Doug Kramer always seemed destined to join the Chicago Bears. That might sound like the start of a bad movie script, but it’s true. He grew up in Hinsdale and was a diehard fan of the team. When he graduated high school, he attended Illinois University. The head coach of the program his freshman year was Lovie Smith. When people talk about destiny, stuff like this stands out the most. Yet the connections don’t stop there.
It turns out Kramer also developed ties to all-time franchise legend Dick Butkus. The Hall of Fame linebacker played at Illinois. However, it wasn’t him but a close relative that hugely influenced the young center. That was Luke Butkus. A former offensive lineman himself, he attended Illinois and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bears in 2002. After a brief playing career, Butkus transitioned to coaching, rejoining the Bears in 2007 as an assistant. Smith brought him back to Illinois in 2016 to run the offensive line, where he connected with Kramer.
Chicago’s 6th round pick explained to 247Sports how vital their three years together were for his development.
Doug Kramer beat long odds to reach his new position.
Plenty of people had doubts whether he’d make it to the NFL. He was too small and suffered from a general lack of power. Butkus understood that since he encountered the same criticisms during his own career. So he went about preparing Kramer to be tough, nasty, and work to his biggest strengths. That meant using his intelligence and his athleticism to maximum advantage. Nobody can say it didn’t work. He got drafted—something his mentor never achieved.
The next step is playing actual games in the NFL. Butkus never reached that dream. He bounced between practice squads and NFL Europe in the early 2000s. Kramer isn’t guaranteed anything. He must prove first that he deserves to be on the roster. That won’t be easy. Then he’ll have to show he has what it takes to start. That means overcoming the problems in college that prevented him from going higher in the draft.
If he adheres to Butkus’ teaching, who is now the offensive coach in Green Bay, things should work out how he hopes.