Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cardinal Corner: Blair Kramer

OTP is proud to present our next installment of Cardinal Corner. It's our chance to catch up with Cardinals of the past and gain some inside insight into this year's Cardinal football team. Today's guest? Blair Kramer, a 4-year letterman on the defensive line for the Cardinals from 2002-2005. Kramer also served as Team Captain in his senior season and was a 2nd Team All MidAmerican Conference selection.

Cardinal Corner: Blair Kramer


Over The Pylon: Many Cardinals fans will remember you as a fearless hard hitter and stalwart on the DLine. Can you tell us a little about what you're up to these days?
Blair Kramer: After the 2005 season I started interviewing with a few different companies; mostly financial advisors, commercial insurance sales, stuff like that. I’ve always wanted to get into real estate, and had a good friend from high school who was with a company called Marcus & Millichap in Chicago. I ended up taking that job, went through an 18 month training/mentorship program, and have been a broker here for about a year now. In a nutshell, I help match up buyers and sellers of commercial investment property. And let me just give a quick shout out to the economy for making my job so damn easy this year! All kidding aside, it has been a difficult year, but almost every successful broker in my office started during a downswing. I just focus on the positive and keep grinding.


OTP: As an alum and former letter winner, how does it feel to see the Cardinals getting so much love from the press and doing so well on the field?
BK: The best part of this season for me is I don’t get nearly as many dumb looks as I did before when I tell people I graduated from Ball State. The pub we are getting right now on College Gameday, Sports Illustrated, Letterman, is 100 times better than any marketing campaign or commercial. Obviously I would’ve loved to have the success this team is having when I was here, but oh well, I’m just living vicariously through them. I still know a few of the juniors and seniors on the team, and it’s great to watch what they’ve been able to accomplish so far.

There was an interview with Gerberry a few weeks ago, and he mentioned how the younger guys on the team only know success at BSU. I’m jealous. My freshman year, I think we had 24 incoming recruits including preferred walk-ons, by the time I was a senior only 5 or 6 of us were left. Most of them had career ending injuries, some left because they weren’t cut out for college football. Either way, it opened the door for a lot of underclassmen to step into starting roles early on. My senior year was 2005, aka book scandal year, aka ridiculously tough out of conference schedule year. Gerbs, Brewster, Ramsey, D Love, D Hill, Haines, Trey Lewis, Trey Buice, BJ Hill, I’m sure somebody is getting left out, but all these guys played significant roles that year, and now they’re the leaders of the team. It’s been awesome watching it unfold.


OTP: The defense took a backseat to the offense and received its share of criticism. Now it seems the defense is picking up the pace and the offense is struggling, especially early. What things have you noticed about this BSU defense that makes you happy? What things concern you?
BK: Being 13th in the nation in scoring defense makes me happy. Watching our defense bow their backs whenever the other team gets inside the 35 makes me happy. I hung out with a few of the players after the Navy game, and I told them what I saw that game: the fastest team to ever play at Scheumann Stadium. Especially on defense, they get to the ball quick and in the words of Coach Burnett, they get there “with bad intentions.” That’s key for this team, because they aren’t very big in the front 7. I also think the one thing that separates this defense from other teams in the MAC is the effort they give. You watch guys like Crawford, Haines, Knipp; and they play with their hair on fire all game long.

The only things that concern me with their performance so far would be pass defense and turnovers. I think they’re probably averaging less than a sack a game, and about the same for turnovers. Luckily we have a quarterback and running backs who don’t give the ball up very often, but I think our games down the road against CMU and WMU will come down to turnover margin and getting pressure on their very talented QBs.


OTP: In the coaching department, you played for both Bill Lynch and Brady Hoke. Both seem to have experienced very different levels of success at Ball State. What's been the secret for Brady that Coach Lynch didn't have?
BK: Well let me just start out by saying I have a lot of respect for both of them. Without Lynch I wouldn’t have ended up at BSU, and without Hoke I wouldn’t have played at the level I did.

I think, and this is a compliment, that Coach Hoke could care less about what other people think of him. I’m sure he upset a lot of people in trying to get more resources for the program, but he didn’t care. The one thing we always knew as players was that Hoke was behind the scenes fighting for us and advancing the program. And it was evident; we had better equipment, better resources, and better facilities because of Hoke. Before him, there always seemed to be these ‘plans’ for the program that were promised to us. Well Hoke made those plans part of his agenda and look what happened. I also think you have to look at his success in recruiting. He was known as one of the best recruiters in the nation when he was at Michigan, and he’s using that to keep bringing better and better talent to Muncie.


