Vince Lombardi

Vincent Thomas Lombardi (June 11, 1913 – September 3, 1970)[1] was an American football player, coach, and executive in the National Football League (NFL). He is best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, where he led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, in addition to winning the first two Super Bowls at the conclusion of the 1966 and 1967 NFL seasons. Following his sudden death from cancer in 1970, the NFL Super Bowl trophy was named in his honor. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, the year after his death. Lombardi is considered by many to be the greatest coach in football history, and he is more significantly recognized as one of the greatest coaches and leaders in the history of any American sport.[2]

Lombardi began his coaching career as an assistant and later as a head coach at St. Cecilia High School in Englewood, New Jersey. He was an assistant coach at Fordham, at the United States Military Academy, and with the New York Giants before becoming a head coach for the Green Bay Packers from 1959 to 1967 and the Washington Redskins in 1969. He never had a losing season as a head coach in the NFL, compiling a regular season winning percentage of 72.8% (96–34–6), and 90% (9–1) in the postseason for an overall record of 105 wins, 35 losses, and 6 ties in the NFL.[3]

Vince Lombardi
refer to caption
Lombardi (left) with Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr
Personal information
Born:June 11, 1913
Brooklyn, New York
Died:September 3, 1970 (aged 57)
Washington, D.C.
Career information
High school:Queens (NY) St. Francis Prep
Career history
As player:
As coach:
As administrator:
  • Green Bay Packers (19591968) (General manager)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Win–loss record:96–34–6
Winning percentage:.738
Playoff record:9–1
Overall record:105–35–6
Coaching stats at PFR

Early years

Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913 in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn to Enrico "Harry" Lombardi (1889–1971) and Matilda "Mattie" Izzo (1891–1972).[4][5] Harry's mother and father, Vincenzo and Michelina, emigrated from Salerno, Italy.[6][7] Mattie's father and mother, Anthony and Loretta, emigrated from Vietri di Potenza, Basilicata.[4][5] Harry had three siblings[4][7] and Matilda had twelve.[4][5] Vince would be the oldest of five children, Madeleine, Harold, Claire, and Joe.[5][8] The entire Lombardi and Izzo clan settled in Sheepshead Bay.[4][9]

Matilda's father, Anthony, opened up a barber shop in Sheepshead Bay before the turn of the century.[4][5] At about the time of Lombardi's birth, Harry, and his brother, Eddie, opened a butcher shop in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan.[4][10] Throughout the Great Depression, Harry's shop did well and his family prospered.[11][12] Lombardi grew up in an ethnically diverse, middle-class neighborhood.[13][14]

St Marks RCC Jerome Av 2609 E19 jeh
St Mark's

Church attendance was mandatory for the Lombardis on Sundays.[15][16] Mass would be followed with an equally compulsory few hours of dinner with friends, extended family members, and local clergy.[17][18] Lombardi himself was an altar boy at St. Mark's Catholic Church.[15][16] Outside their local neighborhood, the Lombardi children were subject to the rampant ethnic discrimination that existed at the time against Italian immigrants and their descendants.[19] As a child, Lombardi helped his father at his meat cutting business, but grew to hate it.[20][21] At the age of 12 he started playing in an uncoached but organized football league in Sheepshead Bay.[16]

High school

Lombardi graduated from the eighth grade at P.S. 206 at age 15 in 1928.[9][22][note 1] He then matriculated with the Cathedral Preparatory Seminary (Queens) a part of Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in Brooklyn, a six-year secondary program to become a Catholic priest.[9][22] At Cathedral, he played on the school's baseball and basketball teams,[23][24] but his performance was hindered by his poor athleticism and eyesight.[16] Against school rules, he continued to play football off-campus throughout his studies at Cathedral.[25] After completing four years at Cathedral he decided not to pursue the priesthood.[25] He enrolled at St. Francis Preparatory high school for the fall of 1932.[26][27][note 2] There he became a Charter Member of Omega Gamma Delta fraternity.[28] His playing as a fullback on the Terriers' football team earned him a spot on the virtual All-City football team.[29][30]

Fordham University

In 1933, Lombardi received a football scholarship[31] to Fordham University[32] in the Bronx to play for the Fordham Rams and Coach Jim Crowley, who was one of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame in the 1920s. During his freshman year, Lombardi proved to be an aggressive and spirited player on the football field.[33] Prior to the beginning of his sophomore year, Lombardi was projected to start games at the tackle position. Lombardi was only 5'8" and about 180 pounds and was classified as undersized for the position [34]

In his senior year of 1936, he was the right guard in the Seven Blocks of Granite,[35] a nickname given by a Fordham University publicist to the Fordham University football team's offensive front line.[36][note 3][37] In a game against Pitt, he suffered a severe gash inside his mouth and had several teeth knocked out.[38] He missed most of the remainder of the game, until he was called in on defense for a successful goal line stand that preserved a 0–0 tie. The Rams were 5–0–2[39] before losing in the final game of the season, 7–6, to NYU.[40] The loss destroyed all hopes of Fordham playing in the Rose Bowl and taught Lombardi a lesson he would never forget — never to underestimate your opponent.[41]

Early career

Lombardi graduated from Fordham University on June 16, 1937.[42][43] The economic outlook of the Great Depression offered him few opportunities for a career. For the next two years, he showed no discernible career path or ambition. He tried his hand at semi-professional football with the Wilmington Clippers[44] of the American Association and as a debt collector, but those efforts very quickly proved to be failures. With his father's strong support, he enrolled in Fordham Law school in September 1938. Although he did not fail any classes, he believed his grades were so poor that he dropped out after one semester.[45] Later in life, he would explain to others that he was close to graduating, but his desire to start and support a family forced him to leave law school and get a job.[46] He would also join the Brooklyn Eagles.

