For the past 23 years, Bart Starr and Athletes in Action have teamed up to award a top NFL player for his character, leadership and community service, as voted on by all the players. The Bart Starr Award is presented at the annual SuperBowl Breakfast held on Super Saturday in the host city prior to each SuperBowl. Steve Largent was the first award winner back in 1986, and Warrick Dunn took home the Starr award in 2009.
Arizona quarterback, Kurt Warner, beat out New Orleans quarterback, Drew Brees, and the Indianapolis Colts’ Jeff Saturday for the 2010 Bart Starr Award. I had a chance to talk to the legendary Hall of Fame Green Bay Packer recently about his career, Coach Vince Lombardi and having his own award:
CF – Bart, as a Hall of Famer, and a great NFL ambassador, how does it feel to have an award for outstanding character and leadership named after you and to be able to make this presentation each year?
STARR – Obviously, it’s a great thrill, and my wife and I were excited when Athletes in Action approached us back in 1988. It’s been a joy ever since then. I have an immense admiration for the organization and what they continue to do in this country and around the world. To have something named after you and to have been around the great Green Bay Packers teams – it’s just very difficult to describe the feeling. We’re honored.
CF – Sixteen years with one team, Bart – the Packers. Can you reflect back on those wonderful years as a Packer and describe your time in Green Bay?
STARR – Carl, it was absolutely exciting, thrilling and something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. There are great people all over the USA, but those Packer fans were so special. Each year, Cherry and I get to go back for a few games. Last year we attended five games. It’s such a joy to go back to the greatest fans on earth, I think. We lived in Green Bay for 31 years and it will always be our adopted home.
CF – I remember attending a Packers game in January of 2004. It was well below zero and all the fans were tailgating at Lambeau Field with the Packer Hall of Fame right next door. You could smell the brats and pigskins in the air. The football tradition and Cheeseheads are something special, Bart. You had a chance very early in your career to play under a coaching legend, one Vince Lombardi. Describe that experience.
STARR – It meant everything. He was an amazing leader, challenging, very serious, had a sense of humor and I could write a book about our relationship. I was there for three years before Lombardi came in. From the first day he took over, we recognized we were in for something special.
CF – Bart, you were a great leader. How do you look at the character of today’s NFL players, on and off the field, and the criteria of just how the annual Bart Starr Award is given to one deserving athlete who exemplifies the character and community service?
STARR – Each team nominates a player. The team members know who is involved within the community, which athletes show up for events and who even starts their own foundations. Length of service in the NFL is also a criterion. The players are then whittled down to 10, as this award, along with the Pro Bowl, are the only two awards voted on by every player.
CF – The three finalists at the 2010 SuperBowl Breakfast were Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts. Bart, who will be this year’s Bart Starr Award Winner?
STARR – I had a chance to talk to our winner just a few days ago and he really exemplifies the character, leadership and community involvement criteria that we described earlier. I’m honored to announce Kurt Warner as the 2010 Bart Starr Award recipient. Kurt does so many great things off the field and we need to honor more of these great efforts and good athletes. The media tends to focus more on some of these young jackals and misfits and we don’t hear enough about the quality individuals. In my opinion, they will always outnumber the others.
CF – Congrats to Kurt Warner! He is a strong man of God and a family man who serves his community. He is a sports role model that we want our children to look up to. What are your feelings of athletes being role models today, and how did your faith help you to deal with all the temptations of being in the spotlight as an NFL superstar?
STARR – It absolutely starts with your faith and setting your priorities straight. This is one thing that Coach Lombardi lived, as it was God, Family and then all others. The others were the Green Bay Packers, in this case. Coach Lombardi was at mass every single morning at 7 a.m. for the nine years we had him and this is how he prioritized his days. I think when we have that, it becomes contagious. We don’t hear enough about the athletes with strong faith, but we hope with this award, it can keep catching on and become contagious among our young athletes coming up throughout the NFL to give them a strong foundation.
CF – Finally, Bart, a lot of people may not be aware that you were a 17th round draft pick out of Alabama and through hard work and determination went on to win SuperBowls I and II as the MVP. Who will ever forget that Ice Bowl play to win a championship? You’re a true inspiration and it’s a privilege to have been able to talk to with you. Were you a little happy to see your Crimson Tide return to glory and a national college football championship?
STARR – I was more than a little happy! I was ecstatic, and applaud the work of Nick Saban.
CF – Bryan Bartlett “Bart” Starr, Hall of Famer and two-time SuperBowl MVP. Thanks for all the great football memories. Your legacy will live forever with the coveted Bart Starr Award presented by the Athletes in Action. God Bless!
Carl Foster will be broadcasting live from 7-10 a.m., Feb. 6th, 2010, on Reach FM at the 23rd Annual SuperBowl Breakfast at the Westin Diplomat, interviewing Bart Starr, Kurt Warner, Tony Dungy and scores of other athletes and coaches.