Bart Starr, the first quarterback in history to win five National Football League championships and hero of the most memorable game in the storied history of the Green Bay Packers, died today in Birmingham, Ala. He had been in failing health since suffering a serious stroke in 2014.
Starr, 85, played for the Packers from 1956 to 1971, and was beloved by fans of not only his generation, but also succeeding ones. Along with being a Pro Football Hall of Famer and among a small pantheon of Packers’ all-time greats, he was the franchise’s nonpareil role model in the eyes of many.
Maybe the most popular player in Packers history, Starr will be eulogized for being a consummate professional, a Good Samaritan and an exemplary role model.
As a player, he will be remembered for being the only quarterback ever to lead his team to five NFL titles in a decade and for that frozen-in-time moment where he was lying face down under a pile of bodies in the south end zone of Lambeau Field, the hero of the Ice Bowl.
To this day, a half-century later, Starr’s game-winning quarterback sneak in that Dec. 31, 1967, game remains the signature moment in Packers history and personified what the Packers franchise is all about: Perseverance against all odds and unmatched success among all NFL teams.
With the Packers trailing by three points, 16 seconds remaining and the ball at the 1-yard line, it was Starr who suggested to coach Vince Lombardi during the Packers’ final timeout that he run a quarterback sneak for the first time that season.
When Starr squeezed between the blocks of right guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman and landed in the end zone, he not only sealed the Packers’ 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, but also climaxed the Lombardi Era.
What made it such a timeless moment in pro football history besides the last-minute drama were the conditions – a frozen field, temperatures that hovered around -16 degrees and a brutal wind chill that dipped to a -46 – and the stakes.
To this day, the Lombardi Packers are the only team to win three consecutive NFL titles since post-season play was introduced 85 years ago.
The game also epitomized Starr’s contribution to pro football’s greatest dynasty.
He always seemed to deliver in the clutch.