To keep the story short, Vince Lombardi was the coach of the Green Bay Packers when they took the very first Super Bowl win in 1967, and again in 1968. Later became an American sporting icon and lent his name to the prized Vince Lombardi trophy, which is awarded yearly to the winning team of the Super Bowl.
Yes, American Footballs’ most famous couch was nearly a priest. Vince’s parents emigrated from Italy and the family was deeply catholic with church attendance is mandatory in the Lombardi household. After eight grade the fifteen-year-old Vince moved onto a Catholic Preparatory Seminary where he played basketball but reportedly didn’t play very well due to his poor physic and eyesight.
Four years into the six-year program he decided the priesthood wasn’t for him and dropped out of the program. He went on to a preparatory high school where he joined his first official football team as a fullback on the All-City football team.
In 1933 Vince’s football destiny began when he received a football scholarship to Fordham University in the Bronx. Lombardi was small for his position on the team at 5’8” and 180 lbs but he made up for it with his aggressive and spirited playing.
At age 26, and in the midst of the Great Depression, Lombardi was hired on by former teammate to coach his first team at St. Cecillia Catholic High School in New Jersey. He stayed there eight years, becoming the head coach, and by the time he left the team was considered one of the best (if not the best) high school teams in the nation.
In 1947 Vince returned to his former college to coach the team he once played for. He coached both football and basketball during his time there. A year later he moved on to West Point where he would develop his famous coaching style with the help of head coach Earl “Colonel Red” Blaik. Coaching with Blaik taught him to blend his deep spiritual senses with the sharp and decisive military-style orders that would later become his trademark.
Lombardi would become famous for coaching the Green Bay Packers, but he got his start as the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants. With Lombardi on offense and other NFL great Tom Landry as defensive coordinator, the Giants transformed into a Championship team.
The Giants coach at the time Jim Howell once joked that with Landry and Lombardi running offense and defense all he had to do was to keep the air in the footballs. The Giants would go on to defeat the Chicago Bears 47-7 for the league title.
Lombardi tried unsuccessfully to find a head coach position for a long time. Despite his winsome career and glowing recommendations from coach Howell, it wasn’t until 1959 that he finally landed a position. He attributes this to the fact that many teams did not want a 100% Italian American coaching their team.
In 1959 the losing and dispirited Green Bay Packers hired him on as head coach and general manager, little did they know it at the time, but they couldn’t have made a better choice.
Lombardi’s dedicated and militaristic attitude immediately improved the team. He instituted grueling training sessions and absolutely expected complete dedication from the players. He was named Coach of the Year and sold out every Packers game for the 1960 season.
His piety and absolute authority gave him the nickname “The Pope” by the Packers community. Lombardi’s Packers set a longstanding record for winning 9 post-season games, a streak that would not be broken until the 2000s by Bill Belichick.
Lombardi was a winning machine, leading his Packers to win after win compiling three consecutive NFL championships from 1665-1967 culminating in the Packers winning the first two Super Bowls.
In 1969 Lombardi moved to become the head coach and general manager of the Redskins where he helped turn them into a winning team, the first time they were a winning team since 1955. He helped lay the groundwork for them to become successful in the 1970’s.
Lombardi passed on in September 1970 due to digestive tract problems. He received a call from President Nixon while in the hospital in which the president told him that all of America was wishing him well.
He is immortalized as one of the greatest coaches ever to live and by the Vince Lombardi trophy that is fought over tooth and nail by every team in the NFL every year.
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