Coaching career

St. Cecilia High School

In 1939, Lombardi wanted to marry his girlfriend, Marie Planitz (1915–1982),[47][48] but he deferred at his father's insistence because he needed a steady job to support himself and a family; he would marry Marie the following year.[49] In 1939, Lombardi accepted an assistant coaching job at St. Cecilia, a Roman Catholic high school in Englewood, New Jersey.[50][51] He was offered the position by the school's new head coach, Lombardi's former Fordham teammate, quarterback Andy Palau. Palau had just taken over the head coaching position from another Fordham teammate, Nat Pierce (left guard), who had accepted an assistant coach's job back at Fordham. In addition to coaching, Lombardi, age 26, also taught Latin, chemistry, and physics for an annual salary of under $1,000.[52][note 4] Andy Palau left for Fordham in 1942 and Lombardi became the head coach at St. Cecilia. Lombardi stayed a total of eight years, five as head coach. In 1943, St. Cecilia's was recognized as the top football team in the nation, in large part based on their victory over Brooklyn Prep, a Jesuit school considered one of the best teams on the American eastern seaboard. Brooklyn Prep that season was led by senior Joe Paterno, who, like Lombardi, would rise to legend-status in football. Lombardi won six championships.[53] At St. Cecilia, Lombardi became the President of the Bergen County Coaches' Association.[54]

Fordham University

In 1947, Lombardi became the coach of freshman teams in football and basketball at Fordham University. The following year, he served as an assistant coach for Fordham's varsity football team, but he was arguably the de facto head coach.[55]

West Point

Following the 1948 football season, Lombardi accepted an assistant's job, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a position that would greatly influence his future coaching style. Lombardi served as offensive line coach[56] under legendary head coach Earl "Colonel Red" Blaik. "As integral as religion was to [Lombardi's] sense of self, it was not until he reached West Point and combined his spiritual discipline with Blaik's military discipline that his coaching persona began to take its mature form."[57] Blaik's emphasis on execution[58] would become a trademark of Lombardi's coaching.[59] Lombardi coached at West Point for five seasons, with varying results. The 1949 and 1950 seasons were successful. But the 1951 and 1952 seasons were not successful due to the aftermath of a cadet cribbing scandal (a violation of the Cadet Honor Code[60]) which was revealed in the spring of 1951. As a result, 43 of the 45 members of the varsity football team were discharged by administrative order.[61] "Decades later, looking back on his rise, Lombardi came to regard ..." Blaik's decision not to resign "... as a pivotal moment in his [own] career" — it taught him perseverance.[62] After the seasons of 1951 and 1952 not much was expected from the 1953 team as it had also lost six players due to academic failure. The team of 1953 however did go on to be 7–1–1, as Lombardi had a bigger role than ever in coaching the team.[63] Following these five seasons at Army, Lombardi accepted an assistant coaching position with the New York Giants.

New York Giants

At age 41 in 1954, Lombardi began his NFL career with the New York Giants. He accepted a job that would later become known as the offensive coordinator position under new head coach Jim Lee Howell.[64] The Giants had finished the previous season under 23-year coach Steve Owen with a 3–9 record. By the third season, Lombardi, along with the defensive coordinator, former All-Pro cornerback turned coach Tom Landry, turned the squad into a championship team, defeating the Chicago Bears 47–7 for the league title in 1956. "Howell readily acknowledged the talents of Lombardi and Landry, and joked self-deprecatingly, that his main function was to make sure the footballs had air in them."[65] At points in his tenure as an assistant coach at West Point, and as an assistant coach with the Giants, Lombardi worried that he was unable to land a head coaching job due to prejudice against his Italian heritage,[66] especially with respect to Southern colleges.[67] Howell wrote numerous recommendations for Lombardi to aid Vince in obtaining a head coaching position. Lombardi applied for head coaching positions at Wake Forest,[68] Notre Dame and other universities and, in some cases, never received a reply.[67] In New York, Lombardi introduced the strategy of rule blocking to the NFL.[69] In rule blocking, the offensive lineman would block an area, and not necessarily a particular defensive player, as was the norm up to that time.[70] The running back then was expected to run toward any hole that was created. Lombardi referred to this as running to daylight.

Green Bay Packers


For the 1958 NFL season, the Packers, with five future Hall of Famers playing on the team,[71][note 5] finished with a record of 1–10–1,[71] the worst in Packer history.[72] The players were dispirited,[73] the Packer shareholders were disheartened, and the Green Bay community was enraged. The angst in Green Bay extended to the NFL as a whole, as the financial viability and the very existence of the Green Bay Packer franchise were in jeopardy. On February 2, 1959, Vince Lombardi accepted the position of head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers.[74]

Lombardi created punishing training regimens and expected absolute dedication and effort from his players. The 1959 Packers were an immediate improvement, finishing at 7–5. Rookie head coach Lombardi was named Coach of the Year.[75] The fans appreciated what Lombardi was trying to do, and responded by selling out every game for the 1960 season. Every Packers home game—preseason, regular season and playoffs—has been sold out ever since.


