What a classy individual,” Resch said. “Oh my goodness. For him to travel all the way from Boise every year on his own dime. Not ask for a fee or airfare or anything. We provide accommodations and a nice meal, but he never asks for anything. He has really inspired a lot of very generous people in Door County.”

To date, the club has raised $1,075,000, which has resulted in a new building with a commercial kitchen that feeds kids four nights a week.

“A lot of people look at Door County and see all the boats and homes and think it’s a pretty wealthy area but 53% of the students in Door County qualify for free and reduced lunch,” Resch said.

The club serves up to 150 kids a week, offers meal programs for needy families and is looking to open satellite sites to increase its capacity.

For more information, including how you can donate to the 64/87 scholarship, check out this post.

The boutonnieres in this picture make me smile. I’m not sure what that was about. These guys were gathered to honor Max McGee and raise funds for Children’s Hospital. But this picture is also pretty poignant because Jerry Kramer, the smiling guy in the middle, is the only one of this group still alive. If you had to pick a single player to tell the story of the franchise, though, you couldn’t pick a more eloquent voice than Jerry Kramer.
I don’t have any pictures of just Jerry and Willie together, but I do love this picture of Willie Davis and my daughter Molly, taken a few years ago.
And this one of my Mom, Willie and their friend Vicki Aldridge Nelson and Joe Nelson.
I also love this picture of Jerry Kramer and another of his lifelong friends Fuzzy Thurston.

2 thoughts on “Honoring the lifelong friendship of Willie Davis and Jerry Kramer

  1. Laura, Totally Love It! The pic of Peggy brings everything into perspective. I love the job these Packer Greats (Your Pop included) did for our community, our sporting banquets, pep rallys & etc…We grew up awfully lucky to have these great opportunities.

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