Most NFL fans know the winning team of the Super Bowl is awarded the Lombardi Trophy. I will even go so far as to say the younger NFL fans know Vince Lombardi was a coach. Oh was he a coach! For those of you who don’t know much about him, here is his story.
Vincent Thomas Lombardi was born June 11 1913 in Brooklyn New York. At age 15 Vince entered a 6 year program to become a priest! I have to wonder what football would have been like, had he continued that path. But after 4 years he quit and went to a public high school and was a football good football player there.
In 1933 Vince accepted a scholarship to play for coach Jim Crowley (one of the famed 4 Horsemen of Notre Dame) at Fordham University in the Bronx. Lombardi was a guard on one of the most famous offensive lines in college football history. The 7 blocks of granite.
In 1939 after trying semi pro football, Vince became an assistant football coach at St Cecilia a Catholic High School. Lombardi also taught Latin, Chemistry and Physics for just under $1,800 a year! He married the cousin of a Fordham teammate (Marie Planitz) and was at St Cecilia’s for 8 years, the last 5 as head coach.
He then spent 2 years as an assistant coach at Fordham, before taking a job at West Point ( United States Military academy AKA Army) as offensive line coach. His head coach and mentor was Colonel Red Blaik . This is where he developed the style that would make him so successful in the pro’s.
In 1954 at age 41 he became the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants under Jim Lee Howell. Lombardi was teamed with a defensive coordinator that a few of you have heard of, Tom Landry. In just 3 seasons they turned a 3-9 team into World Champions with a victory over the Chicago Bears.
In January of 1959 at age 45 he became the head coach and general manger of the Green Bay Packers. When he stepped into this job, he also stepped into history. He lead the team to a 7-5 record his first year and lost in the NFL championship game in his 2nd season.
Lombardi’s style was simple. He demanded and received perfection from his players. He concentrated on a few simple plays and demanded that that they were run perfectly each time. His Run to daylight philosophy was also a key. His teams ran sweeps a lot, where the guards would pull and block out on linemen or linebackers. His backs were instructed to find a hole and run to daylight
. He switched Hesiman Trophy winning quarterback Paul Hornung to halfback and paired him with Jim Taylor to form possibly the best running back combination on any NFL team. He also installed a little known 17th round draft pick from Alabama, named Bart Starr at quarterback.
Lombardi’s coaching record in the NFL was 105-35-6 and not one losing season. He led the Packers to 3 straight championships 1965, 66 and 67 including the first two Super Bowls. Once in his general manager’s role he was negotiating with Jim Ringo now a Hall of Fame center, on his contract. It was well known that Lombardi disliked sports agents. Ringo showed up with one and Lombardi excused himself. Returning a few moments later he addressed the two men. He explained that he couldn’t talk contract with them as Jim Ringo had just been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. It was Lombardi’s way or the highway.
In 1967 he stepped down as head coach but remained the general manger of the Green Bay Packers for one season. He then had a change of heart and returned to coaching with the Washington Redskins. The Redskins had, had 14 losing seasons in a row until Lombardi coached them the one season.
Just before his 2nd training camp in Washington, he was diagnosed with Cancer. Despite rigorous treatment, he died on September 3rd 1970. His funeral was at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. President Nixon sent a telegram of condolence and signed it “The People” Vincent Lombardi is buried next to his wife and parents in Middletownship New Jersey.
A week after his death the trophy given to the winning Super Bowl team was named the Lombardi Trophy. In 1971 Vince was enshrined in the NFL Football Hall Of Fame in Canton Ohio.