BART STARR SET TO RE­TURN

QB leg­end re­cov­er­ing from two strokes

Packer Plus - - News - Cover photo: Packers WR Ran­dall Cobb catches a TD pass while cov­ered by Vik­ings CB Cap­tain Mun­ner­lyn on Sun­day. Green Bay won, 30-13. (Mark Hoff­man) De­sign: Ken Cleppe

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Green Bay Packers quar­ter­back Bart Starr calls sig­nals in the famed Ice Bowl game at Lam­beau Field on Dec. 31, 1967.

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