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Making a Difference: This year’s Bart and Cherry Starr award recipient bleeds Green and Gold

Award presented annual to someone who exemplifies outstanding character, leadership in their field of expertise

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April 18, 2024

GREEN BAY – Mention the name Larry McCarren, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of him.

Many know McCarren – aka “The Rock” – for his 162 consecutive games as the Green Bay Packers’ center from 1973-84.

Others know him for his decades as a sports analyst for the Packers Radio Network with fellow announcer Wayne Larrivee.

Some know McCarren for his time as a sports reporter and anchor for a handful of television stations in the Greater Green Bay area.

It’s clear to see that McCarren has spent much of his adult life supporting the Green and Gold – a commitment that will soon be recognized.

The Packers Hall of Fame Inc. recently announced that McCarren will receive the Bart and Cherry Starr Recognition Award at its induction banquet this summer.

The award is presented to someone who exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in their field of expertise while consistently demonstrating a personal conviction and commitment to the Packers.

“What means the most to me (about the award) is who it was named after,” McCarren said. “I go back a long way with Bart and Cherry – I played for Bart for nine years (when he was head coach). During that time, Cherry was‚ always a part of things.”

McCarren said the duo consistently supported each other, the Green Bay Packers and the Titletown community.

“Bart was a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame human being, but he didn’t do it alone,” he said. “Watching the two and hearing things Bart said from time to time, I always thought Cherry was a part of that. Her support and counsel (to Bart) were a big part of his public success. Getting an award named after those two people is probably the most significant part of it for me.”

Since getting its start in 2012, the Bart and Cherry Starr Recognition Award has recognized former Packers players, historians and team leaders.

“When I found out about the award, I was shocked – it came out of the blue,” McCarren said. “I’ve gone to a lot of the Hall of Fame banquets and knew the award was there, but I have to confess, I didn’t know exactly what the qualifications were. My initial thought was, ‘I don’t deserve this.’ After looking at the qualifications, I still didn’t think I deserved it, but I was most appreciative.”

McCarren said if the award was given for community service, “I might not be the right guy.”

“There are a lot of people who do a lot more in terms of community service than I’ve ever done,” he said. “I think I’m a good guy, but I’m not out there ringing bells every day. There are tons of people out there working 24/7 who put forth a lot of effort for those less fortunate than themselves.”

Since finding out he’s this year’s recipient, McCarren said “I’ve occasionally thought about (what I’ll say), but not in an organized fashion.”

“A couple of thoughts come to mind – my thoughts about Bart and Cherry will most certainly be a part of what I say,” he said. “There are people to thank, and even though I’ve talked to a zillion different groups over the years, I’m not comfortable talking about myself – I’ll probably feel a little awkward doing that. I’ll point out my gratitude for the people who have helped me along the way.”

Clay Matthews and Aaron Kampman will also be honored at the banquet as this year’s Packers Hall of Fame inductees.

Sam Seale, a national scout for the Packers, will receive the Bob Harlan Leadership Award at the banquet – which recognizes individuals who demonstrate exceptional leadership throughout their career with the Packers.

How it started
McCarren, a 1992 Packers Hall of Fame inductee, grew up in Park Forest, Illinois.

He attended the University of Illinois and was drafted in the 12th round – yes, you read that right – of the 1973 NFL draft after his college days.

Larry McCarren, a former Green Bay Packers center, played in 162 consecutive games from 1973-84, earning him the nickname, “The Rock.” Photo Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers

“I thought I would get drafted, but I was hoping it would be higher than the 12th round – the draft doesn’t even have 12 rounds anymore,” McCarren, who was voted to the NFL Pro Bowl in 1982 and 1983, said. “Getting drafted that late was probably one of the most disappointing moments in my life.”

At that point in his life, McCarren said, “football was like life and death for me.”

“That’s one of the reasons I was able to put together a fairly long NFL career‚ It was that important to me,” he said. “My coaches gave me time to develop – I don’t think I was ever a great player, but I worked hard and became a good player. I wasn’t the type of player who would win games for the team, but I was the type of player who could help you win.”

