BART STARR SET TO RETURN
QB legend recovering from two strokes
Legendary QB prepares to be at Lambeau Field to honor Favre.
Bart Starr, Jr. was seated near the north end zone of Lambeau Field for the famed Ice Bowl
Just a 10-year-old at the time, the son of the Green Bay Packers quarterback was huddled in the stands with three friends, braving the minus-46 wind chill in the crowd of 50,861 fans for the pionship Game against the Dallas Cowboys.
“Back then, you could bring things into the stadium and I brought a mini sle said. “Dad snuck in the south end zone, so we knew he scored by the reaction of the crowd and I remember Carroll Dale raising his arms and Chuck Mercein falling in the end zone with his arms raised.
“Hard to believe that was almost 50 years ago. I didn importance of that game at the time or how it would be so historically significant in the future. The Ice Bowl is unparalleled in NFL history.”
Starr is keenly aware of the significance of his father's return to Lambeau Field on Thursday as fellow iconic Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre's name and jersey number are forever placed on the facade inside the stadium during a halftime ceremony of the packers-Bears game.
Starr, Favre, and Aaron Rodgers on the same field — it will be an incredible moment in franchise history. And arguably the greatest trio of Super Bowl champion and league MVP quarterbacks to ever play for a single team.
“It’s a tremendous honor for dad to return to Lambeau Field in front of Packers fans on Brett's special night,” he said. “For those three quarterbacks to come together, well, I don’t know if I can accurately put it into words. The symbolize the franchise and its winning tradition.”
Barring an unforeseen change in his health, Starr will fly to Green
Bay on Wednesday. Exact details of the ceremony and Starr’s role are being kept under wraps by the team.
“Dad is determined to make it happen,” Bart Jr. said Friday afternoon. “At the beginning of the year, I didn’t think he had much of a chance to walk out on Lambeau Field for one last time.
“But here we are and it’s going to happen. Nothing is going to stop us now.”
Bart Starr, Sr., 81, suffered two strokes, a heart attack and multiple seizures in early September 2014. A big part of his recovery has been the focus on his return to Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night.
“It’s been the goal — we talk about it every day — and that’s what athletes respond to,” Bart Jr. said. “He’s always lived his life that way.”
The Starr family has been inspired by the overwhelming wellwishes from Packers fans.
“Letters, cards, emails, texts, phone calls — you name it,” Bart Jr. said. “The outpouring of support has really been inspirational. The positive impact of all those messages really helps to motivate us. Our goal has been to get dad in this position, to be able to be there.”
Former teammate Jerry Kramer is not surprised.
“Bart has an inner strength that made him the football player he is,” Kramer said. “When he makes up his mind to do something, he gets it done. I know there are a lot expectations for him to be there at Lambeau Field for Brett’s special night. It will be a fabulous moment in time, one you can tell your grandkids about.
“I’m so glad Brett is back in the Packer family, so to speak, and excited for him to come back to Lambeau Field. His No. 4 belongs up there among the Packer greats.”
Starr completed his second stem cell treatment two weeks ago, but the family prefers not to discuss the impact of the experimental clinical trial. He underwent his first stem cell treatment in June and has continued extensive therapy to regain strength, motor skills, speech, and memory for the past 14 months.
The elder Starr suffered a significant setback in late August, when he was hospitalized for four days with a viral bronchial infection.
On Starr’s trip for his follow-up stem cell treatment, he had dinner in California with former Packers assistant coach Steve Mariucci and his wife. Mariucci was the quarterbacks coach from 1992-’95 and helped develop Favre from a raw talent into a league MVP.
“It was my 60th and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than with Bart and Cherry Starr,” said Mariucci, an NFL Network analyst. “I will be working on Thanksgiving Day with three NFL games going on and the specials on Brett. I wish I could be there. It will be one of the greatest moments in Lambeau Field history.”
Mariucci, a native of Iron Mountain, Mich., remembers getting Starr’s autograph after a training camp practice in 1965.
“My family made the pilgrimage to Green Bay for training camp every year,” he said. “I have a photo when I was nine years old getting Bart’s autograph. Bart Starr is such a great part of the franchise, and to be there with Brett and Aaron will be special for Packer fans everywhere.”
Former Chicago tight end and head coach Mike Ditka offered his perspective.
“To have three Hall of Fame quarterbacks of that caliber play for one team is incredible,” Ditka said. “I hope Packer fans know how fortunate they are. Bart Starr. Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers. Those are three MVP and Super Bowl players, but also great people who represent the game with class. They are the real deal. Lambeau Field will be something else on Thanksgiving night.”
Bart Jr. said his family, as usual, planned to watch the Packers game against the Vikings on Sunday.
“Dad will be in his Packer shirt and we’ll be rooting for the Packers to beat the Vikings and start a new winning streak,” he said. “And then we’re going to fly to Green Bay on Wednesday. We can’t wait.
“Thursday night is about Brett. It’s not about my dad, but it’s an opportunity for him to show how he feels about Packer fans, the city of Green Bay, and Brett.”
Starr developed a bond with Favre early in his career and the two franchise icons have supported each other’s charities over the years. Favre wanted and requested Starr to be part of his return to Lambeau Field.
“Dad recognized how special Brett was — he did things my father never saw before,” Bart Jr. said. “He reached out with letters to Brett — before emails — and it grew from there.”
They also shared the experience of playing the highest-profile position for the smallest-market team in the league.
“The quarterback position is a very difficult position to play,” Bart Jr. said. “At times, my dad, and Brett and Aaron made it look easy. But they share a mutual understanding of the high level of preparation needed and the adversity you have to overcome at times to be successful.
“They shared a passion for winning, for Green Bay, their teammates, and the Packer tradition.”
And Starr’s health willing, they will share the field at some point on Thursday night in what promises to be an evening that will go down in franchise history.
Former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks Brett Favre, right, and Bart Starr share a moment before the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants in Green Bay in 2008. Starr will return to Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving for the halftime ceremony honoring Favre during the Packers-Bears game.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr calls signals in the famed Ice Bowl game at Lambeau Field on Dec. 31, 1967.