Zeke Bratkowski, backup to Packers’ Bart Starr and former Bears player and coach, dies at age 88

Green Bay Packers quarterbacks Zeke Bratkowski (left) and Bart Starr at training camp in 1972 photo.
Green Bay Packers quarterbacks Zeke Bratkowski (left) and Bart Starr at training camp in 1972 photo. (PJS / AP)

Zeke Bratkowski, the quarterback who backed up Bart Starr during the Green Bay Packers' 1960s dynasty, has died at his Florida home. He was 88.

The team announced his death late Monday but did not disclose further details.


The Packers Hall of Famer was a quarterback in Green Bay from 1963-1968 and again in 1971.

Bratkowski, who grew up in Danville, Ill., was a star at the University of Georgia before the Bears picked him 17th overall in the second round of the 1953 draft. He played five seasons in Chicago, appearing in 59 games and starting 16. He had a 49% completion percentage, throwing for 3,639 yards and 24 touchdowns.

He played for the Rams in 1960 after his military service as an Air Force pilot in 1958 and 1959, then joined the Packers in 1961.

One of Bratkowski’s most notable performances in relief of an injured Starr came in 1965, a 13-10 overtime playoff win over the Baltimore Colts that sent the Packers to the title game against Cleveland.

They beat the Browns for what would be the first of three straight championship seasons, and Bratkowski played briefly in both Super Bowl wins in the two years that followed.

He won 10 of his 14 starts for the Packers, completing 265 passes in 498 attempts for 3,576 passing yards and 24 touchdowns.

His death comes six months after Starr died at 85. Under coach Vince Lombardi, Starr led Green Bay to six division titles, five NFL championships and wins in the first two Super Bowls.

“I've tried to pattern myself after Bart,” Bratkowski said in 1967, according to the Packers. “We study the movies together and go over the game plan together. I try to think as much like he does as I can so the team will not have to make a big adjustment if I'm needed.”

He spent 14 years in the NFL, passing for more than 10,000 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Bratkowski served as a backfield coach under Packers coach Phil Bengtson from 1969-1970. He was a Bears assistant coach from 1972–1974 before returning to the Packers as quarterbacks coach from 1975 to 1981.

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