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Mike Vandermause column: Starr embraces 'adopted home,' and the feeling is mutual

Sep. 4, 2012
 
Bart Starr on his time with Packers
Bart Starr on his time with Packers: Green Bay Packers legend Bart Starr assesses his legacy as a player and coach.
Packer great Bart Starr listens as current player Jarrett Bush speaks on Tuesday in the Lambeau Field Atrium. / Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette

Bart Starr said it never gets old returning to Green Bay.

The winner of five NFL championships as the Packers quarterback in the 1960s, Starr made a promotional appearance at the Lambeau Field Atrium on Tuesday and looked like a kid in a candy store.

“It will always be the greatest time of our lives,” said Starr of the 31 years he and his wife Cherry lived in Green Bay.

Then, he added with a hearty laugh: “And I’d still be living here if my wife could tolerate the winters.”

Instead, Starr lives in Alabama and at age 78 still makes frequent Packers-related appearances in the area.

On this trip he was thrilled that his son, Bart Jr., could accompany him. “He just enjoys coming here so much,” said Starr.

Bart Jr. graduated from De Pere High School in 1976 and has gone on to a successful business career. He remembers in his early years living about a mile from the stadium and as a 10-year-old attending the Ice Bowl, the game that immortalized his father for his famous game-winning quarterback sneak in the final frigid seconds.

The worst part about that game, according to Bart Jr., was that he was sitting in the opposite end zone and didn’t get a good view of his dad’s memorable touchdown that beat the Dallas Cowboys for the NFL championship.

While the Starr family still fondly embraces Green Bay, the feelings are mutual among Packers fans. Starr always receives the loudest ovation when former players are introduced on alumni day.

“It gives you a real tingle, I’ll tell you,” said Starr. “It’s just a joy to be out on this field here and have the fans greet you that way.”

Fans have either forgotten or forgiven Starr for the nine years he coached the Packers and compiled a 52-76-3 record with just one playoff appearance from 1975-’83.

What makes Starr so special is that he handles adversity with as much class as he does success. He makes no excuses for his inability to turn the Packers around as a coach.

“I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been and it showed,” he said.

“My record sort of spoke for that. A shortcoming. I didn’t make it as a coach. … But it was a great honor. I’ll always be appreciative to the Packers organization for the chance and honor they have given me for that. It was great, great fun.”

Even in the face of disappointment, Starr chooses to look on the bright side.

“I don’t want to overstate this but I believe our attitude controls our lives,” he said.

He won more NFL titles as a quarterback than anyone in the modern era and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977, but he is quick to credit teammates and coach Vince Lombardi for the Packers’ success.

One member of the media on Tuesday made the mistake of addressing him as “Mr. Starr.” Ever humble and gracious, he corrected him: “I’m Bart, not Mr. Starr.”

He looks to be in good health and relishes the chance to serve as a Packers ambassador for years to come.

Any day spent in Green Bay is a good day for Starr.

“It will always be our adopted home,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. I don’t think there are any people in the world who are like those around here.”

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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