Former Alabama quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Bart Starr died early Sunday at the age of 85 in Birmingham.
The health of the Crimson Tide and Green Bay Packers great had been in decline since suffering a stroke in 2014.
“We are saddened to note the passing of our husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Bart Starr,” according to a family statement. “He battled with courage and determination to transcend the serious stroke he suffered in September 2014, but his most recent illness was too much to overcome.
“While he may always be best known for his success as the Packers quarterback for 16 years, his true legacy will always be the respectful manner in which he treated every person he met, his humble demeanor, and his generous spirit.”
Bryan Bartlett “Bart” Starr was the starting quarterback for the Packers during 1956-71, winning five NFL championships. He took the team to the first Super Bowl in 1967, winning 35-10 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Starr had back-to-back Super Bowl championships before retiring from the game.
Born in Montgomery, Starr didn’t start off loving football. His father, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, gave him an ultimatum: join the local high school football team or working in the garden. Not looking to become a gardener, Starr chose to join the team.
He became a starter his junior year at Sidney Lanier High School, taking over for Doug Shannon, who broke his leg against Tuscaloosa High School in the third game of the season.
Starr led his team to an undefeated season that year. During his recruitment process, he considered many SEC schools but decided to stay instate, joining Alabama in 1952.
Playing under head coach Harold “Red” Drew, Starr didn’t start his freshman season. However, he gained enough playing time to receive a varsity letter. During the 1953 Orange Bowl, Starr came in for the quarterback. Starr completed 8 of 12 passes for 93 yards. He had one touchdown. Alabama crushed Syracuse 61-6.
Returning his sophomore year, Starr was the starting quarterback, safety and punter. Following a difficult 6-3-3 season, Alabama folded to Rice in the Cotton Bowl, 28-6. Starr finished out the year averaging 41.4 yards per punt. He completed 59 of 119 passes for 870 yards and had eight touchdowns.
Shortly after finishing the season, Starr married his high-school sweetheart Cherry Morton. Starr and Morton chose to keep the marriage a secret to ensure Starr would still be able to play ball. It was a common trend to revoke scholarships to married players.
In 1954, Starr injured his back, limiting his playing time both his junior and senior years. Due to the injury, Starr looked beyond colligate ball.
It was Johnny Dee, the then-Alabama basketball coach that got the spotlight on Starr. Dee saw Starr’s potential and recommended him to Jack Vainisi, a scout for the Green Bay Packers. Vainisi took note of Starr and convinced the Packers that he would be able to play despite the injury.
During the 17th round of the 1956 draft, Starr was drafted by the Packers, the 200th pick. Starr would be the backup to then-starter Tobin Rote.
Starr split time being backup to Rote and Babe Parilli until 1959 when Vince Lombardi became the head coach of the Packers, choosing to start Starr over the rest of the competition.
Lombardi and Starr worked closely together throughout the next nine years. Starr led the Packers to two Super Bowls. He also was part of the second Packers team to win three straight titles, 1965-67, leading the Packers to a NFL championship in 1965 before earning MVP in Super Bowls I and II the next two seasons.
In 1968, Lombardi’s last year as head coach, Starr led the Packers to 33-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl.
Starr stayed with the Packers until 1971. After retiring, Starr returned as the quarterback coach for the Packers for the 1972 season. Starr stayed with the Packers until 1975 when he was promoted to head coach.
Starr coached the Packers for nine seasons, resulting in a 52-76-2 record. In 1982, Starr led the team to its first playoff appearance in a decade. The Packers won 41-16 over the St. Louis Cardinals in the expanded wild card round but lost 37-26 to the Dallas Cowboys. Starr left the Packers in 1984.
After leaving the Packers, Starr became the chairman of Healthcare Realty Management.
In 1965, Starr and his wife, Cherry, co-founded the Rawhide Boys Ranch in New London, Wisconsin, for at-risk boys in the state.
In September, 2014, Starr suffered from a stroke and a mild heart attack. His recovery was plagued by seizures.