OTP: Speaking of Coach Hoke, do you foresee him sticking around in Muncie for very long? Why or why not? What would you do to keep him here if you were in charge of the athletic department? Should he leave who should BSU look at as his replacement?
BK: That’s a really good question, and one that I’m sure most people are thinking about at this point in the season. I don’t want to speculate too much, because it’s not something I’ve discussed with him, and to be honest it’s not something I would ask him about.

I will say that, without a doubt, the opportunity will be there for him. But it’s not like he hasn’t had other opportunities in the past few years either. He has plenty of contacts throughout college football, and pro football too, with his brother being a coach for the Texans. If he really wanted to leave, he could. I think one aspect people need to look at is the current situation with his staff. They have always been loyal to him, so I’m sure he feels indebted to them to some extent. If there was a chance to significantly improve their families’ well being, then I think it might be tough for Hoke to say ‘no’ to a job that is higher paying. I know he has a lot of respect for the University, but this is a business, and at some point that could mean a move to another program.

If he does leave, I would hope the administration looks within the program first. Parrish and Hecklinski both come to mind. Parrish for obvious reasons and Coach Heck because he’s one of the better recruiters out there right now. They should at least be given a shot first. After that, I’m really not sure. I don’t know who the ‘hot coaches’ are right now. All I know is that whoever the university goes after, they need to understand how much work went into making the program what it is today and have the same values that Hoke and his staff instilled in the teams they have coached.

I think the university has taken some big steps in recognizing the success Coach Hoke has had, and it seems like football is becoming more of a priority to the administration than ever before. If the resources are there, I think it is absolutely necessary to bump his pay again this year, and bump the pay of the assistant coaches. These guys put in 90-100 hour weeks during the season, when you factor in travel and games. No joke. They need to keep updating the facilities as well; coaches’ offices, re-furbishing the east bleachers, and putting a plan in place for an indoor facility should be a priority. I know it’s easier said than done, but if we want to be treated like a first class program we need to start acting like one.


OTP: Ball State is hitting the meat of their schedule with games upcoming against CMU, WMU, and Miami. How do you see that stretch of games playing out, and more importantly, how do you adjust for a tremendously high pressure game on a weeknight?
BK: This will be the biggest test of the team so far, and every game they play is more historic and important than the previous. Central and Western have a lot of talent, and the games against them over the past few years have been exciting to say the least. Miami looks to be pretty weak this year, but you can never rule a team out, we have to show up every week. I would hope that after the ass whooping CMU put on us last year, the team knows not take anyone lightly.

I loved weeknight home games, because you have something to occupy your time during the day. Class was pretty unproductive, but at least you are out and about on campus. The worst was Saturday night games on the road. Waiting around all day in a hotel in some dump of a city like Akron or Kalamazoo was awful. I always tried to make me pre-game routine the same, listen to some music, stay loose, always the last one in pads. We usually play pretty well in night games, so I think we’ve got a good advantage for the rest of the season.

I will go on the record and say I predict a perfect 13-0 MAC championship season, we have the talent to do it. Maybe we can squeak into a BCS bowl, but who cares if we don’t. We’ll still go down as the best team in MAC history, what’s wrong with that?


OTP: Can you give us your favorite memory as a Cardinal?
BK: The one thing that I miss the most is just being around the guys. The bonds that you make with teammates are unlike any other. It’s funny we can go months without seeing or talking to each other, and then we’ll get together for a game or wedding or something like that and it’s like we never missed a beat. I went to Fremont, IN last weekend to visit David Gater, and we ended up playing beer pong for 3 hours like we were back in Muncie at my house on Main St.

As far as specific memories, there are a couple that stick out. First, homecoming game in 2001 when nationally ranked Toledo came into town. That was huge for me not only because they were ranked at the time, but also because I’m from Toledo. I’ll never forget watching Parchman bounce to the outside on the kickoff return, then Quentin Manley getting the pick to seal the victory. Second would be the NIU game from 2005. That was a huge victory for our program, because Novak had turned NIU into a powerhouse, and he had done it the right way. I think that was the first victory we had against them since back in the 90s, and coming off of a frustrating first half of the season it was awesome. I don’t think they’ve beaten us since.

(Ed. Note: Huge thanks to Blair for taking the time to chat with us and provide a load of insight, perspective, and thought on this year's Cardinal football team. And if you're looking for real estate in Chicago, give this man a call.)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good read Blair was a hell of a teammate.

Shari Lowry said...

Awesome article, Blair. It was fun to remember your games at BS, I still miss watching you and the team/Shari