Happy Memorial Day, everyone. As you know, today is a day set aside to remember those who have fallen in service to our country. Leada Gore of Al.com took the time to lay out the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day, which is an important distinction that well-meaning folks often fail to grasp.
Those around Alabama will also take some time to remember Alabama icon Bart Starr, who passed away yesterday.
— Alabama coach Nick Saban: “Bart Starr was a true Alabama legend. He was a fierce competitor on the field, an outstanding coach and an even better person. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cherry and the entire Starr family.”
— Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne: “Bart was a legend on and off the field. He represented The University of Alabama and everything in his life as a true champion. Our deepest sympathies go out to the entire Starr family.”
“He called the right thing at the right time and he executed it,” said Boyd Dowler, Starr’s favorite receiver during the nine years they played together under Lombardi. “He never made a bad read. He never made a stupid throw.
“If somebody was open, he’d get you the ball. He knew what it took to win and he went about doing it. He was a tremendous competitor and he was so consistent.”
“Bart Starr was an American icon whose legendary football career transformed Green Bay, Wisconsin, into Titletown U.S.A. More importantly, he lived a life of character defined by his grace, poise, respect and commitment,” Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker said in a statement. “The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations.”
Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said Starr was a role model, on and off the field.
”It’s really refreshing to see somebody that had that kind of success and remain humble,” Murphy said. “I think he never forgot his roots.”
He would endure profound tragedy in his life, losing his son Bret to cocaine addiction at age 24 in 1988, when he found his boy’s body on the floor of his home. Only Starr didn’t quit, because he would never quit on anything. He was a fighter, the son of a tough-love World War II veteran and Air Force master sergeant who lost his favorite child, Hilton, to tetanus when the boy was 11, and who didn’t think Bart would amount to much. Starr was the 200th overall pick in the 1956 NFL draft, a non-prospect who was benched during his final, winless season at Alabama and who was only drafted in the 17th round because the school’s basketball coach had a connection with the Packers’ front office.
Starr played 10 postseason games for Lombardi, and he won nine of them. He willed himself into the Hall of Fame; no quarterback has ever been drafted as late as Starr and still made it to Canton.
Starr wasn’t a particularly gifted player physically – for a modestly sized quarterback (6-feet-1 and 197 pounds), he wasn’t athletic and possessed an average-at-best throwing arm. He also had a shy, passive demeanor off the field. But because of his background and character, he ended up being a perfect match for Lombardi.
“Tremendous preparation,” said Zeke Bratkowski, Starr’s longtime backup with the Packers. “(Starr) didn’t have the strongest arm, but it was plenty strong for what he had to do. Sunday was easy for him because he was prepared.”
As the son of a career officer in the U.S. Army, Starr grew up primarily in Alabama in a highly disciplined home under a father who withheld the approval Starr craved. Yet over time, despite his unassuming manner, he developed a preternatural resolve and will to succeed.
When reading about Starr from those who knew him and played with him, a few themes are constant. He was tough, smart, and his preparation was second to none. Bart overcame limited athletic talent to become an iconic figure in NFL history, and after his career was done became one of the most beloved figures around the game with his kindness and compassion for others. He will be missed by many.
As you undoubtedly heard, tragedy also struck in Auburn as 53-year-old radio play-by-play man Rod Bramblett and wife Paula, 52, were killed in a car accident.
The funeral service for Paula and Rod Bramblett will take place on Thursday, May 30 at 2 p.m. inside Auburn Arena. Visitation will be from 12 p.m. until 2 p.m.
The service is open to the public. There will be a private burial for the family following the service.
Bramblett is probably best known in Tide country for the “Kick Six” call that we have had to rewatch time and time again, and more recently for his disgust at the foul call that ended Auburn’s run in the NCAA basketball tournament. Sadly, while details haven’t been released, the lives of Rod and Paula were reportedly taken by a distracted teenager as they were rear-ended at what had to have been a fairly high rate of speed. Our deepest sympathies to all of those who are close to the Bramblett family.
In happier news, the softball team qualified for the Women’s College World Series and, thanks to the seeding travesty, will play #1 Oklahoma at 8:30pm on Thursday. The format of the tournament is silly to begin with, but it’s exacerbated by not reseeding for the World Series. While Oklahoma and Alabama grapple with one another, the 5-seed Florida Gators, who were convincingly swept out of their home park by Alabama in April, get to effectively coast into the winner’s bracket with an opener against #13 Oklahoma State.
Should the Tide drop Thursday’s game, they will likely have to run a gauntlet of #6 Arizona on Friday, then #3 Washington on Saturday before the Oklahoma rematch on Saturday night, with no margin for error. Just brutal.
A couple of quick football notes:
Alabama fell from the No. 1 spot in the USA Today rankings with the changes on the coaching staff as the biggest development of the offseason. Nick Saban’s new staff, however, is in place with no signs of slowing down. The Crimson Tide are again projected to win the conference and make a College Football Playoff. The hype will again surround Tua Tagovailoa after a runner-up finish in the Heisman Trophy race. But how about Jerry Jeudy? The wide receiver could be one of the best. Alabama has a slew of weapons on offense, and the return of players like Raekwon Davis and Trevon Diggs is big on the other side of the ball. Can any player step up to replace the disruption caused by Quinnen Williams?
May Clemson get all of the Sunshine pumping they can handle.
Former Alabama LB Chavis Williams is now a high school head coach.
Williams, 29, played linebacker and special teams at Alabama from 2007-10 and finished his career with 17 tackles and one sack. He appears to be one of the first -- if not the first -- of Saban’s Alabama recruits to become a high school head coach.
”We always say around here, ‘We don’t look at names.’ Every opponent is a nameless opponent,” Williams said, sounding a lot like Saban. “We just play the next play. It lets the kids know that it doesn’t matter who you play, as long as you’re playing to your standard. That’s the biggest thing, getting these kids to play to a standard.”
Good luck, Chavis. May you find a long and prosperous career in the coaching profession.
Reuben Foster’s Alabama and now Washington teammates are downright sick about his injury.
With Foster’s three arrests in 2018 now in the rearview mirror, he was free to turn his full attention to football again. With the incredible support system around him which included both strict policies and close friends, it appeared that Foster was ready to prove he was one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Now, back to watching from the sidelines, Foster is going to need that support system more than ever.
”We’re calling him, we’re texting him,” said Collins. “He’s living with Ryan (Anderson) right now — so we’re always in his head and keeping the support. And if you keep the support, you keep your family tight, your circle tight, you’ll be able to make it through and bounce back.”
Shaun Dion Hamilton is another one of these “Bama boys,” who is taking it upon himself to uplift his fellow linebacker. He told reporters on Monday that Foster couldn’t wait to get back on the field before his unfortunate injury.
Sometimes players are made stronger through the rehab experience. Hopefully this will work for Foster.
Last, please don’t purchase one of these.
These aren’t unique to Alabama, as whoever designed it offered several different schools. Still, if you want to show a public display of patriotism, take the time to read the flag code. This shirt and others like it are a disgrace.
That’s about it for today. Enjoy the day with family and friends.