In his second year, Green Bay won the NFL Western Conference for the first time since 1944. This victory, along with his well-known religious convictions[76] led the Green Bay community to anointing him with the nickname "The Pope".[76] Lombardi led the Packers to the 1960 NFL Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Before the championship game, Lombardi met with Wellington Mara and advised him that he would not take the Giants' head coaching job, which was initially offered after the end of the 1959 season.[77] In the final play of the game, in a drive that would have won it, the Packers were stopped a few yards from the goal line. Lombardi had suffered his first, and his only ever, championship game loss. After the game, and after the press corps had left the locker room, Lombardi told his team, "This will never happen again. You will never lose another championship."[78] In later years as coach of the Packers, Lombardi made it a point to admonish his running backs that if they failed to score from one yard out, he would consider it a personal affront to him and he would seek retribution.[79] He would coach the Packers to win their next nine post-season games, a record streak not matched or broken until Bill Belichick won 10 in a row from 2002 to 2006.[80] The Packers would defeat the Giants for the NFL title in 1961 (37–0 in Green Bay) and 1962 (16–7 at Yankee Stadium), marking the first two of their five titles in Lombardi's seven years. After the 1962 championship win, President John F. Kennedy called Lombardi and asked him if he would "come back to Army and coach again"; Kennedy received Lombardi's tacit denial of the request.[81] His only other post-season loss occurred to the St. Louis Cardinals in the Playoff Bowl (3rd place game) after the 1964 season (officially classified as an exhibition game).[82]

Including postseason but excluding exhibition games, Lombardi went on to compile a 105–35–6 (.740 winning percent) record as head coach, and he never suffered a losing season.[83] He led the Packers to three consecutive NFL championships — in 1965, 1966, and 1967 — a feat accomplished only once before in the history of the league (by Curly Lambeau, co-founder of the Packers, who coached the team to their first three straight NFL Championships in 1929, 1930, and 1931). At the conclusion of the 1966 and 1967 seasons, Lombardi's Packers would go on to win the first two Super Bowls.[84][85][86] Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers to championships in five of seven seasons.[87]

Packers Sweep

As coach of the Packers, Lombardi converted Notre Dame quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung to a full-time halfback. Lombardi also designed a play for Jim Taylor, the Green Bay fullback—both guards, Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston, pulled to the outside and blocked downfield while Taylor would "run to daylight" — i.e., wherever the defenders weren't. This was a play that he had originally developed with the Giants for Frank Gifford. It soon became known as the Packers sweep or the Lombardi sweep, though Lombardi openly admitted it was based on an old single wing concept.

Lombardi's Packers hosted the Dallas Cowboys in Green Bay on December 31, 1967 in the NFL Championship Game of 1967.[88] This became known as the "Ice Bowl" because of the −13 °F game time temperature. Lombardi had a heating coil underneath the field but on this day it was not functioning, some people believe that he turned it off on purpose. With 16 seconds left in the game and down by 3 points, the Packers called their final time-out. It was 3rd and goal on the Dallas 2 foot line.[89] In the huddle, with the game on the line, Quarterback Bart Starr asked Kramer whether he could get enough traction on the icy turf for a wedge play and Kramer responded with an unequivocal yes.[90] Starr came over to Lombardi on the sidelines to discuss the last play and told him he wanted to run a 31 wedge, but with him keeping the ball. Lombardi told Starr to 'Run it! And let's get the hell out of here!' Lombardi was asked by Pat Peppler what play Starr would call, to which Lombardi replied, 'Damned if I know.'[91] Starr returned to the huddle and called a Brown right 31 Wedge,[92] but with him keeping the ball.[93][94] Kramer blocked Jethro Pugh low and Ken Bowman hit Pugh high as Starr followed them into the end zone for the Packer lead and eventual victory.

Washington Redskins

Lombardi stepped down as head coach of the Packers on February 1, 1968, staying on as the team's general manager for 1968. He handed off the head coaching position to Phil Bengtson, a longtime assistant, but the Packers finished at 6–7–1 and out of the four team NFL playoffs. In 1969, Lombardi became head coach and general manager of the Washington Redskins. The Redskins would finish with a record of 7–5–2, their first winning record in 14 years. The foundation that Lombardi put in place helped Washington's early 1970s success under former Los Angeles Rams coach George Allen.

Personal life


In the fall of 1934 Lombardi's roommate Jim Lawlor introduced him to his cousin's relative, Marie Planitz.[95] When Marie announced her ardent desire to marry Lombardi, her status-conscious stockbroker father didn't like the idea of his daughter marrying the son of an Italian butcher from Brooklyn,[96] a prejudice he would face more than once in his life.[97][98] Lombardi and Marie wed, nonetheless, on August 31, 1940.[99]

He seemed preoccupied with football even on their honeymoon, and cut it short to get back to Englewood ... 'I wasn't married to him more than one week', she later related, 'when I said to myself, Marie Planitz, you've made the greatest mistake of your life.'[99]

Marie's first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. This had a terrible effect on Marie and caused her to turn to heavy drinking,[100] a problem she would deal with on more than one occasion in her life.[101] Their son, Vincent Harold Lombardi (Vince Jr.), was born in 1942, [102] and their daughter Susan followed five years later in 1947.[103]

Lombardi's perfectionism,[84][104] authoritarian nature[105] and temper,[99] instilled in his wife a masterful ability to verbally assault and demean Lombardi when he verbally abused her.[38] His children were not immune from his yelling. When Lombardi had not lost his temper, he would often be reticent and aloof.[106]

