Sporting Heroes: Vince Lombardi, a high priest among coaches

 

The Lombardis and the Izzos settled in Brooklyn, New York after emigrating from Salerno, Italy. Harry Lombardi and Matilda Izzo married, and in 1913, gave birth to Vince.

Catholicism was part of the Lombardi family make-up and Vince would begin studies to become a priest. He always participated in baseball and basketball but his eyesight let him down. Lombardi, though, found his true passion in American football.

He gained a football scholarship to Fordham University, New York, and in his senior year was one of the infamous Fordham offensive line dubbed the “Seven Blocks of Granite”. After graduation, he spent two years moving from job to job. It was only when he wanted to marry his girlfriend he focused on a steady career –coaching.

He would coach freshman teams at Fordham University before becoming assistant coach under the legendary Earl Blaik at West Point Military Academy. It was here he married his religious beliefs with a military-type discipline that would shape his style.

In 1954, he accepted a coaching job with the New York Giants. In three years, with Tom Landry’s help, Lombardi (below) had turned the Giants into NFL champions. Though there was speculation he was unable to win a head coaching job due to prejudice against his Italian heritage, in 1958 the Green Bay Packers gave him his chance.

The Packers had been the worst team in the NFL but in only Lombardi’s second season he led them to the Western Conference title. Lombardi went on to win Super Bowls I and II and was a six-times NFL Champion. He finished his career with the Washington Redskins but will always be known as a leader of men and one of the best coaches in the history of sport.

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