Bart Starr was a Hall of Fame quarterback in the early rough and tumble days of the National Football League. From his heyday as two-time Super Bowl MVP and coach to his off-the-field work with charities and the creation of the Bart Starr Award, he has served as the exemplary NFL player.
Bryan Bartlett Starr was born January 9, 1934, in the capital city of Montgomery, Alabama. Bart showed a high aptitude for football even in his earliest playing days, and in his senior year he was named to the All-America high school team as quarterback/cornerback. For this accolade he received an athletic scholarship to the University of Alabama.
Bart gradually came under the wings of H. D. Drew, head coach of the Crimson Tide. Drew gave Starr his first life lesson by putting him on the bench for failing a history exam his sophomore year. After that, Starr never made less than a B in any of his classes, twice making the Dean's list. Starr graduated with honors in 1956, and eagerly awaited the upcoming NFL draft in April.
As the draft began, Starr sat in his parents' living room, eagerly expecting a call. Slowly the rounds began to trickle by ... 2, 3, 4, 5 ... soon, Starr lost count. By the time the 17th round rolled around, Starr had already left the house to go find a job in town, his hopes of football glory dashed. When the phone call came, telling Bart he was going to be a Green Bay Packer, his mother had to take a message!
Earning His Place
Bart arrived at Green Bay training camp as the #3 quarterback. Head coach Scooter McLean actually thought Starr might do them more good as a linebacker due to his impressive size and speed combination. Bart was determined to make it as a quarterback, but he didn't have the backfield discipline necessary to compete in the NFL. He was allowed sparing time in the thrower's spot, and he had a relatively impressive backup season. One year later, McLean was out, and a little known Giants assistant named Vince Lombardi stepped in. Starr quickly became a coach's favorite for his dog-eared mentality.
From 1958 to 1960, Starr served as the backup quarterback, racking up nearly 3000 yards passing but being plagued by interceptions throughout. In 1961, however, Bart was handed the starting reins. It would be the last time anyone but Starr started for the Packers for ten years.
The Man Of Will
1961 was Starr's first breakout year: he completed 172 passes for 2418 yards with 16 touchdowns and was named to his first of 5 Pro Bowl teams. From 1962 to 1965, Starr continued his marvelous success, making 3 more Pro Bowls and throwing for 8000 more yards. Three times he led the Packers to the NFL championship, which in those days was merely a reflection of the best win-loss record in the league. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and AFL owner Lamar Hunt sought to change all that. Rozelle had thought up a wonderful way to gain television ratings: a championship game, to be played between the NFL and the AFL champions, and televised on a broadcast channel. Lamar later coined the game "The Super Bowl."
1966 was perhaps Bart Starr's finest season. In addition to a sizzling 62.2% completion rate, he threw for 14 touchdowns while allowing only 3 interceptions. The Packers dominated the NFL and were graced with a chance to play against Hunt's Kansas City Chiefs for the right to claim football dominance in America. 60 million people watched the game on TV, and 60,000 roaring fans filled the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 15, 1967, just one week after Bart's 33rd birthday. The Packers didn't let them down.
Bart connected with backup receiver Max McGee for a 37 yard touchdown early in the 1st quarter and Green Bay never looked back, running away with a 35-10 victory. Bart, the regular season MVP, had a career game, going 16-for-23 for 250 yards with 2 touchdowns, and was named the very first Super Bowl MVP. The game was also a huge success, and laid the foundation for future Super Bowls. Having tasted victory, the Packers had a new agenda: get back to the championship.
In 1967, Bart had a rough season, getting intercepted 17 times. Bart was a long ball thrower, and in his age he often underthrew his receivers, giving cornerbacks time to settle under his balls. Still, the Packers led by Starr managed to reach the Super Bowl once again, where they faced the Oakland Raiders. Starr, despite his age, proved just as effective as ever, connecting with his teammates 13 times for 202 yards and a touchdown. Starr also made a daring 3rd down run late in the 3rd quarter, picking up the first down and all but sealing the Raiders fate. Final score: Packers 33, Raiders 14. Starr was again named the Super Bowl MVP, improving his MVP-winning-record to 2-for-2. After the game, coach Vince Lombardi abruptly retired, saying he had reached the pinnacle of his career. Starr's best days on the field were behind him, too.