Lombardi's grandson, Joe Lombardi, was named the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions in January 2014.[107] He was relieved of this position midway through the 2015 season. Lombardi was previously quarterbacks coach for the New Orleans Saints. In the 2009 season, he helped lead the Saints to win the trophy bearing his grandfather's name and Drew Brees to win a Super Bowl MVP award.[108]

World War II deferments

Lombardi did not serve in World War II though he was in his late 20s when the war broke out. He obtained a series of deferments: his first was a 2-A due to his teaching occupation; in 1943, he obtained a second deferment due to parenthood (3-A); and his final deferment was labelled a 4-A and given in 1944.[109]


The three constants throughout Lombardi's life were sports—particularly football—family and religion.[110] His father was a daily Communicant throughout his life[15] and his mother's favorite picture of Vince as a child was on his Confirmation.[16] When Lombardi was 12, while serving as an altar boy on Easter Sunday, "... amid the color and pageantry scarlet and white vestments, golden cross, scepters, the wafers and wine, body and blood ... that the inspiration came to him that he should become a priest ...",.[16] When his mother, Matty, got wind of it she bragged about her son's plan to her neighbors.[24] Lombardi attended Mass on a daily basis throughout his life.[111]

During his tenure at St. Cecilia, Lombardi attended Mass every day and "prayed for calm and control: of his temper and ... his wife's drinking." When Lombardi became head coach of football in 1942, he would lead his team to Sunday Mass before each home game.[112] At St. Cecilia, Lombardi shared an office with Father Tim Moore wherein it was not unusual for Lombardi to interrupt a conversation and request to go to Confession and which Father Tim would oblige him right in the office.[113]

During his stay at Green Bay, Lombardi once emerged from his office and appeared before his secretary, Ruth McKloskey, wearing "... all these priest robes on, and he had a miter with a tassel, everything."[114] Each day on his way to work for the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi would stop at St. Willebrord Church and "offer a prayer in case of unexpected death: 'My God, if I am to die today, or suddenly at any time, I wish to receive this Communion as my viaticum ... '".[115] He regularly attended Sunday Mass at Resurrection Church in the Allouez neighborhood of Green Bay's southeast side, always sitting with his wife in the middle of the ninth pew.[116]

On the morning of the dedication of Lombardi Avenue, Lombardi remarked to his 37-member entourage that he was pleased to have gotten them all up to attend morning Mass.[117] Lombardi was also a 4th degree in the Knights of Columbus.

Unprejudiced nature

In 1960, a color barrier still existed on at least one team in the NFL,[118][119] but Jack Vainisi, the Scouting Director for the Packers,[83] and Lombardi were determined "to ignore the prejudices then prevalent in most NFL front offices in their search for the most talented players."[120] Lombardi explained his views by saying that he "... viewed his players as neither black nor white, but Packer green".[121] Among professional football head coaches, Lombardi's view on discrimination was not de rigueur in the midst of the civil rights movement.[122] When Lombardi joined the Packers, they only had one black player, Nate Borden. During his time as coach the team became fully integrated: by 1967 they had 13 black players, including All-Pros Willie Davis, Willie Wood, Dave Robinson, Herb Adderley and Bob Jeter.[123]

During his first training camp in Green Bay, Lombardi was notified by Packer veterans that an interracial relationship existed between one of the Packer rookies and a young woman.[124] The next day at training camp, Lombardi—who was vehemently opposed to Jim Crow discrimination and had a zero-tolerance policy towards racism—responded by warning his team that if any player exhibited prejudice in any manner, that specific player would be thrown off the team. Lombardi let it be known to all Green Bay establishments that if they did not accommodate his black and white players equally well, then that business would be off-limits to the entire team.[125] Before the start of the 1960 regular season, he instituted a policy that the Packers would only lodge in places that accepted all his players.[126] Lombardi also refused to assign hotel rooms to players based on their race: by 1967 the Packers were the only team with such a policy.[123] Lombardi was a member of the all-white Oneida Golf and Riding Country club in Green Bay, and he demanded that he should be allowed to choose a Native American caddie, even if white caddies were available.[127] Lombardi's view on racial matters was a result of his religious faith and the ethnic prejudice that he had experienced as an Italian-American.[128]

Gay rights

Lombardi was known to be volatile and terse with players during practices and games, and he insisted on unconditional respect for everyone in his organization.[130] Lombardi demanded "Nothing But Acceptance" from players and coaches toward all people, and he would immediately terminate a coach or release a player if that particular person insulted the sexual orientation of gay players and front office staff.[131] According to Lombardi biographer and Pulitzer Prize winning writer David Maraniss, if he caught a coach "discriminating against a player thought to be gay, he'd be fired."[132] Richard Nicholls, the lifelong partner of Lombardi's younger brother, Hal, stated, "Vin was always fair in how he treated everybody ... a great man who accepted people at face value for what they were, and didn't judge anybody. He just wanted you to do the job."[133]

In Washington, Lombardi's assistant general manager David Slatterly was gay, as was PR director Joe Blair, who was described as Lombardi's "right-hand man."[134] According to son Vince Lombardi, Jr., "He saw everyone as equals, and I think having a gay brother (Hal) was a big factor in his approach ... I think my father would've felt, 'I hope I've created an atmosphere in the locker room where this would not be an issue at all. And if you do have an issue, the problem will be yours because my locker room will tolerate nothing but acceptance.'"[133]

