BOISE, Idaho — NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer thought he'd never see his Super Bowl ring again.
The Green Bay Packers great received the ring after winning the very first Super Bowl, at the time called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.
During a commercial flight in 1981, Kramer accidentally left the ring in the plane's restroom. When he later returned to retrieve it, the ring was gone.
Then, 25 years later - in 2006 - the former University of Idaho football star got a phone call from the owner of an auction house in Chicago who said they had the ring and it was scheduled for auction.
"It was quite incredible that it ever came back," Kramer said. "And when the guy tells me [on the phone], I said, 'I'm coming after you, I'm gonna sue you, I'm gonna send the cops.'"
That's when the auction house owner interrupted, according to Kramer.
"'Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, chill out,'" Kramer recalled the man saying. "'I'm gonna send it to you. I want to return it to you.'"
By that time, Kramer already had another Super Bowl ring - the Packers won Super Bowl II a year after he received his first ring.
"And so I'm thinking, well that's a wonderful gesture for him to return the Super Bowl ring," Kramer said. "Maybe I can do something worthwhile with it."
He auctioned the ring off and used the $135,000 he got for it to found an organization called Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund.
"And we were working on the pensions and the disability plans [for] athletes after they left the field. "So I got [Coach Mike] Ditka, and Joe DeLamielleure and eight or 10 guys to sit on the board with me and be a part of things, and we raised a lot of money."
Kramer and his crew of pro football legends pressed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell into finding a way to increase the amount paid out to former players via the NFL pension fund.
"We were having a problem with our pension," he said. "Our pension was like $300 or $390 or something like that.
"[Goodell] put $800 million into the NFL pension," Kramer explained. "And so the NFL pension went from about $330 to nearly $2,000 for me."
Now run by Ditka, Gridiron Greats is still around, providing help to retired NFL players and their families and raising awareness of players' medical needs.
"It turned out to be a really worthwhile use of the ring," he said. "Yeah, and I was very comfortable with how it turned out."
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