Hall of Fame QB Bart Starr victim of 'brutal' hazing at Alabama
The former Alabama quarterback was the victim of 'brutal' hazing while in college that left him with a serious back injury
Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2016. Bart Starr died Saturday at age 85.
Before he went on to win the first two Super Bowls and become an NFL legend with the Green Bay Packers, Bart Starr played college football at Alabama under coach Red Drew. His college career didn't match up with what he went on to do in the NFL, thanks in large part to a back injury he suffered before his junior season.
The story of Starr's injury had always been that he suffered a severe sprain while punting a football -- Starr was also the Crimson Tide's punter -- but it turns out that wasn't the case at all. According to Starr's wife, Cherry, whom he married in 1954 while still at Alabama, his injury was the result of a severe hazing incident at Alabama.
Cherry told AL.com that Starr was injured during an initiation practice into the school's A-Club for varsity letterman.
"He was hospitalized at one point in traction," Cherry said. "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.
"But his back was never right after that. It was horrible. It was not a football injury. It was an injury sustained from hazing. His whole back all the way up to his rib cage looked like a piece of raw meat. The bruising went all the way up his back. It was red and black and awful looking. It was so brutal."
Starr's teammate at Alabama, tight end Nick Germanos, confirmed Cherry Starr's story, saying it was worse than anything he suffered during his three-plus years in the Marines.
"It was hell," Germanos told AL.com. "Lord have mercy, it was a rough initiation."
The injuries Starr suffered to his back not only cost him most of his final two seasons at Alabama -- he had started as a freshman and sophomore -- but they also disqualified him from military service and continued to affect him during his entire 16-year NFL career.
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