Packers' great Starr was hazed at 'Bama
Quarterback Bart Starr was lucky to have a professional football career at all, let alone a Hall of Fame one.
According to a report from AL.com, Starr’s wife, Cherry, revealed a long-held secret that the severe back injury the quarterback always maintained was the result of a punting exercise occurred because of a brutal hazing incident he suffered at the University of Alabama.
Cherry Starr told AL.com that Starr was beaten so badly with a paddle during an initiation into the university’s A-Club for varsity lettermen that he was hospitalized and failed his Air Force medical examination after his rookie season in Green Bay.
“He was hospitalized at one point in traction,” Cherry Starr told AL.com. “That was in the days when they were initiated into the A-Club, and they had severe beatings and paddling. From all the members of the A-Club, they lined up with a big paddle with holes drilled in it, and it actually injured his back.”
Alabama tight end Nick Germanos, who was a teammate of Starr’s and Alabama’s senior captain in 1955, corroborated the report, saying the hazings for the A-Club were worse than anything he experienced during his three-plus years in the Marine Corps.
“It was hell,” Germanos told AL.com. “Lord have mercy it was a rough initiation.”
Starr never revealed to the public the cause of his back injury, which derailed his junior season in 1954 and caused him to play in pain until doctors decided he needed to be immobilized. At the time, the injury was described as muscle strain or possible disk injury.
Through the years, Starr maintained that the injury occurred while doing some punting during the spring, but AL.com said there were no news reports of Starr being among those who suffered injuries in the spring. Cherry Starr said that her husband thought that if he revealed the truth it would make him look bad.
She said the injury bothered him throughout his professional career.
The Packers drafted Starr in the 17th round of the 1956 draft and it wasn’t until Vince Lombardi arrived in 1959 that he became the team’s full-time starter.
Starr played 16 NFL seasons and led the Packers to five NFL Championships and victories in Super Bowls I and II. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and league MVP in 1966. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
Starr, 82, has overcome two strokes, a broken hip, a heart attack, a viral bronchial infection and multiple seizures in recent years. He was not quoted in the story AL.com did on the hazing because many of his football memories have faded.