Former University of Georgia All-America quarterback Zeke Bratkowski died Monday at the age of 88 at his home in Florida according to the Green Bay Packers for whom he played from 1963-68.
Bratkowski was born Oct. 20, 1931, in Danville, Illinois—also the home of Dick Van Dyke and Gene Hackman. He became one of Georgia’s most celebrated quarterbacks under Coach Wally Butts followed by an outstanding 14-year career in the National Football League. “The Brat” earned All-America honors in both 1952 and ’53 and was the nation’s leading passer in ’52 and the nation’s leading punter in ’53.
He was a two-time All-SEC selection and two-time SEC passing champion throwing for 1,824 yards in ’52 and 1,461 yards in ’53. He set numerous UGA passing records and finished his career with 4,836 career passing yards. Following his senior season, Bratkowski threw touchdown passes of 50 and 60 yards in the Senior Bowl all-star game before embarking on a 14-year NFL career with the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, and Green Bay Packers.
In 1954, he was selected by the Chicago Bears in the annual NFL draft and earned the starting job as a rookie. He is still one of only three first-year quarterbacks to start a season opener for the Bears since 1933.
With the Packers, he became known as “Super Sub” backing up starter Bart Starr as Green Bay won three consecutive World Championships including two Super Bowls in 1966 and ‘67. In 1965, Bratkowski led the Packers from a 10-0 deficit to a 13-10 overtime victory over the Baltimore Colts clinching the NFL Western Conference title. In his 14 NFL seasons, he completed 762 of 1,488 passes for 10,345 yards and 65 touchdowns.
He was later inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in addition to his selection into the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Polish American Hall of Fame in 1995. He was inducted into the University of Georgia Circle of Honor in 2006.
Following his playing career, he became one of the NFL’s most successful offensive coordinators holding assistant coaching positions with several NFL teams including the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, Indianapolis Colts, NY Jets, Cleveland Browns, and Philadelphia Eagles.
Living in recent years in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, Bratkowski turned his attention to a special project away from football. assisting with hurricane relief efforts in Alabama’s Gulf Coast.