MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Cole Kramer was ready to put his football gear away for good after the University of Minnesota football team ended its regular season with a 28-14 loss to Wisconsin.
Due to a high APR score, the 5-win Gophers earned a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl to face Bowling Green. Kramer was fully prepared to move on from football. He’s getting married soon, plans to move full-time to Arizona and is pursuing a career in sales. Then, everything changed when Athan Kaliakmanis entered the NCAA transfer portal.
P.J. Fleck and the coaches reached out to Kramer. They needed a quarterback for the Quick Lane Bowl. After five seasons, it will be Kramer’s first career start. The Eden Prairie native will wear the Gophers’ jersey one last time.
"As a kid that grew up in Minnesota, that was my dream ever since I was little. It was an obvious yes, just can’t wait to get out there with the guys I’ve been with the past five years and get an opportunity to play," Kramer said Monday. "Growing up as a hometown kid, this is what you dream of. Being able to get this shot, this opportunity means the world."
His teammates love that he came back for one more game.
"It’s awesome to see him, a guy that’s worked so hard for so many years who just continually put his head down and worked. Never complained, never said why am I not playing over this guy, I put more work in, whatever it might have been. He could’ve had all those opportunities to complain or throw someone under the bus, but he hasn’t," linebacker Cody Lindenberg said. "He put his head down and worked, it’s cool to see guys rally behind him."
"I wouldn’t say a player deserves more to start than him. He’s been a back-up for however many years, and he finally is going to be able to get his chance to show that he can get the job done. Excited for that," receiver Daniel Jackson said.
Kramer also put a rumor to bed on Monday. Reports emerged since Kramer was named the quarterback for the Quick Lane Bowl that Dinkytown Athletes, Minnesota’s NIL collective, gave him up to $30,000 to stay with the team for the bowl game.
"I saw that, I saw the post and the articles. That’s not true, it’s not accurate information as much as I would love for that to be true," Kramer said. "Just getting a chance to play and start, that’s what means a lot to me."
Kramer has played in 21 career games over five seasons, largely as a wildcat quarterback. He completed one pass for four yards at North Carolina this season, and also had a pass into the end zone for Daniel Jackson intercepted. As a junior in 2022, he played in eight games and was 5-of-8 passing for 41 yards. He had six carries for 27 yards.
His family, and his fiancée, Katie Miller, will be in Detroit for the bowl game at Ford Field. For at least one week, wedding planning will have to take a back seat.
"She’s honestly been my biggest supporter. She was like ‘Go do this, this has been your dream.’ She was all on board. I couldn’t be more thankful for her," Kramer said.
The Gophers face Bowling Green Dec. 26 at Ford Field.