‘The King’ of Football!
It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up. This is the advice of the great Vince Lombardi when speaking of the world of the hard-hitting gridiron. Although, let’s face it, we could all use this advice right now, seeing as that life has gotten far harder than the tackles out there on the field.
Vincent Thomas Lombardi is the ‘it’ man. No matter how many decades go by, this is the man who will always be remembered as the one who bought America the love of the game. He also was a powerful speaker. Some of his quotes have been recited over and over again; sometimes through the lips of other coach’s to their teams, as they get them ready to head for the Super Bowl and the chance to hold that Lombardi trophy.
In most circles, Vincent Lombardi is not only known as the best coach in football, but he also has the power and lasting ability to be among the best ‘coach lists’ of all sports ever played. The inspiration and motivation that came from this man who truly loved football is unmistakable, and without Lombardi, the Pack may have just been your regular, average team.
But, in the 1960s, under the tutelage of Lombardi, the Green Bay Packers were the ONLY team on that field. Whether the field was green or ice-laden, the Pack made sure that they were THE face of football.
It will come as no surprise to know that Lombardi was a New Yorker. He was raised on the streets of Brooklyn, the oldest child of an Italian immigrant who had come to America’s shores to find a better life. Lombardi was also a god-fearing young man, being raised as a strict Catholic and attending the Cathedral College of Immaculate Conception. Yes, this man whose words came out later in life as a bit “colorful,” was once going to don the wardrobe of a priest, but the world of football was just too big of a pull. Lombardi left behind one venue for another that was just as large, and became a fullback on his school’s football team.
Fordham University was his home, and where he was also a star member of Fordham’s famed “Seven Blocks of Granite.” Not only was football a passion and a privilege, but Lombardi was also one smart guy. He wasn’t like these million dollar players whose arm, or catching ability is all that matters today. In fact, Lombardi was magna cum laude as a graduate from Fordham, and attended law school.
But, again, the ”higher powers” knew that Lombardi had to be on that field. Leaving the law with the priesthood, Lombardi became an assistant football coach in Englewood, New Jersey, and found the love of his life while doing so.
Back to Fordham he went, joining the coaching staff, but wanted more. West Point beckoned in 1949, and Lombardi had the opportunity to learn under a brilliant coach by the name of, Red Blaik. A workaholic when it came to learning all there was to know about building a successful football team, Lombardi landed the position of assistant coach in the NFL for the New York Giants – which became THE time when the Giants had five winning seasons and took home the league championship in 1956.
Ah…the head coaching job was his. In 1959, the Green Bay Packers beckoned, and Vince Lombardi found his ultimate home. This guy was no “cheese-head;” he was in charge and there was no doubt about it! In fact, Lombardi was known for making sure that his training camps and work schedule were harder than jail is for lifelong prisoners. He wanted the best, and would settle for absolutely nothing less from his men. Of course, no matter how hard Lombardi was it just didn’t matter – because the Pack was the most successful team, with five NFL Championships, and absolute victories in the very first two Super Bowls ever played.
As with all angels, Lombardi passed on and left behind one of the most honorable and memorable careers in NFL history, and was very soon inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of course, the best coach in history also had the ultimate remembrance. When teams work their behinds off through triumphs and tragedies every single year, they don’t go for the win of the ‘Super Bowl’ trophy – they are going for the Vince Lombardi trophy. A remembrance for the absolute best that football has ever had to offer.
People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.
Winning is not a ‘sometime’ thing, it is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while…you do them right all the time.
These are the words of a workaholic; a head coach; a leader; and a man who knew how life was. There are many places out there on the ‘world wide web’ that talk about past Packer’s training camps, allowing the reader to actually see all the hard work and dedication this man brought to the field. He accepted no less than absolute teamwork and commitment from his men, and his favorite phrase always came out loud and clear – “What the h*ll’s going on out here?” Which, thankfully, wouldn’t have worked if he’d followed his original career path into the Church.
One of the funniest stories from the past was when Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, Ray Nitschke, had a run in with a light tower. There was a scrimmage going on at the Packers grueling training camp, and Lombardi was the very first coach who had a ‘tower’ that he would stand on top of and shout out his orders. Ray happened to have been standing underneath the tower when a huge gust of wind came along and the tower fell straight on him.
Coach Lombardi will also always be remembered for bed checks. No food, no chicks, no mischief – and if any of the players were up to any of these things within their rooms – Lombardi made sure to fine the players and drive home the fact that his men were football players first and last.
There are some nowadays who would simply call their lawyers to let them know they wanted something different…or more money. And Lombardi, himself, would probably be embarrassed by some of the ridiculous ‘un-class’ acts that have entered the world of sports.
But whenever one remembers this man, they will always, forever, and ONLY remember that – once upon a time, there was a hardworking and diligent man who simply loved the game of football!
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