Hall of Fame football coach remembered
Prior to 1983, the Emporia State football team had nine straight losing seasons. Within three years of his arrival, Larry Kramer, former head coach, would turn that around to start off a seven year winning streak, helping him become the second most winning quarterback in ESU history.
“We all got along well, and we all were good coaches and he was really one of a kind. He was very intense and said what he meant,” said Ron Slaymaker, former coach and fellow Hall of Famer. “Getting ESU to be great was a work ethic we all had. It certainly wasn’t because of our budget because back in those years, our budget was in the bottom third of our conference. But back then, we recruited Kansas very well. You got the good kids out of Kansas and a few out of state.”
The college football heart was broken Jan. 25 of this year when word spread of the passing of ESU hall of famer Kramer. Kramer had been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his health had been declining for the past eight years.
Kramer played football at the University of Nebraska before being drafted to play in the National Football League for the Baltimore Colts. Kramer started his head-coaching career at Southwestern Oregon. He was the headman there for the 1970 and 1971 seasons only winning three games and losing 17. His winning percentage there, .150, is 12th all time in school history and his total number of wins, three, is 11th. His next head coaching venture was at Austin College in Austin Texas from 1973-1982, where he lead the Kangaroos to a NAIA national title game in 1981 and was twice name Texas’ collegiate coach of the year.
In 1983, he took over as head football coach at ESU, where he led the Hornets to the 1989 NAIA national title game. After stepping down at ESU in 1994 he was on Bill Snyder’s staff at K-State from 1995-1997 before retiring. Kramer was inducted in the ESU Hall of Fame in 2000.
“The ESU coaching staff is a true blessing,” said Brent Wilson, current starting quarterback and sophomore business major. “They want to make you a success, not only on the field but off. They are a dedicated group who make the most of their opportunities.”
Kramer coached not only Leon Lett, ESU Hall of Famer and former Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboy defensive lineman, but also Garin Higgins, current ESU head football coach, who has done quite the turnaround of his own. Higgins played quarterback for Kramer from 1987-1990.
“It was tough to play for Coach Kramer because he was very intense,” Higgins said. “My relationship was good with him as a player, but it really became much better once I got into coaching.”
Coaching was something Higgins had always wanted to do, but he said that Kramer was one of the main reasons he “got into coaching.”
A visitation was held last Saturday before the funeral for the Hall of Fame coach. The family encouraged attendees to wear black and gold and their Emporia State jerseys to honor the ESU legend.