Hello Packer Nation,
May 26, 2019 will go down as a memorable day in Packer history, but it wasn't the memorable day fans will be happy to talk about. QB Bart Starr, who played for the Packers from 1956-1971, passed away at the age of 85. If you were lucky to have ever met Bart, he would have left a lasting impression and those that did will remember his kindness to all, no matter where you stood in the world.
Starr came up from humble beginnings and started his football career at the University of Alabama. He was their starting QB from day one, but a career threatening back injury off the field in an unfortunate hazing incident put his life at risk. He was injured during an initiation practice that left him hospitalized. (*) As his wife Cherry explained, "His back was never right after that. It was horrible. It was not a football injury. It was an injury sustained from hazing. His whole back all the way up to his rib cage looked like a piece of raw meat. The bruising went all the way up his back. It was red and black and awful looking. It was so brutal." Even former teammate Nick Germanos confirmed Cherry's story saying it was worse than anything he suffered during his three plus years in the Marines. Bart's injuries cost him most of his final two seasons at Alabama after starting his freshman and sophomore years. His injuries left him ineligible for military service and continued to affect him during his 16 year NFL career.
Bart was not a highly ranked NFL prospect and was drafted in the 17th round (pick 200) in the 1956 NFL draft. Head coach Vince Lombardi loved his competitiveness and will to succeed. He was deep on the depth chart for the first few years before earning his starting role after four years. He did not earn his first victory until November 22,1959, or nine games into Vince Lombardi's first years as coach. It wasn't until the 1960 season he earned the starting QB job for good. He earned his teammates and Lombardi's respect in a brutal game in 1961 against rival Bears. He took a vicious hit that split open his lip and needed 11 stitches to stop the bleeding. He was not taken off the field until they scored a touchdown on that possession. Jerry Kramer termed that play as the "moment where everybody on the team understood Bart Starr had a lot of steel in his back." (**)
From that point on, he lead the Packers to victories in Super Bowl I and II. He earned Super Bowl MVP honors in both games (Starr and Aaron Rodgers are the only Packer QB's to win Super Bowl MVP honors). He lead the team to five NFL Championships (1961,1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967) and was the league's MVP in 1966. He was the NFL's statistical leader in passing three times during an era when running the ball was paramount. He held NFL records for completion percentage (57.4%) and most consecutive passes attempted without and interception (294 from 1964 to 1965). His most memorable play was the QB sneak in the New Years Eve Ice Bowl in 1967 against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field, a play he never ran all season. It was also the coldest Packer home game in Packer history that to this day still holds the record as coldest in Lambeau history. Game time temperature was minus 15 degrees. (**) See that play here. http://www.nfl.com/videos/green-bay-packers/09000d5d8206bc95/Starr-s-QB-sneak
Starr's illustrious career commenced after the 1971 season. His honor list is fitting of a true champion.
* Inducted in Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977
* NFL All-Decade Team 1960's
* Associated Press NFL MVP 1966
* Super Bowl MVP (Super Bowl's I & II)
* AP All-Pro Team 1966
* Selected to Pro Bowl in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1966
* Packers 50th Anniversary Team 1969
* Packers All-Modern Era Team 1976
* Press-Gazette All-Century Team 1999
* Won five NFL Championships, more than any QB over the league's 96 seasons
He was a coach on the field calling all the plays for the offense. His football acumen lead him to leading the Packers right after he retired as a player. He became the Packers QB coach in 1972 and was their general manager and head coach from 1975 to 1980, and only head coach from 1981 to 1983.
The story Troy Aikman spoke about was truly the epitome of who Bart was as a person. After the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1995, Aikman required elbow surgery after the season. Bart Starr was there to encourage and inspire Troy and to this day, Aikman believes Bart was instrumental in encouraging Aikman to continue playing.
Bart did so much when his playing/coaching career ended. He was involved in multiple ventures including the start up of Rawhide, an organization that helped at risk youths and their families by introducing values, academics and work experience that would help them transcend into productive citizens. He was instrumental in helping thousands of kids turn their lives around when they were troubled and left without much hope.
Bart was a genuine, kind, considerate and respectful gentleman who left an impression on many who met him and were around him. He treated every person with genuine kindness and appreciation. Many adored him because he was not a professional athlete that ignored his community. Many athletes today could learn a thing or two from Starr's impeccable moral and ethical compass.
Bart Starr will always be remembered and cherished. It was a true loss to Packer Nation but he will always be remembered as the most genuine person to ever walk out the Lambeau Field tunnel on game day, and off the field when he retired.
RIP Bart Starr.
(*) Source CBS "Hall of Fame QB Bart Starr Victim of 'brutal' hazing at Alabama" written by Tom Fornelli.
(**) Source Packers.com Cliff Christl