When Jerry Kramer recalls his first couple of years in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, there was one player who seemed almost obscure.
That player was Bart Starr.
“Bart was like methane,” Kramer said. “He was colorless, tasteless, odorless and virtually invisible. I don’t remember anything he said or anything he did.”
If one looks back at the 1958 season, which was Kramer’s rookie year with the Packers, one can see why No. 64 did not have a distinct memory of No. 15. The Packers were 1-10-1 that season under head coach Ray “Scooter” McLean. Starr started seven games that season and was 0-6-1 in those games.
For the season, Starr threw just three touchdown passes versus 12 interceptions for 875 yards. Starr’s passer rating was just 41.2.
In 1959, Vince Lombardi was brought in to become the new head coach of the Packers. Starr’s performance at quarterback in 1958 didn’t exactly excite Lombardi, so he traded for Lamar McHan of the Chicago Cardinals.
Over the next two years, both Starr and McHan received significant playing time at starting quarterback. McHan started 11 games, while Starr started 13.
By the middle of the 1960 season, Starr became the full-time starter at quarterback. Led by Starr, the Packers won their last three games of the season and Green Bay won the Western Conference title.
Kramer mentioned an incident which occurred around this time which showed that Starr was the clear leader for the Packers. “We were playing the Chicago Bears,” Kramer said. “Bill George was their middle linebacker at the time. On a deep pass attempt, George thought he would try to intimidate Bart.
“Bill took about a five-yard run and he gave Bart a forearm right in the mouth. George timed it perfectly and put Bart right on his behind. He also cut Bart badly, from his lip all the way to his nose. After that, George said, ‘That ought to take care of you Starr, you pu**y.’ Bart snapped right back at George and said, ‘F— you, Bill George, we’re coming after you.’
“My jaw dropped after that exchange, as I was shocked. Meanwhile Bart was bleeding profusely. I told Bart that he better go to the sideline and get sewn up. Bart replied, ‘Shut up and get in the huddle.’
“Bart took us down the field in seven or eight plays and we scored. That series of plays really solidified Bart as our leader and we never looked back.”
Starr truly became the leader of the Pack, as the team won five NFL titles in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls. Starr was the MVP in both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.
But that should not be surprising to anyone who followed Starr’s career in the postseason. In fact, Starr is the highest-rated quarterback in NFL postseason history with a 104.8 mark.
Starr led the Packers to a 9-1 record in ten games. Starr threw 15 touchdown passes versus just three picks for 1,753 yards in those 10 games.
Starr’s most famous play in the postseason was his quarterback sneak in the closing seconds of the 1967 NFL Championship Game versus the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field.
That game is better known as the “Ice Bowl”, because it was extremely cold that day in Green Bay, as the game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero. If you added the wind, it was bone-chillingly cold, as there was a minus-48-degree windchill for the game. But when it counted most, with 16 seconds to go and no timeouts, Starr followed a classic block by Kramer, as he shuffled happily into the end zone, scoring the winning touchdown in a 21-17 victory.
No. 15 wasn’t bad in the regular season either, as he led the Packers to a 94-57-6 record in the games he started. Starr also won three passing titles and was the NFL MVP in 1966.
Overall, Starr threw 152 touchdown passes versus 138 interceptions for 24,718 yards in his career. All of that led to Starr being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977, when he was part of the same class with his former teammate, Forrest Gregg.
Kramer further reflected about the demeanor of Starr in the time he spent with him in Green Bay. “Bart was not a loud or vocal person,” Kramer said. “He was pretty private. He didn’t say anything, unless he had something to say.
“And he wasn’t very loud about it, unless he had a reason to be. But Bart had all the strength of character and all the intestinal fortitude that anyone would need to play the game at a high-level.
“And that’s what Bart did. Bart had a little steel in his backbone. That game against the Bears gave us our first glimpse of his toughness and that continued throughout the rest of his career.”