Starr stuck with the Packers until 1971, earning respectable statistics and being named the league's Man Of The Year in 1969. Even more appropriately, Starr was selected as the Player of the Decade by sportswriters in 1970. In 1971, after an injury-riddled season, Bart stepped down as quarterback for the Packers. Yet Starr continued to remain active in everyday America, as a member of the President's Council for Physical Fitness, state chairman of the Wisconsin Cancer Crusade, and as an active inspirational speaker in cities and schools across the US.
In 1975, Starr was given the job of a lifetime: he was named head coach of his beloved Green Bay Packers. He served there for 8 years, only once getting a winning record (in the strike-shortened 1982 season), and he resigned from the duty with a career 52-76-3 record. Still, Starr was a beloved figure in Packers history and remains so to this day. While a coach, Bart was named to the National Football League Hall of Fame in 1977.
Bart and his wife Cherry continued to be active in getting youth sports leagues started across America. They had always been involved in ensuring that children were not deprived of healthy activities to help them develop physically and mentally. So it was particularly tragic when, in 1988, their son Brett passed away due to a drug overdose. The whole NFL community was shocked.
However, Starr the fighter turned his terrible loss into something positive, by becoming an active anti-drug spokesman, and by starting the Bart Starr Award, which is awarded annually to the NFL player who exemplifies positive sportsmanship and community values. Even more importantly, he took over as head of the Rawhide Boys Ranch in New London, Wisconsin, which provides a sanctuary and guidance center for disadvantaged youth. Bart and his family also created the Brett Starr Memorial Fund, which helps dole out scholarships to the ranch and similar institutions.
Bart Starr currently resides in New London, and continues to play an important spokesman role for both the Green Bay Packers and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. His on-the-field exploits are nothing less than legendary; but his off-the-field activities will forever enshrine him as a great American hero.
| Year TM | G | Comp Att PCT YD Y/A TD INT | Att Yards TD |
| 1956 GNB | 9 | 24 44 54.5 325 7.4 2 3 | 5 35 0 |
| 1957 GNB | 12 | 117 215 54.4 1489 6.9 8 10 | 31 98 3 |
| 1958 GNB | 12 | 78 157 49.7 875 5.6 3 12 | 25 113 1 |
| 1959 GNB | 12 | 70 134 52.2 972 7.3 6 7 | 16 83 0 |
| 1960 GNB | 12 | 98 172 57.0 1358 7.9 4 8 | 7 12 0 |
| 1961 GNB | 14 | 172 295 58.3 2418 8.2 16 16 | 12 56 1 |
| 1962 GNB | 14 | 178 285 62.5 2438 8.6 12 9 | 21 72 1 |
| 1963 GNB | 13 | 132 244 54.1 1855 7.6 15 10 | 13 116 0 |
| 1964 GNB | 14 | 163 272 59.9 2144 7.9 15 4 | 24 165 3 |
| 1965 GNB | 14 | 140 251 55.8 2055 8.2 16 9 | 18 169 1 |
| 1966 GNB | 14 | 156 251 62.2 2257 9.0 14 3 | 21 104 2 |
| 1967 GNB | 14 | 115 210 54.8 1823 8.7 9 17 | 21 90 0 |
| 1968 GNB | 12 | 109 171 63.7 1617 9.5 15 8 | 11 62 1 |
| 1969 GNB | 14 | 92 148 62.2 1161 7.8 9 6 | 7 60 0 |
| 1970 GNB | 14 | 140 255 54.9 1645 6.5 8 13 | 12 62 1 |
| 1971 GNB | 4 | 24 45 53.3 286 6.4 0 3 | 3 11 1 |
| TOTAL| 198 | 1808 3149 57.4 24718 7.8 152 138 | 247 1308 15 |
* Bold denotes led league.