Bart Starr, the Green Bay Packers quarterback whose sneak dive into the end zone on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field remains of the National Football League’s most iconic plays, has died. He was 85 and had been in failing health since 2014, when he suffered two strokes and a heart attack.
Starr was one of the faces of the NFL in the 1960s, the quarterback for coach Vince Lombardi’s dominating Green Bay teams. A quiet University of Alabama graduate, Starr arrived unheralded as the 200th pick of the 1956 NFL draft, but led the team to five NFL championships and wins in the first two Super Bowls.
He went on to coach the Packers, and also appeared as himself in numerous documentaries on the Packers, Lombardi and the NFL. He also appeared in the 1964 film Run To Daylight, the story of a week in the life of the NFL team under Lombardi, and as an actor on a 1968 episode of Gentle Ben, where he met a bear that wasn’t from Chicago.
But it is his moment of glory in the 1967 “Ice Bowl” NFL championship for which he will be remembered.
In the NFL championship on Dec. 31, 1967, Starr ran 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 a game where the temperature hit 14 degrees below zero, with a wind chill of minus 49 degrees, The field was icy and likened to “jagged concrete” by one player.
The Packers went on to win the second Super Bowl, defeating the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Lombardi’s final game as Packers coach.
“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.
The Packers 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. He also did the coin toss for the 1986 Super Bowl.
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.
Starr has an NFL award named after him, given annually to a player of outstanding character.