(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’s one of those rare people that all those good things you hear about him beforehand turn 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. He granted everyone who wanted to meet him a good amount of time, and was kind and respectful to all. He 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 keep thinking, “You know what? He is the nicest guy.
Nice doesn’t always have the best reputation for a compliment, especially in football. More to the point, Bart’s respectful and considerate to all. So much so that you realize it immediately upon meeting him. Like the Dalia Lama of sports, he is present with every person he interacts with.
When Bart survived two strokes and a heart attack recently (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 is Bart Starr. In an age where it’s easy to spot a football star or other celebrity getting in trouble and setting a bad example, Starr continues to be the man he always was and always will be. He looks for ways to assist, ways to lead, ways to give. He’s the 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 how when a man like Starr is so respectful of others, the amount of reverence he himself garners is immense.
Read the stories of 40 NFL legends including Bart Starr in The Game before the Money.