Upon his arrival in Washington, Lombardi was aware of tight end Jerry Smith's sexual orientation.[135] "Lombardi protected and loved Jerry," said former teammate Dave Kopay.[136] Lombardi brought Smith into his office and told him that his sexual orientation would never be an issue as long as he was coaching the Redskins; Smith would be judged solely on his on-the-field performance and contribution to the team's success.[137] Under Lombardi's leadership Smith flourished, becoming an integral part of Lombardi's offense, and was voted a First Team All-Pro for the first time in his career, which was also Lombardi's only season as Redskin head coach.[138]

Lombardi invited other gay players to training camp and would privately hope they would prove they could earn a spot on the team.[139] At the Washington Redskins training camp in 1969, Ray McDonald was a gay player, with sub-par skills,[140] who was trying to make the Redskin roster again, but this time with Lombardi as the Redskins' new head coach. True to his word, Lombardi told running back coach, George Dickson,[141] 'I want you to get on McDonald and work on him and work on him – and if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood, you'll be out of here before your ass hits the ground.'[142]


Although his wife was a Republican, Lombardi was a lifelong Democrat with liberal views on civil rights and gun control: he supported John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election, Robert F. Kennedy in the 1968 primaries, and was also a supporter of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson.[123][143] Despite this, during the 1960s he became uncomfortable with the burgeoning youth protest movements associated with the emerging counterculture, such as the New Left and the movement against the Vietnam War. In a speech that he first gave in February 1967 to the American Management Association, he suggested that "everything has been done to strengthen the rights of the individual and at the same time weaken the rights of the church, weaken the rights of the state, and weaken the rights of all authority". Due to Lombardi's popularity, Richard Nixon once floated him as a running mate, but dropped the idea upon learning about his liberal beliefs.[123][143]

Illness and death

Lombardi had suffered from digestive tract problems as early as 1967, and he had refused his doctor's request to undergo a proctoscopic exam.[144] On June 24, 1970, Lombardi was admitted to Georgetown University Hospital, and tests "revealed anaplastic carcinoma in the rectal area of his colon, a fast-growing malignant cancer in which the cells barely resemble their normal appearance."[145] On July 27, Lombardi was readmitted to Georgetown and exploratory surgery found that the cancer was terminal.[146] Lombardi and Marie received family, friends, clergy, players, and former players at his hospital bedside.[147] He received a phone call from President Nixon telling Lombardi that all of America was behind him, to which Lombardi replied that he would never give up his fight against his illness.[148] On his deathbed, Lombardi told Father Tim that he was not afraid to die, but that he regretted he could not have accomplished more in his life.[149] Lombardi died in Washington, D.C. at 7:12 a.m. on Thursday, September 3, 1970. He was 57.[150] He was surrounded by his wife, parents, two children, and six grandchildren.

The funeral was held on September 7 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. Approximately 1,500 people[151] lined Fifth Avenue, and the avenue was closed to traffic between 39th and 50th Street. Terence Cardinal Cooke delivered the eulogy. In attendance were team owners, Commissioner Pete Rozelle, past and present members of the Packers, Redskins, and Giants, former students from Saints, colleagues and players from West Point, and classmates from Fordham University, including the remaining Seven Blocks of Granite.[note 6][152] Lombardi was interred in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Middletown Township, New Jersey.[153]

Popular culture

In 1968, Lombardi starred in a half-hour motivational film titled Second Effort, that has been called "The best-selling training film of all time".[154][155]

On December 14, 1973, ABC aired Legend in Granite starring Ernest Borgnine as Vince. The biographical TV drama focused mostly on his first two years as Packers head coach (1959–1960).[156]

The Vince Lombardi Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike is a fitting tribute to the man who worked in the Garden State.

The high school in the 1979 movie Rock 'n' Roll High School was named after Vince Lombardi.

In 1986, the Canadian TV station CHCH aired the TV movie Lombardi: I Am Not a Legend starring Robert Knuckle in the title role that depicted Lombardi's life up until the NFL.[157]

In 1996, Nike aired several commercials featuring Jerry Stiller as the ghost of Lombardi.

ESPN produced the 2005 TV movie Code Breakers that depicted the West Point cheating scandal and its effect on the football program. Richard Zeppieri was cast as Assistant Coach Vince Lombardi.[158]

A play titled Lombardi opened on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City in October 2010, following an out-of-town tryout at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The production starred Dan Lauria as Lombardi and Judith Light as his wife, Marie. The play received positive reviews, as did Lauria's performance.[159]

NFL Films and HBO produced a film about Lombardi that debuted Saturday, December 11, 2010.[160]


Vince Lombardi stamp
The USPS issued a stamp honoring Vince Lombardi in 1997.

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win ratio Finish Won Lost Win percentage Result
GB 1959 7 5 0 .583 3rd (tie) in NFL West
GB 1960 8 4 0 .667 1st in NFL West 0 1 .000 Lost to Philadelphia Eagles in NFL Championship
GB 1961 11 3 0 .786 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Won NFL Championship
GB 1962 13 1 0 .929 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Won NFL Championship
GB 1963 11 2 1 .846 2nd in NFL West
GB 1964 8 5 1 .615 2nd in NFL West
GB 1965 10 3 1 .769 1st in NFL West 2 0 1.000 Won NFL Championship
GB 1966 12 2 0 .847 1st in NFL West 2 0 1.000 Won Super Bowl I
GB 1967 9 4 1 .692 1st in NFL Central 3 0 1.000 Won Super Bowl II
GB Total 89 29 4 .754 9 1 .900 5 NFL Championships, 6 conference titles,
in 9 seasons
WAS 1969 7 5 2 .583 2nd in Eastern Capital
WAS Total 7 5 2 .583
Total 96 34 6 .738 9 1 .900



