Who says dreams can’t come true for small-town athletes from North Idaho? Just look at the accomplishments of Jerry Kramer who, after decades of waiting, finally received his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame just last month.
The 56th class was announced earlier this year in Minneapolis during Super Bowl weekend. In order to be inducted into the class of 2018, Kramer had to receive 80 percent of voting support from the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection committee. It was a long time coming, and perhaps no one deserved it more than this legend.
Kramer moved with his family to Sandpoint when he was in the fourth grade. He was a Sandpoint High School Bulldog who went on to play at the University of Idaho. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1958 and played for them for his entire career—11 seasons in all. Among his many accomplishments include being named All-NFL in 1960, 1962, 1963, 1966 and 1967 and voted to three Pro Bowls. Kramer was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s, the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1969 and the Super Bowl Anniversary Team.
But one doesn’t have to make it to the NFL to be recognized for their contributions to Bulldog football. The list of Sandpoint High School athletes who have made it into the SHS Hall of Fame is extensive, and it continues to grow.
Jay Van Den Berg played for the Bulldogs and graduated from SHS in 1989 and was later inducted into the SHS Hall of Fame with the first class, which included Jerry Kramer.
“One of the highlights of my days at SHS was in 1987 when, as a junior, we made it all the way to the state championship game, losing to Idaho Falls,” says Van Den Berg.
He was a three-sport athlete playing football, basketball and soccer, and said that playing sports year round helped him to become a better player in all three and to learn additional skills that complemented each sport.
But his days as a Bulldog did not end there. He is actively involved in supporting Sandpoint High School athletics and has served as president of the Bulldog Bench for 10 years and counting.
“I’m proud to be a Bulldog and am in a position where I can give of my time. It’s a way I can give back to the community and support the current generation,” says Van Den Berg.
Captain David Lyon, a former Sandpoint High School Bulldog who played football, basketball and ran track, was killed in Afghanistan in late 2013 and was enshrined into the SHS Hall of Fame in 2012. After his death, Captain Lyon’s SHS football number, 64, was retired during a ceremony at Memorial Field. Up until then, the number, which was also worn by Jerry Kramer while playing for the Green Bay Packers, was worn by the Bulldog’s top offensive lineman.
The last player to wear number 64 was Carlos Collado, who now plays for the Idaho Vandals. Kramer’s high school No. 38 is also retired.
Caleb Bowman is another member of the Sandpoint Bulldogs Hall of Fame. Bowman was an 11-time letterman for SHS including four-time basketball, three-time football and track and one-time baseball. He was the Super Prep and Prep Star First Team All American wide receiver in 1997 and Super Prep Midlands Offensive Player of the Year in 1997 as well.
“At SHS I played wide receiver and also started at free safety once we got into league and playoff games,” says Bowman, who also played wide receiver at Stanford on a scholarship.
His stats as a Bulldog are impressive. In 1997, as wide receiver, he had 1,220 yards and 19 touchdowns, both of which are still single-season school records.
“I was fortunate to have good people around me in high school with Coach Puailoa and Jack Dyck as role models and mentors,” says Bowman. “Coach Puailoa saw my potential and put together a plan to develop me physically and to put me in positions to be successful.”
And while there have been many great players to come out of the SHS football program, the only Sandpoint High School Bulldog football team to bring home the trophy for the state championship was the 1997 team of which Bowman was a member.
Quentin Ducken, a current coach of SHS football, was one of the players on that team and has fond memories of his final season as a Bulldog.
The team’s record that history-making season was 9-3. The championship game was played on the “Smurf Turf” at Boise State University where the Bulldogs beat the Eagle Mustangs 24-21.
“The score at halftime was 21-10, Eagle,” recalls Ducken. “Matt Lindgren kicked a 44-yard field goal that bounced twice on the cross bar before it went in! After a great halftime pep talk, we came out and our defense shut down the Mustangs’ offense and our offense took off. Travis Knaggs (cornerback) tipped the last pass to stop the Mustangs’ final drive.”
Ducken goes on to say that the Bulldog offense needed to run out the clock with a first down.
“Caleb Bowman gave the audible sign, QB Paul Nieman gave me the silent snap signal, and I snapped the ball. He threw it to Bowman, who dove for the first down to seal the deal!”
In addition to the key plays, Ducken describes how incredible it was to see so much of the Sandpoint community in the stands during the game.
“The welcome home parade was great. The streets were full of people and signs,” recalls Ducken fondly.
Bowman agrees that community support in Sandpoint is key to the players’ success.
“I was fortunate to have grown up in Sandpoint and to have a lot of support from the community both on and off the field. Sports provide the opportunity to work with others toward a common goal and to learn how to deal with successes, challenges and failures,” says Bowman, who along with Van Den Berg is a member and supporter of the Bulldog Bench. “Sandpoint has always been generous in supporting our young students, and it’s my hope that they continue to have the same or more opportunities than I had.”
Having been not only on the championship team but inducted into the Hall of Fame, Bowman knows what it takes to succeed in athletics and looks forward to seeing where his former teammate, Ryan Knowles, will go with these young men.
“A championship football team requires a close-knit group of young men who are willing to do the work together,” says Bowman. “It takes a coach that has the vision and the ability to build and maintain a program. A coach that makes the work fun for the kids. I believe SHS has that in Coach Knowles, and I’m excited for our student athletes and the opportunities that lie ahead.”