Bart Starr passes away; the legend remembered as a "class act" by so many

Green Bay Packers legendary quarterback Bart Starr, who guided the Packers to five NFL titles and wins in the first two Super Bowls, passed away this holiday weekend. He was 85.

Boirn Bryan Bartlett Starr in Montgomery, Alabama on January 9, 1934, Starr played football in high school and then at the University of Alabama, although he wasn't considered a standout for the Crimson Tide at the time. Already married (by age 20) to his wife Cherry, Starr entered the NFL draft in 1956 and was selected - get this - 200th in that draft. In the 17th round. And that was primarily because Alabama's basketball coach had a connection with Packers' personnel. To this day, no quarterback had ever been drafted so low, yet ended up in the NFL Hall of Fame.

When Starr was drafted, the Packers were mired in one of their worst stretches ever - the 1950s weren't kind to the team. Starr was a backup to Tobin Rote, Babe Parilli, and Lamar McHan until new coach Vince Lombardi promoted Starr to the starting QB position in 1959. You know how the rest went from there!

Fast forward ten years: the Packers had won five NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls.Starr was the NFL MVP of 1966 and the MVP of the first two Super Bowls. His surprise QB sneak into a hard, frozen end zone at Lambeau Field on December 31, 1967 created an instant classic in the infamous "Ice Bowl" game, in which the wind chill had dropped to -48. That win, 21-16 over the Dallas Cowboys, catapulted the Packers to Super Bowl II in the last game at Lambeau for Coach Vince Lombardi.

After Super Bowl II, Starr had initially planned to retire but stayed on to help provide stability to a club that had an uncertain future. Under Coach Phil Bengston, the team descended into mediocrity, which continued with subsequent coach Dan Devine. Starr ended up retiring in 1972 at age 38. He went into coaching, serving as the quarterbacks coach under Devine. He was eventually hired as the head coach for the 1975 season and continued until 1983. His record as a coach wasn't as successful as his quarterback days, but he always led the team - in whatever capacity - with an air of dignity and class.

In the midst of his playing career in 1965, Starr and his wife Cherry helped co-found Rawhide Boys Ranch in New London, which works to help at-risk and troubled boys throughout the state of Wisconsin. Starr even donated the Corvette he received as MVP of Super Bowl II to help Rawhide during their early years, and the affiliation continued right up to his passing.

In 1971, Starr and his wife Cherry helped start the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation, which has long raised funds for cancer research and care in honor of his late coach, Vince Lombardi, who has passed away from cancer at age 57 on September 3, 1970. Within the foundation, Bart and Cherry also launched the Starr Children's Fund to continue to support pediatric cancer research and care.

Starr battled with many health issues over the past decade, including two strokes, a mild heart attack, seizures, and a broken hip. We all remember when he showed up to a rainy, cold Lambeau Field to attend the ceremony where the Packers retired Brett Favre's #4 jersey (Starr's #15 had been retired in 1973.) It was an emotional ceremony for all of us who witnessed it.

Battling a failing memory at times as well, Starr succumbed Saturday morning, May 26th at age 85. His legacy will continue for a long, long, long time. Our best to his family, especially his wife Cherry - to whom he had been married to since 1954.

 
Eric Paulsen

Eric Paulsen

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