Books written about him

  • Instant Replay, the Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap
  • Football's Greatest Coach: Vince Lombardi by Gene Schoor
  • The Lombardi Legacy: Thirty People who were Touched by Greatness by Royce Boyles and Dave Robinson
  • Coach: A Season With Lombardi by Tom Dowling
  • By Their Works: Profiles of Men of Faith Who Made a Difference by Stephen Singular
  • When Pride Still Mattered : A Life Of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss
  • Vince by Michael O'Brien
  • Run to Win: Vince Lombardi on Coaching and Leadership by Donald T. Phillips
  • Vince Lombardi "A Life" by: The Editors Of New World City

See also


  1. ^ O'Brien incorrectly implies he graduated in 1929 from eighth grade which is completely refuted by Maraniss and O'Brien's date of 1928 makes no sense. O'Brien, on page 28, writes he left after three years there when he left after four.
  2. ^ His stint at seminary school would cost him one year of his academic life as he would be, generally speaking, repeating his senior year of high school in order to obtain a high school diploma.
  3. ^ The Seven Blocks of Granite of the 1936 line were Leo Paquin, Johnny 'Tarzan' Druze, Alex Franklin Wojciechowicz, Ed 'Devil Doll' Franco, Al 'Ali Baba' Babartsky, Natty Pierce, and Vince Lombardi.
  4. ^ Maraniss 1999 lists his starting salary as $1,700, pg. 70, and O'Brien 1987 lists it as $1,000, pg. 51. Wiebusch's source is a quote from Father Tim Moore.
  5. ^ The five future hall of famers were Forrest Gregg, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, and Bart Starr.
  6. ^ Honorary pallbearers included Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Tony Canadeo, Wellington Mara, Dick Bourguignon, Edward Bennett Williams, and Marc Chubb.


  1. ^ Maraniss 1999, p. 2.
  2. ^ "Countdown - No. 1: Vince Lombardi". Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  3. ^ "Hall of Famers » VINCE LOMBARDI". Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g O'Brien 1987, p. 21.
  5. ^ a b c d e Maraniss 1999, p. 17.
  6. ^ O'Brien 1987, p. 20.
  7. ^ a b Maraniss 1999, p. 23.
  8. ^ O'Brien 1987, p. 22.
  9. ^ a b c Maraniss 1999, p. 25.
  10. ^ Maraniss 1999, p. 16.
  11. ^ O'Brien 1987, pp. 21, 23.
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  • Claerbaut, David (2004). Bart Starr: When Leadership Mattered. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-117-6.
  • Davis, Jeff (2005). Papa Bear, the life and legacy of George Halas. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-146054-5.
  • Davis, Jeff (2008). Rozelle: Czar of the NFL. Foreword by Ernie Accorsi. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-159352-6.
  • Day, Paul; Iyer, Vinnie; Boswell, James (August 3, 2009). "Sports' 50 greatest coaches". Sporting News. 233 (16): 32–45.
  • Eisenberg, John (2009). That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
  • Flynn, George L. (1976). The Vince Lombardi Scrapbook. New York: Grosset and Dunlap New York. ISBN 978-0-448-12401-8.
  • Gruver, Edward (1998). The Ice Bowl: The Cold Truth About Football's Most Unforgettable Game. Ithaca, New York: McBooks Press, Inc. ISBN 978-1-59013-080-3.
  • Kramer, Jerry; Schapp, Dick (2006). Instant Replay, The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-51745-4.
  • Levy, Alan H. (2003). Tackling Jim Crow, Racial Segregation in Professional Football. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Co., Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-1597-7.
  • Lombardi Jr., Vince (2003). The Essential Vince Lombardi: Words & Wisdom to Motivate. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-139096-5.
  • MacCambridge, Michael (2004). America's Game. New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-307-48143-6.
  • Maraniss, David (1999). When Pride Still Mattered, A Life of Vince Lombardi. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-618-90499-0.
  • O'Brien, Michael (1987). Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-688-07406-7.
  • Phillips, Donald T. (2001). Run to Win. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-27298-2.
  • Ross, Charles K. (1999). Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League. New York: New York Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8147-7495-3.
  • Summerall, Pat; Levin, Michael (2010). Giants: What I learned about life from Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. ISBN 978-0-470-90908-9.
  • Wiebusch, John (1971). Lombardi. Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 978-1-57243-028-0.

Further reading

  • Cavanaugh, Jack (2008), Giants Among Men. New York:Random House. ISBN 978-1-58836-697-9
  • Gifford, Frank and Richmond, Peter (2008), The Glory Game:How the 1958 NFL Championship Changed Football Forever. New York:Harper Collins ISBN 978-0-06-171659-1
  • Lombardi, Vince Jr. (2001), What It Takes to Be #1: Vince Lombardi on Leadership. New York:McGraw-Hill.
  • Lombardi, Vince Jr. (2003), The Lombardi Rules: 26 Lessons from Vince Lombardi:The World's Greatest Coach. New York:McGraw-Hill

External links

1959 Green Bay Packers season

The 1959 Green Bay Packers season was their 41st season overall and their 39th season in the National Football League and 41st overall. The club posted a 7–5 record in the 1959 season under first-year coach Vince Lombardi to earn a third-place finish in the Western Conference.

It was the Packers' first winning season in a dozen years, the last was a 6–5–1 mark in 1947. Green Bay had just one victory during the previous season in 1958 with the worst record in the 12-team league, and were 3–9 in 1957, tied for worst.

