Legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr died Sunday in Birmingham, Ala. He was 85 years old.
Starr, who played for the Packers from 1956 to 1971, was the first quarterback in history to win five NFL championships. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
In a statement on the team website, Green Bay Packers historian Cliff Christl wrote that Starr was “maybe the most popular player in Packers history.”
Starr is known widely for one particular performance, in the NFL championship game many call the most storied-ever Packers victory.
It was New Years’ Eve, 1967, and the temperature was minus 15; thus, the game was called the “Ice Bowl.” The Packers were playing the Dallas Cowboys. With 16 seconds left, the Packers were down by three, and the ball was at the 1-yard line.
Starr, who had not run a quarterback sneak all season, suggested to Packers coach Vince Lombardi that it was time for one. So Starr ran across the end zone for a game-winning touchdown — and as Christl wrote, he will forever be remembered “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.”
“He always seemed to deliver in the clutch,” Christl said.
Until Tom Brady won his sixth Super Bowl with the New England Patriots earlier this year, Starr held the record for the most Super Bowls won by a quarterback. Starr is one of only six Packers to have a jersey retired by the team.
Starr was not instantly legendary; In fact, the Green Bay Press-Gazette wrote that he struggled during his first few years on the team.
Former Packers assistant coach Bob Schnelker told the Press-Gazette that Starr “didn’t start out like he was going to be the greatest player.”
“But toward the end, he was as good as there was,” Schnelker said. “Look at all the championships.”
After he retired from football, Starr returned to the Packers as a coach. He was not particularly successful in the role, and was eventually fired after nine years of coaching.
Later, Starr worked in real estate and, along with his wife Cherry Starr, helped to start a ranch that provides mental health services, equine therapy and other supports to teens.
According to the Packers’ team statement, Starr had been in poor health since 2014, when he suffered a serious stroke.