Bart Starr, the gentlemanly quarterback and catalyst of Vince Lombardi’s powerhouse Green Bay Packers teams of the 1960s whose sneak won the famed Ice Bowl in 1967, died Sunday. He was 85.
The Packers selected Starr out of the University of Alabama with the 200th pick in the 1956 draft. He led Green Bay to six division titles, five NFL championships and wins in the first two Super Bowls.
The Packers said Starr died in Birmingham, Ala., where he lived. He had been in failing health since two strokes and a heart attack in 2014.
“A champion on and off the field, Bart epitomized class and was beloved by generations of Packers fans,” Packers President Mark Murphy said in a statement. “A clutch player who led his team to five NFL titles, Bart could still fill Lambeau Field with electricity decades later during his many visits.”
Until Brett Favre came along, Starr was known as the best Packer ever. The team retired his No. 15 jersey in 1973, making him just the third player to receive that honor. Four years later, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
After losing the 1960 NFL title game in his first playoff appearance, the Packers never lost another playoff game under Starr, going 9-0, including wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in the first two Super Bowls.
Photo: Associated Press
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Starr’s college career wasn’t noteworthy and it wasn’t until Lombardi’s arrival in Green Bay in 1959 that Starr began to blossom.
Lombardi liked Starr’s mechanics, his arm strength and especially his decision-making abilities. Under Lombardi’s nurturing, Starr became one of the league’s top quarterbacks.
“If you work harder than somebody else, chances are you’ll beat him though he has more talent than you,” Starr once said. He credited Lombardi for showing him “that by working hard and using my mind, I could overcome my weakness to the point where I could be one of the best.”
The gentlemanly quarterback’s status as a Packers icon was tested by his struggles as the team’s coach. In nine seasons from 1975-83, he won just 41 percent of his games, going 53-77-3, including 1-1 in the playoffs, part of three decades of futility after the glory years.
Starr then became a successful businessman in Birmingham, not far from his hometown Montgomery, where he was born on Jan. 9, 1934.
Starr was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro. He won NFL titles in 1961, ’62, ’65, ’67 and ’68. He was the 1966 NFL MVP and was named to the 1960s All-Decade team. He also was named MVP of the first two Super Bowls.
But the play he was most famous for was a run.
In the NFL championship on Dec. 31, 1967, Starr knifed into the end zone behind guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman with 16 seconds left to lift the Packers over the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in what became known as the Ice Bowl.
“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,” Starr’s family said in a statement.
An NFL award is named for Starr, given annually to a player of outstanding character.
Arnie Stapleton is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Bart-Starr-Packers-QB-in-Lombardi-era-dies-13897755.php.