If you look up the definition of the word “class” it wouldn’t be surprising to encounter a photo of former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr.
A bit of name dropping may be found herein this week but it’s an honest recollection.
There are times when I wish I’d been my father as Pop had an interesting and fulfilling life.
Pop was Starr’s high school football coach at Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery and he took Bart to the University of Kentucky (Pop’s alma mater) in the summer between Bart’s junior and senior years for some one-on-one training with the Wildcats’ quarterback, Babe Parrelli, a consensus All-American in 1950 and 1951.
UK’s coach at the time was Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Bart’s accomplishments on the gridiron would turn out to be legendary and all of the recent posthumous commentaries about his accomplishments have cited well-known sports anecdotes such as his being named as Most Valuable Player for the first two Super Bowls, the NFL championship game of 1967 (a.k.a. “The Ice Bowl”) and his relationship with Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.
A number of those editorials also touched on his off-the-field endeavors. Terms such as “gentlemanly,” “determined” and “class” show up frequently in such remarks and recollections.
Indeed. There are the public examples such as his decades-long support of the Rawhide ranch for at-risk youngsters in Wisconsin, his work with other charities, his successful post-Packers business ventures and his motivational speeches.
There was also his personal relationship with my parents over the decades. When Bart was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977, he asked my father to be his official presenter.
When my mother was terminally ill in 1991, she had informed us of specific requests for her own funeral, one of which was asking Bart to be one of the pallbearers. If I remember correctly, he’d been on a business trip when she crossed the way and he immediately returned to Alabama to participate in the ceremony.
Bart and his gracious wife Cherry attended events honoring my father for his 80th birthday in 2002 and his 90th birthday in 2012. He wrote the foreword for my father’s autobiography in 2013.
That’s class times three.
The point is, those interactions over the years were just with members of our family. As much of a public figure as Bart Starr was, he touched untold numbers of lives in a positive way for decades and did so with the same sense of integrity as his encounters with his former high school coach.
That’s a legacy more important than any citation of football statistics.
I have a number of framed autographed photos on my office wall, including some signed by astronauts and musicians. For decades, however, the lone autographed picture of a sports personality has been that of Bart Starr. It sits in a location on the wall where it can’t be missed and that’s where it’s going to stay.
I also have a signed copy of Bart’s autobiography in my office library. Maybe it’s time for me to read it again.