When Starr came to the Packers in 1956—the same year Unitas joined the Colts—he was not imbued with the kind of cocky self-confidence that is part of the makeup of most pro quarterbacks. He had come to Green Bay from Alabama, where he had just finished a shattering senior year sitting on the bench. J. B. (Ears) Whitworth had taken over the Alabama team and decided that he would live or die with his sophomores. This meant that Starr, a starter in his sophomore and junior years, had to spend his senior year out of the action. The fact that he had an ailing back contributed to Whitworth's decision.
Starr has a serious face and, remembering his difficulties at Alabama, it was sad. "I guess if I hadn't got married my junior year, I wouldn't have been able to stand it. My wife was a wonderful help. For a young person, she had a lot of maturity."
Despite his relative obscurity, Starr was drafted 17th by Green Bay.
" Johnny Dee, the basketball coach at Alabama, was responsible for that," Starr said. "He was a good friend of the late Jack Vainisi, the Green Bay scout, and he talked him into taking a chance. It's a good thing he did. I was down as low as I have ever been. I have never had much confidence. That was the year I started doubting my own ability."
In early summer before he reported to the Green Bay camp in his rookie year, Starr worked hard and long to improve himself. He and Cherry, his wife, spent the summer at her parents' home.
"I built an A-frame in their front yard," Starr recalls. "Then I hung a tire on it and practiced throwing the ball through the tire from different angles for hours every day. Cherry fielded the ball for me."
There were five quarterbacks in the Green Bay camp when Starr reported. Tobin Rote was the veteran and the No. 1 man. It was not a situation to cheer a player suffering the self-doubt Starr felt.
"I didn't know I had it made until the last cut, just before the league season," Starr says. "When I stuck, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I'm not sure why I did, but I remember I had one good half in an exhibition game against the Giants."
Starr roomed with Rote, who is as unlike him as is possible.
"He taught me a lot," Bart says. "He was a real hard-nosed guy. He had his own style and he was set in it, but he treated me great and he gave me tips. He didn't have to do that. The first thing he told me was, 'Kid, you have to learn to zip the ball a little. You won't make it in this league throwing cream puffs.' He had tremendous courage, too. He took his lumps and never said a word. That's something else I learned from him."