It is amazing how many of the great figures in the history of football have ties to the state of Alabama-Bear Bryant, Bo Jackson, Joe Namath among others. Bart Starr would certainly have to be high on that list.
Starr passed away this past month at age 85. He was truly one of a kind.
His football accomplishments are the stuff of legends. Starr was the great Vince Lombardi’s only starting quarterback. He was the first signal caller to win five NFL championships, and only Tom Brady has more. Starr played in ten playoff and championship games and won nine of them. Also a record.
His 104.8 post season passer rating is the highest of all time, in spite of playing in an era where the rules did not favor the passing game. You can make the case that he was the greatest post season quarterback ever.
And Starr is the only quarterback in pro football history to win three titles in a row.
Bart Starr was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a graduate of Sidney Lanier High School. As great a player as he was, he was a better person. Here are four traits that Starr exhibited that you seldom see today that helped make him the Hall of Fame quarterback that he became.
- He made everyone around him better. Starr was a quiet leader, but could raise his voice when necessary. In an era where he called his own plays, Starr never passed for 2,500 yards in a season, never threw more than 16 touchdowns in a season. He averaged 19.5 pass attempts per game in his 14 years as a starter. But he knew Lombardi’s game plan was primarily to run the ball. He made stars out of running backs Jim Taylor and Paul Horning, and his offense could control the ball and allow the Packer defense to rest. He played at such a high level that all of the Packers played the greatest football of their careers while he was their quarterback.
- Humility– He spread the ball around and never worried about stats. Starr had one goal – victory. He never took credit for the many victories, lauding coaches and teammates for their part. He preferred to stay in the background and allow Lombardi to take the majority of the credit.
- He earned everyone’s respect because of the way he treated people. Bart Starr respected everyone and understood their role for the Packers. He helped rookies and encouraged veterans as they aged. Starr was one of the era’s greatest sportsman. He was kind to all, but would cut your throat to win.
- Courage in the big game. His teammates looked to him to make the big call and the great pass in the biggest of games. In the worst weather conditions in championship game history in 1967, Starr led the Packers on the toughest drive in the history of the game in the Ice Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys. In conditions of 20 below zero, he drove the Packers to a touchdown in the last minute of the game for their 3rd NFL Championship. The Packers won the first two Super Bowls and he was named MVP in both. Not bad for an afterthought 17th round draft choice from Sidney Lanier High School.
Starr’s favorite quote was a Lombardi original and sat for many years on his desk at his home in Hoover. “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”