Bratkowski played in the NFL for 14 seasons, with his most notable years coming as a backup to Bart Starr in Green Bay from 1963-68 and in 1971. Following his playing days, he went on to a nearly 30-year career as an NFL assistant coach, until retiring in 1996, including stints with the Packers, Bears, Colts, Jets, Browns and Eagles. Appropriately, Bratkowski was revered for his work with quarterbacks, and his career included a couple of stretches as offensive coordinator.
He now lives in Santa Rose Beach, Fla., falling in love with the blue water and white sand beaches in the 1950s when he was stationed at nearby Eglin Air Force Base. He and Packers wide receiver Max McGee were pilots in the same squadron.
Bratkowski was qualified on both propeller and jet aircraft and fulfilled his military commitment after serving in the ROTC at the University of Georgia.
For Bratkowski, it hasn't been all long walks on manicured grass and the beach since leaving the coaching ranks, even though he lives less than a mile from the Gulf of Mexico. After years of tutoring quarterbacks in the NFL, he now works with young passers to prepare them for their pro careers, particularly the scrutiny that comes in pre-draft workouts.
The stable of quarterbacks with whom he has worked includes Michael Vick, Philip Rivers and six weeks in 2010 with Tim Tebow. In recent months, Bratkowski has been polishing the skills of Texas A&M prospect Jerrod Johnson.
"I don't go looking for the work, but it's something that I do and enjoy," he said. "I coached 26 years, and the part I really enjoyed was teaching. That's what is really special. I also work with some high school kids, but that's not as a business."
During his career with the Packers, Bratkowski was known as the "super sub" behind Starr, and had some sparkling moments when the Hall of Famer was unable to play. In 1965, Bratkowski came off the bench against the Colts in a playoff to determine the Western Division title. He led the Packers to a late, game-tying field goal to force overtime and, in the extra period, marched Green Bay to another field goal for a 13-10 victory. The Packers would go on to win the first of three consecutive NFL championships.
During his career with the Packers, Bratkowski completed 220 of 416 passes for 3,147 yards and 21 TDs. It was his time on the sidelines that developed his interest in coaching, as well as playing under Lombardi.
"That was the highlight of my career," he said. "We had great teams when we won those championships, but Coach Lombardi always used to say to be really special you had to win again. When you think about it, we never had a weight room and we didn't have an offseason program because everyone had to work. The way he motivated us for success carried on through life."
After winning NFL titles from 1965-67, including victories in the first two Super Bowls, Bratkowski wouldn't reach the Super Bowl in nearly three decades as a coach.
"The routine finally got to me," he said. "I looked forward to the games, but with some head coaches you got off a little earlier and with some coaches you didn't leave the office until one a.m. The grind, the injuries to your personnel, the losses in the playoffs would be just devastating. I finally looked at myself in the mirror and knew it was time to retire."
His name is still alive in NFL coaching circles. His son, Bob, is quarterbacks coach of the Atlanta Falcons, a job he took in February after serving as offensive coordinator in Cincinnati for a decade.
Ricky Zeller is a contributing writer for packers.com. He has covered the NFL for several publications.
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