The Patron Saint of Football Coaches


I’m not sure where else to put this, but what the heck…I’m starting this thread to honor someone who needs to receive more attention as a Catholic role model. Maybe not as far as canonization and naming the patron saint of football coaches (although I would move across the country to attend Mass at a parish named for him), but Vince Lombardi needs to get more attention as a good, moral role model for Catholic men, particularly athletes.

Vince Lombardi was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1913, in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood. At the age of 13, he considered entering the priesthood and actually entered the seminary before transferring to St. Francis Prep, where he played football. During his time at Fordham, he was a member of the legendary Seven Blocks of Granite, playing for one of the Four Horseman of Notre Dame, Sleepy Jim Crowley.

During the 1940’s, he coach at St. Cecilia’s High School in Englewood, New Jersey. After that, he was an assistant coach under Army legend Earl “Red” Blaik, He left that position in 1953 to join the New York Giants as an offensive coordinator for some of the most successful Giant teams in history, coaching with future rival Tom Landry. During this time, the Giants went to three title games, winning one.

In 1959, he took the job that made him a legend, the head coaching position with the Green Bay Packers. In 1958, the year before Lombardi, the Packers were 2-12. His first year, they were 7-5, and in 1960, they were in the NFL title game, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles. Lombardi swore never to lose another championship game, and he never did, winning five NFL titles in the next seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. After winning Super Bowl II, he retired from the Packers.

In 1969, he took the Washington Redskins job, turning the team around and going 7-5-2, laying the foundation for the success later coach George Allen would enjoy with the team. Unfortunately, Lombardi’s dislike of colonoscopies would prove his undoing; he contracted the most vigorous case of colon cancer his doctors had ever seen during that off-season, admitted himself to the hospital in the summer of 1970, and died that September.

He was mourned by thousands of people across the country, including his players, who loved him to a man. Throughout his life, he was a daily communicant, attending Mass every day at 7:00 in the morning.

What I intend to do with this thread is share a few Lombardi stories, and then possibly move on to other Catholic role models in the Lombardi mold.


Would that be American Football or real Football??


That would be real American football in the National Football League, not the sissy stuff that they play in Europe and elsewhere. :stuck_out_tongue:

IF folks could vote for sainthood. St. Vince would be on my ballot. After years of dismal NFL football in Washington, Lombardi gave us all hope. Dreams of playoff games and championships danced through our heads.

AS well as George Allen coached, I still think Lombardi would have gotten us to a Super Bowl sooner and we would have won it instead of just getting there.

Now that the greatest QB of all time, Slinging Sammy Baugh, has joined him, the team they have up there has got to be unbeatable.

For football fans, regarding an interesting work habit, Sammy would never leave the practice field until he had completed 100 passes in a row. No wonder he was the best, some folks today don’t even show up to practice.


Here’s my first, and one of my favorite, Lombardi anecdotes. Scripture was always closely woven into the life of Lombardi. Even though he wasn’t given to just spouting off quotes from the Bible, he was always listening for something he could use. In 1967, with his aging team slumping in his final season in Green Bay, underdogs at home against the Los Angeles Rams, Lombardi heard a winner at daily Mass.

Don’t you know that all the runners in the race are running to get the prize, but only one will win? Run to win!

-St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians

Lombardi expanded on that phrase, hammering home to his team that we aren’t playing just to play, we aren’t playing to just to be close, we aren’t playing just to be there at the end, we are running to win.

In the playoff against the Rams, LA scored first, but in one of Lombardi’s proudest moments, his team took over. Jerry Kramer and Bart Starr walked up and down the sideline: “Are you running to win, Ron Bowman? Are you running to win, Marv Fleming?”

Green Bay scored the next four touchdowns, ramming the ball down the Rams throat in pure Lombardi football. Chuck Mercein scored the key touchdown, making it 21-7 shortly before halftime. The final was 28-7. “We ran to win, Coach.”

In the Ice Bowl, on Green Bay’s legendary final drive (a story of its own), Jerry Kramer tells of players jogging back to the huddle and saying to each other, “I’m running to win. Are you running to win?”

The Packers ran to win, and they ran into history.


Lombardi was the coach of the hated Packers. That alone is enough to make him anathema.

GO BEARS!! :thumbsup:


You really think Mr Lombardi is going to get to heaven and God’s going to ask him how many football games he won?

It’s about winning the ETERNAL race, the race for sanctity and salvation, not a stupid pigskin-chasing competition.

His attitude of ‘winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’ is responsible for more selfishness, greed and exploitation in this world, with their accompanying UnChristlike behaviour, than anything I can think of.


You might be very interested in the new EWTN program… “Crossing the Goal”. It is “geared” to the guys… but hey, we watch it anyway! :rotfl:

(He’s still living, but maybe Danny Abramowicz could be a future candidate? I like what he has to say… check it out!). God bless.

  1. Vince is a role model because he was a good coach who did it right. He proved that you can do things the right way and still be a champion.

  2. Mr. Lombardi’s original statement is far different than the shorthand that he used for it later in his life. His original quote was similar only in the wording, but was much different in meaning. I was actually going to use it as a later anecdote, but I’ll explain it now.

Lombardi’s original saying was “Winning isn’t everything; the will to win is.” Later in his life, he said the more famous version, but his credo was always the first one. In his first season, the Green Bay Packers lost 20-17 to the San Francisco 49ers, eliminating them from playoff contention. Expecting a tirade, his team was trembling in fear when he came into the locker room. “Men,”, he said, “you gave your best out there today. I’m proud of the way you played. We learned a lot today and we’ll all be better for it.”

The next season, in the opener, the Packers rolled over the then-St. Louis Cardinals, 32-3. At game’s end, the team was smiling and laughing in the locker room…until Lombardi stormed in. “What the hell’s going on in here? You men didn’t care about doing your best today, you only cared about the final score. That’s a disgrace to me and to your town. This game demands your best at all times. It won’t, the town won’t, and I won’t accept anything less of you. Don’t ever let this happen again.”

That was Lombardi. The will to win was always superior to the actual outcome. Losing, in his mind, was never something to be ashamed of unless it didn’t hurt. If it didn’t hurt, then you weren’t trying hard enough.

More to come tomorrow…


Actually American football is the sissy version of Rugby Football. Rugby players don’t need padding! :smiley:


Hehe. When I lived on campus at university we had a whole bunch of American exchange students. It was so funny to see them watching a rugby match and just visibly wincing the whole time … wuzzes :stuck_out_tongue:




There is a reason why the padding is there, time to stop, caught your breath, and line up again: it allows you to hit harder.


Rugby players are real men and they don’t need padding to hit hard or be hit hard. Padding is for wimps!


Yes it is a great show! I started watching it last month.
I think the Sports format of the show is a major plus and hopefully will draw a lot of men to the show.

After all in today’s society men need to know how to look after their families and defend their faith!


AMEN! :yup:

closed #16

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit