GREEN BAY, WI. (WBRC) - Former Alabama quarterback Bart Starr has passed away at the age of 85.
The family released a statement through the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
“His love for all of humanity is well known, and his affection toward the residents of Alabama and of Wisconsin filled him with gratitude,” said the statement.
Despite enduring tragic events throughout his years, Bart Starr lived as a shining example of an overcomer, facing adversity with character and class. In his early years growing up in Montgomery, his younger brother Hilton, died of tetanus.
Bart would later gravitate to football and after an All-American senior season at Sidney Lanier, he had an opportunity to play for Bear Bryant, who at that time was at Kentucky. Instead, he signed with Alabama to be closer to his high school sweetheart, Cherry.
He and Cherry would later elope during his college career, and she's remained by his side ever since. Starr led Alabama to two bowl games, but after a coaching change, didn't play much his senior year.
Then Alabama basketball coach Johnny Dee, convinced his friend, the Green Bay Packers personnel director, that Starr was worth a look. The Packers drafted Starr in the 17th round.
After a few seasons as backup, Vince Lombardi would later settle on Starr as his QB. With that vote of confidence, Starr would lead the Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowls in history, gaining MVP honors both times.
Among his other achievements: a 4-time NFL Pro-Bowler, League MVP, inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He also has an NFL award named after him that is given annually to an NFL player of outstanding character.
But perhaps Starr will be best remembered for an iconic moment in NFL history. The 1967 NFL Championship game against Dallas, better known as the Ice Bowl. On a frozen field at Lambeau Field in 20-below temperatures, it was Starr who led the Packers on the game-winning drive, culminating with a play-call he convinced Coach Lombardi would work on 3rd and goal inside the one, with no-timeouts and only 16-seconds left. The QB sneak worked, forever etching Starr's name in football lore.
Years later, Starr would become the Packers head coach, but eventually ended up with a successful career in business and continued a passion he and Cherry had for philanthropy. They co-founded a boy’s ranch in Wisconsin, and started two cancer research organizations.
During this time, they experienced more tragedy, when in 1988, they lost one of their two sons, Bret, to a drug overdose. In recent years, Bart battled two strokes, a mild heart attack, seizures, and a broken hip.
Fighting back with the resolve of the champion he was. The Packers retired his jersey number years ago, but for those of us looking for role models, Bart will always remain, a shining Starr.
The University of Alabama released the following statement:
Alabama football legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr passed away on Sunday, May 26 in Birmingham, Ala. He was 85.
“Bart was a legend on and off the field,” said Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne. “He represented The University of Alabama and everything in his life as a true champion. Our deepest sympathies go out to the entire Starr family.”
Starr was a member of the Crimson Tide football team from 1952-55, playing quarterback, defensive back and punter. As a sophomore, he threw for 870 yards and eight touchdowns, leading Alabama to a berth in the 1953 Cotton Bowl.
“I’m deeply saddened by this news,” said Alabama President Stuart R. Bell. “Bart Starr was an Alabama legend who will always be remembered for his tremendous talent and the grit he displayed not only on the field, but throughout his life.”
In the NFL, Starr quarterbacked the Green Bay Packers from 1956-71 and is the only quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to three consecutive league championships. He led the Packers to victories in Super Bowls I and II, earning MVP honors in both games. He was the NFL MVP in 1966 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
“Bart Starr was a true Alabama legend,” said Alabama head football coach Nick Saban. “He was a fierce competitor on the field, an outstanding coach and an even better person. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cherry and the entire Starr family.”
After he retired from the NFL following the 1971 season, Starr coached quarterbacks and called the plays for Packers’ head coach Dan Devine in 1972. He joined CBS as a broadcaster for two seasons before returning to Green Bay as the head coach in 1975. Starr posted a 53-76-3 record in nine years at the helm of the Packers with one playoff appearance (1982).