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Bart Starr – The Nicest Guy

(Painting by Robert Hurst)

Before I had the privilege of meeting Bart Starr, I repeatedly heard the same things from his teammates and others who had met him. “Oh, he’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.” “Bart’s the perfect man.” “Salt of the earth.”

Bart was one of those rare people that all those good things you heard about him beforehand turned out to be true. I first met him at a Tri-Star autograph show in Houston, hoping to interview him for The Game Before the Money. He didn’t have time that day to interview but gave me a number to reach him at later. He did, however, have time to chat with everyone who wanted to meet him. Starr granted everyone who wanted to meet him a good amount of time and was kind and respectful to all. Bart and I had a pleasant conversation about Wisconsin, the people, and the weather there.

I could do a post on how great a quarterback Bart was, the record number of NFL championships, and the rest of his football accolades, and I will in a future post. Today, however, I think it’s important to appreciate Bart Starr, the man. The day I met him in Houston, I kept thinking, “You know what? He is the nicest guy.”

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The Epitome of Character and Leadership

Nice doesn’t always have the best reputation for a compliment, especially in football. More to the point, Bart was respectful and considerate to all. So much so that you realized it immediately upon meeting him. Like the Dalia Lama of sports, he was present with every person he interacted with.

When Bart survived two strokes and a heart attack (how’s that for toughness?), the comments beneath the news articles often noted instances of Bart’s kindness, something he had done for a child or a neighbor. Indeed, he raffled off the Corvette he won as MVP of Super Bowl 1 to raise funds towards establishing a ranch for at-risk youth.

People talk a lot about character and leadership these days. The epitome of such things was Bart Starr. He looked for ways to assist, ways to lead, and ways to give. He was a classic example of prioritizing what you contribute over the recognition you receive for those contributions.

There’s a reason why Brett Favre postponed his number retirement ceremony in Green Bay so that Bart could attend. When you think about it, that’s pretty incredible. Here’s a man, one of the greatest quarterbacks and largest personalities of his generation, shelving his own party until the man he respects most can attend. That’s respect and an excellent example of how when a man like Starr was so respectful of others, the amount of reverence he himself garnered was immense.

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