/Favre, Manning, others remember Bart Starr

Favre, Manning, others remember Bart Starr

Favre stated Monday, “Such an amiable, nice man.” After every – and I do mean every – accomplishment I have ever achieved, Bart Starr wrote me a letter of congratulations. Starr was a thoughtful, caring person. He died in Birmingham on Sunday after a long battle with cancer. Starr was a warm personality and a strong character. Many people remember him more for his humanity and kindness than his football skills. Those skills were impressive. He was Vince Lombardi’s quarterback and leader, an NFL MVP once and the MVP of the Super Bowls. Archie Manning said, “Bart Starr was the ideal quarterback of my era.” He and Johnny Unitas were two of the greatest quarterbacks that era, and Bart won the most championships. He was the ultimate leader for some of the most successful football teams in history. Manning said, “Bart Starr was my best friend.” “I am referring to him as a Christian and a husband, as well as as a father, a teammate as well as a leader, role model, friend, and as a Christian. Starr was a tremendous man, a great and great man.” Starr, a Montgomery native, played college football at Alabama. He resisted the attempts of Bear Bryant, then-Kentucky coach. Starr was a solid, but not spectacular, player for the Crimson Tide. He was not drafted by the Packers until the 17th round in the 1956 NFL Draft. Lombardi considered him the leader he needed and an extension of Lombardi in the huddle. Starr was even more to Steve Wright, an offensive lineman on the championship Packer teams. Wright said, “The dirty little secrets of those days were that during the week it had been Lombardi’s team but on Sunday it really was Starr’s team.” Mike Dennis, a former Ole Miss running back, witnessed Starr’s leadership skills firsthand in 1967 when he was a reserve runningback with the Packers. Dennis stated, “I had been injured the previous season with the Rams and Lombardi brought my in for insurance because the Packers had suffered a lot at running back.” “I practiced every single day and was learning about the Packers system. Bart would come to practice with me and continue working. He was a good businessman and everyone respected him. Although he wasn’t flashy or ostentatious, everyone respected him and did everything they could to help him. He was so kind to everyone.” Dennis did not play in any Packers games and returned with the Rams the following season. Dennis stated, “We played the Packers. I had a good time and caught a few passes.” “After the game I walk off the field and suddenly there’s Bart. He congratulated me and sought me out. “I’ll never forget it.” Hamp Cook, another Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer was born in Georgiana, Alabama not far from Starr’s hometown of Montgomery. Starr was a highly-regarded recruit. Cook, who weighed in at 155 pounds, was a senior at high school. He made it to Mississippi Southern College where he gained weight and became a Little All American linebacker and guard. Cook was a major force in the 1956 and 1954 upsets that Southern won against Starr and Alabama. Cook ended the second game by sacking Starr on the final play to secure a 7-2 win. Cook said 50 years later that “It was an enormous deal at the time but it would have been even bigger if Bart Starr was going on to become Bart Starr.” Manning met Starr after his senior year at Ole Miss in 1971, when they were both receiving awards at a Columbus, Ohio football banquet. The ABC Monday Night Football Trio of Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and Dany Meredith hosted the banquet. Manning stated that Starr was the best person he had ever met and gave an inspirational, but humble, acceptance speech. Manning said, “I won’t forget what Meredith said following Bart’s speech.” Manning stood up and laughed, saying, “Just once, Bart, just one time, I’d like to hear Bart cuss” at the end of his speech. A year later Manning was playing for the Saints as a rookie and New Orleans was facing the Packers at Milwaukee County Stadium. Starr was near the end of his career. Manning stated that he believes – although I am not certain – that it may have been the last Bart played in. “The best thing about County Stadium was the fact that both teams benches were on the opposite side of the field. The thing I do remember is that neither of us were in the final game. And I can recall that I stood as close as possible to the Packers’ middle line of the field. “I just wanted to be close to him.”