Bart Starr, Quarterback Who Led the Packers to Greatness, Dies at 85

Playing under Red Drew, Starr became the starter as a sophomore and led the Crimson Tide to the Cotton Bowl. But he missed nearly all of his junior season with a back injury, and as a senior was demoted to a backup role under a new coach. When the 1956 draft arrived, Jack Vainisi, the personnel manager for the Packers, decided to take a chance on Starr, though not much of one: The Packers made Starr the 199th college player chosen in the N.F.L. draft.

Starr floundered in his early years in Green Bay. Then Lombardi arrived. After a few stops and starts, Starr became the starter for good in 1960.

As his star rose on the field, the public began seeing what Lombardi saw: a loyal, dependable leader who worked hard away from the game as well. Unlike many of his teammates, Starr lived year round in Green Bay, where he received “Mr. Nice Guy” awards from community groups — a label that frustrated him but that he never risked contradicting. In 1965 he helped found the Rawhide Boys Ranch, a faith-based nonprofit residential care center for at-risk youth.

A son, Bret, died of cardiac arrest after taking cocaine in 1988. His death prompted the family to move to Birmingham to be closer to another son, Bart Jr. Complete information on Starr’s survivors was not immediately available.

In Birmingham, Starr owned car dealerships, built hospitals and was a pitchman for Ford and other companies.

He played four more seasons after Lombardi retired, but he never again made the playoffs as a quarterback. He retired after the 1971 season, his 16th. He was 37.

Starr returned to coach the Packers in 1975 and stayed for eight seasons, but he was not as effective on the sidelines as he had been in the huddle. The Packers, their roster depleted, had just one winning season and won a single playoff game with Starr as head coach. He was devastated when he was fired in 1983, after finishing second in the division with an 8-8 record, but he remained loyal to Green Bay.

In 2000, when the team sought a local tax break to renovate Lambeau Field, Starr’s main stage, it recruited him to lobby for the legislation. He was an emphatic advocate. The legislation passed.

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