Looking back, McCarren said he has nothing but good thoughts about playing in Green Bay.

“It was a privilege to play the game, and I think football is the greatest team sport ever invented,” he said. “To be able to play football in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and play for the Green Bay Packers, I consider myself one lucky ‘soldier.'”

During his decade-plus as a member of the Green and Gold, McCarren said he had two philosophies.

“No. 1, if you don’t answer the bell, they’ll find someone who can,” he said. “No. 2, you’re playing for your buddies. It starts with playing well for the guys on the offensive line – you’re a team within the team. You don’t want to let anyone down.”

As for the 162-consecutive run he had with the Packers – the sixth-longest streak in team history – McCarren said, “sometimes you can surprise yourself even though you’re not 100% (healthy).”

“The guy playing across from you likely has no idea how injured or healthy you are,” he said. “He may have some thoughts, but he doesn’t know you might have a terrible ankle and can’t put any weight on it. As long as I thought I could be effective and wasn’t hurting the team, I gave it a shot.”

McCarren’s quarterback during his playing days was Lynn Dickey, which is said was “the best deep thrower I’ve ever seen.”
“He could spin it, with accuracy on the deep ball,” he said. “He was the best.”

Life after football
Though he had hopes of playing longer, he called it a career in 1984 when he said his years of football started to catch up to him.

“I suffered a neck injury at the end of the ’84 season, and it affected some nerves,” he said. “I was planning to come back in ’85, but the Packers told me they weren’t going to pass me on my physical.”

Since it was pretty clear his playing days were done, McCarren said he went to work for Bellin Hospital in a management role.

“It was for a department away from the hospital – like a fitness center/sports medicine clinic, health education programs, things like that,” he said. “I stayed there for a couple of years, but I realized I probably couldn’t advance much further.”

After that, McCarren said he moved to the Chicago area, looking for something he could call his own.

“I was looking in terms of a franchise or something like that, so I worked at a Burger King for a week – it was the hardest I worked in my life,” he said. “After leaving the hospital and (working at Burger King), I was looking for something else to keep me busy.”

That’s when, McCarren said, he stumbled into a sportscaster job at WFRV-TV Channel 5 in Green Bay.

Larry McCarren, left, works with Wayne Larrivee broadcasting Green Bay Packers games on the radio. Photo Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers

“I did have a little TV experience, but I had seen Channel 5 had let their sports guy go,” he said. “So, I cut a tape – which was God awful – but the general manager at the time was a Packers nut, so they hired me anyway.”

McCarren said during his early days as a sportscaster, “I was awful.”

“The only reason I stayed on it was because I didn’t want to quit as an absolute failure,” he said. “I stuck with it and worked at it. Five or six years later, I said, ‘this is what I’ll do.’ I invested time and energy into it.”

According to, McCarren worked for WFRV-TV from 1998-2012, before moving to WGBA-TV Channel 26 from 2013-15.

Up next was the Packers Radio Network – a gig he started in 1995.

After 27 years working in Green Bay television, he joined the Packers’ digital department as a sports analyst and content provider for Packers digital platforms.

“I do the color analysis for the games on the radio (with Wayne Larrivee), and I also do stuff for the web,” he said. “Doing the radio is such a privilege. Packers radio matters, and to be a part of it for such a long time is a big deal to me.”

McCarren was voted Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association in 1994, 1996, 2002 and 2007.

He was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2016 and served on the Packers board of directors from 2015-22.

The 72-year-old McCarren said he has no immediate plans to stop doing what he loves – “I’m not quite ready to ride off into the sunset.”

“I realize I am an employee, and I’m at the discretion of others, but as of right now, I can’t see getting up and not going to work – I don’t view what I do now as work,” he said. “I still need that.”

McCarren said he doesn’t know “when retirement hits people.”

“I don’t want to be dead weight, and if I felt I was dead weight and couldn’t uphold my end of the bargain, I’d think about getting out immediately,” he said. “I may be delusional, but I still love what I’m doing. I suppose most people know when it’s time – that little birdy hasn’t talked in my ear yet. I do know I’m a (heckuva) lot closer to the end than the beginning.”

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