The Green Bay Packers are set to honor the memory of Bart Starr this weekend before and during this Sunday’s home opener against the Minnesota Vikings. It is difficult to put into words what Bryan Bartlett Starr has meant to the Packers organization since his rookie season in 1956. He was a Hall of Famer on the field and an even greater and more respected individual off the field.
Starr had many roles with the Packers over the years. He was a player from 1956-71, an assistant coach on the 1972 NFC Central Division title team and then the head coach of the Pack from 1975-83. After that, Starr remained a constant presence around the organization, making appearances at alumni and charity events and lending support to quarterbacks like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers throughout their careers in Green Bay.
The weekend long celebration will get under way Friday night at the Green and Gold Gala inside the Lambeau Field atrium. Starr’s widow, Cherry and their son, Bart Jr., will speak to an audience that will include former teammates and ex-players who were coached by Starr.
Saturday, the Starr family will be speaking at the Rawhide Boys Ranch near New London between 1:00 and 5:00 pm to celebrate Bart’s life. The Starr family were heavily involved with the charity for troubled boys and made a large difference in the lives of many young people.
The Packers will honor Starr with a ceremony at halftime of Sunday’s game against the Vikings at Lambeau Field.
For Cherry Starr, the weekend will mark the first time she is in Green Bay since her husband’s death in May. “It’s almost overwhelming,” Cherry told WBAY.com. “The Packers have been so wonderful and so supportive, actually all the way through Bart’s illness and the fact that they have extended themselves to have such a lovely weekend for us, I can’t even describe my feeling. I’m just thrilled. I know Bart would be so pleased.”
Starr’s on the field accomplishments are well-known. He led the Packers to five NFL championships in seven years as Vince Lombardi’s field general. Starr was the NFL’s MVP in 1966 and was the MVP of the first two Super Bowls, both of which the Packers won handily. He was also named to four Pro Bowls during his career with the Packers. Starr was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
Starr scored the most famous touchdown in franchise’s 100-year history when he ran a quarterback sneak in the final 13 seconds to defeat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in the Ice Bowl. The touchdown culminated a 68-yard drive that began with 4:50 left in the game. Starr led the Packers across a frozen field on a day where the temperature was minus-13 degrees against the Cowboys “Doomsday Defense.” The win gave the Pack their third consecutive championship, something that no other NFL team has done since the league started to hold playoffs in 1933.
Starr’s leadership and toughness were unquestioned by his teammates, but as good of a football player as he was, he was respected even more as a person for the way he treated people. “He lived his life to be an example to others,” Hall of Fame guard and long-time teammate Jerry Kramer said. “He knew he carried a burden. He lived his life with a purpose and with willpower. And because of that, he was an example to everyone on our team.”
Although Starr was not as successful during his stint as head coach of the Packers, he had the utmost respect of his players. After Starr’s passing, Hall of Fame wide receiver James Lofton tweeted:
Former center Larry McCarren, who played for Starr throughout his coaching tenure, recalled that Starr was special for the way he treated people.
“I was just a nobody, and yet, a couple days after he gets the job, I’m in the locker room kind of getting dressed to go work out and Bart walks up and shakes my hand like we’ve known each other forever and says ‘How’s your wife Becky doing?’ ” said McCarren. “And I know I wasn’t singled out, Bart made it a point to know everything about everybody on the roster so that he can make that first impression, and boy I tell you what, he did.”
McCarren believed Starr was underrated as a coach. “I didn’t think he let us down as a head coach, I thought we let him down as players,” McCarren said shortly after Starr’s passing. “People feel privileged to play with him, but I feel more privileged to play for him.”
Starr remained in touch with Packers quarterbacks until his passing. Don Majkowski and Brett Favre both heard from Starr after may games. That continued through Aaron Rodgers who was impressed with Starr as a person. “Here’s a guy who has won more championships than anybody. And people talk about the kind of person he is,” Rodgers said. “I think there’s no greater compliment than a guy who’s accomplished so much on the field and the first thing people talk about is the kind of person that he is.”
“I’ve grown up here in Green Bay, learned a lot about myself, learned from Bart Starr what a legacy really is,” Rodgers added. “And, what a well-rounded player looks like,” Rodgers said. “Like I always say, Bart Starr has always been my model of what success really looks like — as more than just as a football player.”
So, while the Packers and their fans will celebrate Bart Starr the football player and the memories he created on the field, they will be celebrating Bart Starr the man even more. Starr left his mark with his hard work, kindness, generosity, faith and his respect for his fellow man. He represented the Green Bay Packers better than anybody ever has both on and off the football field.