Vince Lombardi never played pro football and wasn’t named a head coach in college or pro football until he was 45 years old. But the name “Lombardi” became synonymous with winning.
After finishing 1-10-1 in 1958, the Packers decided to make a change. Early in 1959, they hired Lombardi, a relatively unknown New York Giant assistant coach.
A 188-pound guard, one of Fordham University’s “Seven Blocks of Granite” in the late 1930s, Lombardi was determined to make the Packers a sound football organization and a winning football team.
A former chemistry teacher and two-sport high school coach, Lombardi believed in classroom fundamentals and followed them up with drill and repetition on the practice field.
In 1959, the Packers, many of whom had played on the 1958 squad, turned in a 7-5 season. In 1960, they captured the Western Division championship but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in that season’s title game.
From 1961-’67, the Packers played in five championship games and won all five. After the 1966 and ‘67 seasons, they played the American Football League champions and won Super Bowls I and II.
Lombardi relinquished his coaching duties in 1968 to devote his energies to his other role, general manager. But he chafed through a disappointing 6-7-1 season and, early in 1969, took the job as head coach and executive vice president of the Washington Redskins. He led them to their first winning season since 1955 with a 7-5-2 record.
A successful football and basketball coach at St. Cecelia High School in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Lombardi joined the staff of Fordham University in 1947. In 1949, he joined Red Blaik’s staff at West Point. He moved on to the New York Giants in 1954 where he was backfield coach.
Lombardi succumbed to the ravages of colon cancer in 1970. The Super Bowl Trophy was named in his honor posthumously. Lombardi’s Packer teams won 75 percent of their games with an 89-29-4 record.
Vince Lombardi was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
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