Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi
refer to caption
Lombardi (left) with Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr
Personal information
Born:(1913-06-11)June 11, 1913
Brooklyn, New York
Died:September 3, 1970(1970-09-03) (aged 57)
Washington, D.C.
Career information
High school:Brooklyn (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

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.

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.[2]

Although Lombardi was noted for his gruff demeanor and "iron discipline", he was far ahead of his time in creating a supportive environment for gay players, and he emphatically challenged existing Jim Crow Laws, and provided leadership to break the color barrier in football. He once said that he "... viewed his players as neither black nor white, but Packer green". [3]

Lombardi is considered by many to be the greatest coach in football history, and he is recognized as one of the greatest coaches and leaders in the history of all American sports. [4]The year after his sudden death from cancer in 1970, he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the NFL Super Bowl trophy was named in his honor.

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).[5][6] Harry's mother and father, Vincenzo and Michelina, emigrated from Salerno, Italy.[7][8] Mattie's father and mother, Anthony and Loretta, emigrated from Vietri di Potenza, Basilicata.[5][6] Harry had three siblings,[5][8] and Matilda had twelve.[5][6] Vince would be the oldest of five children, Madeleine, Harold, Claire, and Joe.[6][9] The entire Lombardi and Izzo clan settled in Sheepshead Bay.[5][10]

Matilda's father, Anthony, opened up a barber shop in Sheepshead Bay before the turn of the century.[5][6] At about the time of Lombardi's birth, Harry, and his brother, Eddie, opened a butcher shop in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan.[5][11] Throughout the Great Depression, Harry's shop did well, and his family prospered.[12][13] Lombardi grew up in an ethnically diverse, middle-class neighborhood.[14][15]

St Mark's

Church attendance was mandatory for the Lombardis on Sundays.[16][17] Mass would be followed with an equally compulsory few hours of dinner with friends, extended family members, and local clergy.[18][19] Lombardi himself was an altar boy at St. Mark's Catholic Church.[16][17] 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.[20] As a child, Lombardi helped his father at his meat cutting business, but grew to hate it.[21][22] At the age of 12 he started playing in an uncoached but organized football league in Sheepshead Bay.[17]

High school

Lombardi graduated from the eighth grade at P.S. 206 at age 15 in 1928.[10][23][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.[10][23] At Cathedral, he played on the school's baseball and basketball teams,[24][25] but his performance was hindered by his poor athleticism and eyesight.[17] Against school rules, he continued to play football off-campus throughout his studies at Cathedral.[26] After completing four years at Cathedral he decided not to pursue the priesthood.[26] He enrolled at St. Francis Preparatory high school for the fall of 1932.[27][28][note 2] There he became a Charter Member of Omega Gamma Delta fraternity.[29] His playing as a fullback on the Terriers' football team earned him a spot on the virtual All-City football team.[30][31]

Fordham University

In 1933, Lombardi received a football scholarship[32] to Fordham University[33] 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.[34] 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 [35]

In his senior year of 1936, he was the right guard in the Seven Blocks of Granite,[36] a nickname given by a Fordham University publicist to the Fordham University football team's offensive front line.[37][note 3][38] In a game against Pitt, he suffered a severe gash inside his mouth and had several teeth knocked out.[39] 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[40] before losing in the final game of the season, 7–6, to NYU.[41] 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.[42]

Early career

Lombardi graduated from Fordham University on June 16, 1937.[43][44] 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[45] 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.[46] 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.[47] He would also join the Brooklyn Eagles.

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