Bryan Bartlett “Bart” Starr (born January 9, 1934) is a former professional American football player and coach….who played quarterback for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL) from 1956 through 1971. Starr was the only quarterback in history to lead a team to five league championships (1961–62, 1965–67)…. before Tom Brady tied the record during the 2016 season. Bart also led his team to victories in Super Bowls I and II. Starr was named the Most Valuable Player of the first two Super Bowls and earned four Pro Bowl selections. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Packers Hall of Fame in 1977. He won the league MVP award in 1966….and has the highest playoff passer rating (104.8) of any quarterback in NFL history….along with a playoff record of 9–1. His career completion percentage of 57.4 was an NFL best when he retired in 1972….as he also held the Packers’ franchise record for games played (196) for 32 years, through the 2003 season.
Starr played college football at the University of Alabama and was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 17th round of the 1956 NFL draft (200th overall). As the Korean War was fought during Starr’s freshman year….the Southeastern Conference allowed freshmen to play varsity ball….and although Starr did not start for Alabama his freshman year….he did play enough minutes to earn a varsity letter. His high point of the season was in the Orange Bowl….where in quarterback relief he completed eight of 12 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.Bart Starr entered his sophomore year as Alabama’s starting quarterback, safety and punter….when his punting average of 41.4 yards per kick ranked second in the nation in 1953 behind Zeke Bratkowski. Alabama recorded a 6–2–3 record and lost in the Cotton Bowl to Rice by a score of 28–6…..as Starr completed 59 of 119 passes for 870 yards with eight touchdowns that season.
In May 1954, Starr eloped with Cherry Morton. The couple chose to keep their marriage a secret. Colleges often revoked the scholarships of married athletes in the 1950’s….believing their focus should remain on sports. Cherry remained in Jackson, Alabama while Starr returned to the University of Alabama. That summer, Starr suffered a severe back injury during a hazing incident for his initiation into the A Club. He covered up the cause by fabricating a story about being hurt while punting a football….so he rarely played during his junior year due to the injury. The back injury disqualified him later from military service….and would occasionally bother him the rest of his football career.
After a disappointing season of 4–5–2, Red Drew was replaced by J.B. Whitworth as coach of Alabama….who conducted a youth movement in Alabama for the 1955 season and only two seniors started for the team….and while supposedly healed from the back injury….Starr rarely played in his senior season either.
Johnny Dee, the basketball coach at Alabama, was a friend of Jack Vainisi, the personnel director of the Green Bay Packers….who recommended Starr as a prospect to Vainisi….as the Packers were convinced that Starr had the ability to succeed in the NFL….drafting him in the 17th round of the 1956 NFL Draft with the 200th pick….which is eerily similar to future Pats QB Tom Brady….the man to tie Starr’s record of 5 NFL championships….as Brady was drafted as the 199th player picked.
Starr spent the summer of 1956 living with his in-laws and throwing footballs through a tire in their backyard in preparation for his rookie season. The Packers offered $6500 to sign Starr and he accepted….with the added condition that he receive $1000 up front….when Starr began as a backup to Tobin Rote in 1956….and split time with Babe Parilli until 1959….when Vince Lombardi in his first year as Packers coach….pulled starter Lamar McHan in favor of Starr. The following season the Packers advanced to the 1960 NFL Championship Game….but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles,…which turned out to be Lombardi’s only post-season loss as a head coach. The Packers returned to the title game and won in 1961 and 1962….both over the New York Giants. Starr was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press (AP), the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and UPI in 1966.
Bart Starr was responsible for calling plays when he was quarterback….which was then the norm….and one of his most famous play calls was in the Ice Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL championship game on the final day of 1967….when after consulting with Lombardi on the sideline….Starr suggested a basic wedge play only with a twist….so instead of handing off to Chuck Mercein as the play dictated….that is when Starr suggested he would keep the ball and run it in himself. Having enough of the bitter cold weather, coach Lombardi said, “Then do it, and let’s get the hell out of here!” Starr almost broke down in laughter as he ran back to the huddle….but held his composure as the play worked….and the Packers went on to beat the Cowboys 21-17.
At the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Packers defeated the AFL champion Oakland Raiders 33–14 in Super Bowl II….in Lombardi’s final game as head coach of the Packers….who were favored by 13½ points…as the 1967 Packers remain the only team to win a third consecutive NFL title since the playoff system was instituted in 1933. Starr’s playing career ended with the 1971 season….after having posted the second best career passer rating of 80.5…with 1sr at the time being Otto Graham with 86.6.
Any way you cut the pie….Bart Starr was truly one of the best quarterbacks of all time….and not just for his statistics….but more so because he was one of the best “winners” of all time….for he, like Tom Brady…..just had what was known as “it”…..which not only encompassed his talent, but also his competitive attitude….and deserves his place in NFL history as one of the great “Men Who Played the Game”.