That was a very good thing.
Last fall, Kramer coached what he thought would be his last football game when his Pierre Governors’ season came to an end in the second round of the playoffs against Brandon Valley. He had earlier announced that the 2012 season would be his last.
However, the game clock is still running on Kramer’s illustrious career. He will serve as head coach of the North football team in this week’s All-Star games in Aberdeen.
The All-Stars begin arriving on the Northern State campus this morning and will have their first practice this afternoon. The games are for high school seniors who graduated this past spring, bringing together the state’s top athletes in football, volleyball and basketball.
The 27th annual All-Star football game will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Swisher Field.
Kramer was a standout football player himself, first at McLaughlin High School and then at Northern State. He's had college coaching stints at Yankton College, NSU and Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. He had some combination of administration, coaching and teaching jobs at the high schools of Aberdeen Roncalli, Spearfish, Mitchell, Todd County in Mission, Avon and Pierre.
His accomplishments were many, including:
- A 15-year career as head coach at DWU starting in 1984, where Kramer became the school’s all-time winningest football coach.
- He turned around the DWU program. He inherited a program that had won just a combined five games in the previous five seasons before he arrived.
- Kramer’s DWU teams won or shared five conference titles.
- In 1992, DWU went undefeated and qualified for the NAIA playoffs for the first and only time in the program’s history.
- His three Pierre teams had two seven-win seasons and eight wins the other season.
- Kramer was an assistant coach for the 2008 Avon team that won the State 9A championship.
I got an on-field view of Kramer’s coaching in Mitchell as sports editor of the newspaper there. Kramer was a player’s coach who had a passion for the game that could not help but rub off on others.
He built team unity and character into his players, convincing them to respect the game, their opponents and those around them. His practices were intense, and Kramer wanted to make sure his players knew it was a privilege to play the game and treat it as such. Even while maintaining a strict but fair demeanor, he knew how to inject the fun into football. All of which made him beloved.
The impact Northern State had on Kramer was life-lasting. During his time with the Wolves, Jim Kretchman was in his first year as head football coach, and in assistant roles with coaches such as Clark Swisher, Bob Wachs, Al Sahli and Bart Berndt, who are all now NSU legends.
Kramer deeply respected those who came before him and loves those with whom he played with or coached along side as brothers and those he coached as sons. He treats each visit to Aberdeen as special as his NSU memories.
From 1969 to 1972, Kramer and his Wolves went 31-6-1, winning the conference championship three seasons and once sharing the title in a three-way tie. During Kramer’s time, NSU was in the national rankings, playoffs and continued a streak of eight conference championship teams in a row.
Retired NSU coach Kretchman described his defensive lineman Kramer this way: “Joe was an aggressive, tough defensive player. When he got blocked, he didn't stay blocked. He pursued really well.”
At Gypsy Days his junior year, Northern defeated Mankato State, a nationally ranked NCAA Division II team, 16-14 on a last-second touchdown. That same season, Northern qualified for the NAIA playoffs, flying to Russellville, Ark., over Thanksgiving weekend to face Arkansas Tech.
Kramer was all-conference as a junior and senior. And he was all-world as a coach.
John Papendick is the managing news-sports editor for the American News: email@example.com.