1961 NFL Championship Game

The 1961 National Football League Championship Game was the 29th title game. It was played at "New" City Stadium, later known as Lambeau Field, in Green Bay, Wisconsin on December 31, with an attendance of 39,029.The game was a match-up of the Eastern Conference champion New York Giants (10–3–1) and the Western Conference champion Green Bay Packers (11–3). The home team Packers were a 3⅓-point favorite.Packers Ray Nitschke, Boyd Dowler, and Paul Hornung, were on leave from the U.S. Army. Hornung scored 19 points (a touchdown, three field goals, and four extra points) for the Packers and was named the MVP of the game, and awarded a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette from Sport magazine.The victory was the first of five NFL titles won in a seven-season span by the Packers and their head coach, Vince Lombardi. It was the Packers' seventh league title and their first in 17 years.

1961 New York Giants season

The 1961 New York Giants season was the franchise's 37th season in the National Football League. After relinquishing the NFL East title the previous season, the Giants reclaimed the title with a 10–3–1 record, only to lose to the Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Game in Wisconsin.

1961 Pro Bowl

The 1961 Pro Bowl was the NFL's eleventh annual all-star game which featured the outstanding performers from the 1960 season. The game was played on January 15, 1961, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California in front of 62,971 fans. The final score was West 35, East 31.The coaches were Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers and Buck Shaw of the Philadelphia Eagles. This game marked the end of the great career of Norm Van Brocklin. The Eagles' quarterback was playing in his final game after 12 seasons, having been named the coach of the expansion Minnesota Vikings. Van Brocklin was angry that the Eagles had not named him head coach, which he said they had promised following the retirement of Buck Shaw.Jim Taylor scored a record three touchdowns, and Van Brocklin established Pro Bowl records for passing with 288 yards and three touchdowns. Yet fan favorite Johnny Unitas was voted the game’s outstanding back for the second season in a row and the Giants' Sam Huff took the lineman honors.

1963 Pro Bowl

The 1963 Pro Bowl was the NFL's thirteenth annual all-star game which featured the outstanding performers from the 1962 season. The game was played on January 13, 1963, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California in front of 61,374 fans. The Eastern Conference was coached by Allie Sherman of the New York Giants and the West by Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers.Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown set a Pro Bowl record, carrying for 141 yards, breaking his own record of 120 set the previous year; he was named the "Back of the Game." "Big Daddy" Gene Lipscomb of the Pittsburgh Steelers was awarded "Lineman of the Game" honors; he had perhaps the finest day of any defender in the history of the Pro Bowl, blocking two field goals and being responsible for hits that led to six West fumbles.

1966 Pro Bowl

The 1966 Pro Bowl was the National Football League's sixteenth annual all-star game which featured the outstanding performers from the 1965 season. The game was played on January 16, 1966, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles in front of a crowd of 60,124.The coach of the Eastern Conference, Blanton Collier of the Cleveland Browns, used the domination of the West that year as a rallying cry for the Eastern team as they prepared to take the field against the Western Conference stars coached by Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers. During the 1965 season, the Western Conference had dominated the Eastern Conference — Western teams had won the league championship as well as 13 of the 14 regular season inter-conference games. This apparent domination extended to the college ranks as well with the West team winning the East-West college all-star game and the Rose Bowl.At the same time, Lombardi felt his West squad was at an unfair disadvantage in the game due to a denial by the league of a last minute appeal to use his own team's quarterback, Bart Starr, in the game. Starr had previously been scratched due to injury, but had recovered sufficiently to play.Dale Meinert of the St. Louis Cardinals was named the "lineman of the game" while the Cleveland Browns' fullback Jim Brown was awarded "back of the game" honors for the third time in his career. Brown carried 21 times for 65 yards. One story line of the game, the anticipated showdown between Brown and rookie Gale Sayers of the Bears, never materialized when Lombardi surprisingly called only a single play for Sayers, a handoff which Sayers took for 15 yards.

1969 Washington Redskins season

The 1969 Washington Redskins season was the franchise's 38th season in the National Football League. The team improved on their 5–9 record from 1968, by hiring legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi. Sam Huff (a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) came out of retirement specifically to play for Lombardi and finished with a record of 7–5–2.

Harry Jacunski

Hieronym Anthony “Harry” Jacunski (October 20, 1915 – February 20, 2003) was a National Football League (NFL) player and college football coach for over 40 years.

Jacunski was an All-state center on the New Britain High School 1934 basketball team and played football with Vince Lombardi at Fordham University, where Jacunski was one of Fordham’s "Seven Blocks of Granite". In 1938 he was co-captain of the Fordham football team where he started as end.

He played in the NFL for six seasons (1939 – 1944) as defensive end for the Green Bay Packers, who were NFL champions in 1939 and 1944.

In 1945 he started a 35-year coaching career: one year at University of Notre Dame, two years at Harvard University, and the last 33 years at Yale University. Jacunski was inducted into both the Fordham and Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

Joe Lombardi

Joseph Philip Lombardi (born June 6, 1971) is an American football coach and former player, who is the quarterbacks coach for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL). He was the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions from 2014 to 2015. He is the grandson of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi.

Kyle Clement

Kyle Clement (born April 10, 1985 in Hudsonville, Michigan) is a former American football defensive tackle. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He helped the Steelers win the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLIII over the Arizona Cardinals. He played college football at Northwood.

