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Starr pays homage to Jordan
Teammates, but more, friends

By Skip Miller

Published November 16, 2001

NEWPORT NEWS -- It was a night for the older folk to revisit their youth, and the younger set to meet a legend. Is that him? Where? Right there. Gosh, he hasn't changed at all. He looks like he could still play.

And then the older folk would tell the younger set about this man named Bart Starr, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, Most Valuable Player in the first two Super Bowls and disciple of Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.

Starr was in town for a night with the Peninsula Sports Club. Proceeds went to the Henry Jordan Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Henry Jordan grew up in Newport News. He graduated from Warwick High School and the University of Virginia. He was the Cleveland Browns' fifth-round draft pick in 1957. The Browns traded him to the Packers two years later. He went on to an 11-year career with the Packers during which he made the All-NFL team six times, played in four Pro Bowls and was the starting right defensive tackle in the first two Super Bowls.

Jordan was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He was Starr's roommate when the Packers were on the road. Their families played together and prayed together. Jordan died in 1977. But for Starr, it will be a long time before Jordan is forgotten.

"My memories primarily focus on the quality of the person," Starr said. "He had a marvelous sense of humor. He was committed to the position and role he played on the team. He epitomized what a team player was all about."

Starr paused to collect his thoughts.

"It was what he said, how he said it and his enthusiasm when he said it," Starr explained. "He was very serious about his profession. But he loved those with a good sense of humor."

Starr was inducted into the Hall of Fame the year Jordan died. He knows what Jordan meant to Newport News and the youth he touched. He knows because, as a high school senior, Starr benefited from somebody else who took the time to teach and share.

Starr's football coach at Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Ala., was a Kentucky graduate, who had played for Bear Bryant. Kentucky had a senior quarterback named Babe Parilli.

Starr spent two weeks training and working with Parilli. "He literally taught me more about quarterback than anybody else I had met," Starr said. At the time, Starr wanted to play for Kentucky and Bear Bryant. But something happened.

"In the meantime, I had fallen in love with a beautiful brunette," he said. "The problem was she was going to go to Auburn. I knew if I went to Kentucky, I would never see her again. So I went to Alabama, where I could be closer to her."

Bryant, meanwhile, moved on to Texas A&M.

"So I wouldn't have played for him anyway," Starr said. And the brunette? "We were married my sophomore year."

Parilli had a 16-year NFL career that included two tours with the Packers. The second (1957-58) made him a teammate of his former pupil, Bart Starr.

In 1959, Vince Lombardi arrived to lay the foundation of the Packer teams that would win five league titles in seven years, and Super Bowls I and II.

He opened his first team meeting with a statement Starr has not forgotten: "Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection knowing we cannot catch it. But in the process we will achieve excellence."

Something else happened. The Packers built a team that remains symbolic of unity and family. A team that Starr thinks about "frequently and consistently." A team that, in 1966 and 1967, seemed invincible.

Yeah. That's him. Bart Starr.

Copyright © 2001, Daily Press


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