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.