List of Green Bay Packers head coaches

There have been 15 head coaches for the Green Bay Packers, a professional American football team of the National Football League (NFL). The franchise was founded in 1919 by Curly Lambeau and competed for two years against teams around Wisconsin and Michigan before entering into the American Professional Football Association, which is now known as the NFL.

Four different coaches have won NFL championships with the Packers: Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, and 1944; Vince Lombardi in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, and 1967; Mike Holmgren in 1996; and Mike McCarthy in 2010. Lambeau is the franchise leader in career games (334) and career wins (209), while Lombardi has the best winning percentage (.754). Ray (Scooter) McLean has the worst winning percentage (.077). Four Packers coaches—Lambeau, Lombardi, Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg—have been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, although Starr and Gregg are recognized as players. Lombardi and Lindy Infante have both been named the league's coach of the year by major news organizations.

As of January 2019, the head coach of the Green Bay Packers is Matt LaFleur, who was named to that position after Mike McCarthy was fired during the 2018 NFL season.

Lombardi (play)

Lombardi is a play by Eric Simonson, based on the book When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss.

Lombardi Award

The Lombardi Award is awarded by the Lombardi Foundation annually to the best college football player, regardless of position, based on performance, as well as leadership, character, and resiliency. From 1970 until 2016 the award was presented by Rotary International specifically to a lineman or linebacker. The Lombardi Award program was approved by the Rotary International club in Houston in 1970 shortly after the death of famed National Football League coach Vince Lombardi. The committee outlined the criteria for eligibility for the award, which remained in place until 2016: A player should be a down lineman on either offense or defense or a linebacker who lines up no further than five yards deep from the ball.The voting electorate is made up of the head coaches from all NCAA Division I schools, sports media personnel from across the country, and former winners and finalists of the Lombardi Award. The total number of voters is approximately 500. Ohio State University holds the record for most Lombardi awards with six. Orlando Pace, the only two-time winner (1995 and 1996), is the most recent offensive lineman to be honored.

The main part of the trophy used to be a block of granite, paying homage to Lombardi's college days at Fordham University as an offensive lineman when his offensive line was referred to as the "Seven Blocks of Granite". A new trophy designed by Texas sculptor Edd Hayes replaced the original block of granite.

Marv Fleming

Marvin Lawrence Fleming (born January 2, 1942) is a former professional American football player, a tight end in the National Football League for twelve seasons, seven with the Green Bay Packers and five with the Miami Dolphins. He was a member of five NFL championship teams.

Fleming is the first player in NFL history to play in five Super Bowls—with Green Bay (I, II) and Miami (VI, VII, VIII). He played under hall of fame head coaches Vince Lombardi and Don Shula for five seasons each.

Packers sweep

The Packers sweep, also known as the Lombardi sweep, is an American football play popularized by Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. The Packers sweep is based on the sweep, a football play that involves a back taking a handoff and running parallel to the line of scrimmage before turning upfield behind lead blockers. The play became noteworthy due to its extensive use by the Packers in the 1960s, when the team won five National Football League (NFL) Championships, as well as the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi used the play as the foundation on which the rest of the team's offensive game plan was built. The dominance of the play, as well as the sustained success of Lombardi's teams in the 1960s, solidified the Packers sweep's reputation as one of the most famous football plays in history.

Phil Bengtson

John Phillip Bengtson (July 17, 1913 – December 18, 1994) was an American football player and coach. He was a longtime assistant coach in college football and the National Football League (NFL), chiefly remembered as the successor to Vince Lombardi as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1968.

The Lombardi Curse

The Lombardi Curse was an alleged sports-related curse that supposedly prevented the National Football League (NFL)'s Philadelphia Eagles franchise from winning the Super Bowl for as long as the game's trophy is named after Vince Lombardi. Its origin is traced to the Eagles upsetting the Green Bay Packers in the 1960 NFL Championship Game. This game ended up being the lone playoff defeat in Lombardi's coaching career as his Packers would go on to establish a dynasty that would win five NFL championships in the next seven seasons, including the first two Super Bowls.

Meanwhile, the Eagles had not won another league championship since, including having never won the Super Bowl since the game started being played annually in 1966. They appeared in Super Bowl XV in the 1980 season and Super Bowl XXXIX in the 2004 season, but lost both times. In 1970, the Super Bowl trophy was officially named the Vince Lombardi trophy when the league decided to honor Lombardi by naming the trophy after him following his death in 1970. This renaming of the Super Bowl trophy combined with the Eagles inability to win the championship game has led some Eagles fans to believe that the franchise is cursed by Vince Lombardi; that beating Lombardi meant never winning the trophy named after him.The Eagles defeated the New England Patriots by a score of 41–33 in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 4, 2018, ending the alleged curse.

Travis Williams (running back)

Travis Williams (January 14, 1946 – February 17, 1991) was an American football player for the Green Bay Packers. Williams attended Harry Ells High School, Contra Costa College and Arizona State University, before being selected in the 1967 NFL Draft at the insistence of Packers' coach Vince Lombardi. He returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in his rookie season in 1967, setting an NFL record. Among the returns were two in one quarter against the Cleveland Browns to set another league record. He also set the record for single-season kickoff return average with 41.06 yards, while playing four seasons with the Packers and two with the Los Angeles Rams, before a knee injury ended his career prematurely in the 1972 season.

Vince Lombardi Trophy

The Vince Lombardi Trophy is the trophy awarded each year to the winning team of the National Football League's championship game, the Super Bowl. The trophy is named in honor of NFL coach Vince Lombardi, who led the Green Bay Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowl games.

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