- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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Tommy Kramer played quarterback so well that he set records with one team tied behind his back. In his four seasons (1973-76) at Rice, the Owls went 12-31-1 (.284). But Kramer left the Houston school with eight career and single-season records.
If a passer came of age in Texas in the Wishbone Era and wanted to stay in-state to throw the ball, he didn’t have many choices. Kramer went to Rice to play for Al Conover and, in his first four seasons, threw for a total of 2,880 yards. But before 1976, Kramer’s senior season, Homer Rice replaced Conover. Rice, to this day one of the most respected men in college athletics, recognized the talent he had at quarterback and let Kramer loose. The Owls only went 3-8, but oh, how Kramer threw the ball. His 3,317 passing yards led the nation, and fell short of the NCAA career record at the time by 26 yards. His 501 attempts, an average of 45 passes per game, also led all passers.
In a season when Gifford Nielsen threw 29 touchdowns while leading BYU to a 9-2 record, the All-America teams made Kramer a consensus pick. They recognized the difficulty of his task. The Minnesota Vikings, did, too, ignoring the Owls’ results to take Kramer late in the first round. He went on to enjoy 14 seasons in the NFL.
The low profile of the school may explain why it took the College Football Hall of Fame more than 20 years to honor Kramer. That oversight has been rectified.