Bart Starr, who as the earnest and determined leader of the great Green Bay Packers teams of the 1960s became one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in history — the in-the-huddle incarnation of their fierce and masterly coach, Vince Lombardi — died on Sunday in Birmingham, Ala. He was 85.
His death was announced by the Packers. He had been in poor health since suffering a serious stroke in 2014, the team said.
Starr, the son of a strict military man who told him he wished he were tougher, was an underperforming bench-warmer when Lombardi first arrived in Green Bay in 1959.
Like Starr’s father, Lombardi worried that the young man might be, Lombardi later admitted, “too polite and maybe just a little too self-effacing to be the real bold, tough quarterback that a quarterback must be in the National Football League.”
More than a half-century later, the annual N.F.L. award given to a player, and voted on by players, for outstanding character and leadership on and off the field is called the Bart Starr Award.
Starr’s name may have been the most flamboyant thing about him. But he would prove to be skilled, sly and, by at least one measure, incomparably successful: He won five N.F.L. championships (in 1961, ’62, ’65, ’66 and ’67), and the first two Super Bowls, in 1967 and ’68.
The Packers, with Starr at quarterback, won three straight N.F.L. championships, a run that helped bring new attention to professional football as it moved into the Super Bowl era.
He was named the league’s most valuable player in 1966 and received the same honor in Super Bowls I and II. He was selected to the Pro Bowl four times. And on a team known for running — with the flashy Paul Hornung and the rugged Jim Taylor — Starr was one of the league’s most efficient passers. He led the N.F.L. in that crucial category in three seasons and, on average, for all of the 1960s — even though his rival Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts was often viewed as better.
A full obituary will be posted shortly.