Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vince Lombardi Tribute

Four days from now, the reigning NFL champion GREEN BAY PACKERS will march out onto Lambeau Field to begin the defense of their title in Titletown, USA (also known as Green Bay, Wisconsin). The man who gave that town the nickname of Titletown, USA, more than any other man, was named Vince Lombardi, and he was one of the greatest leaders of all time. Lombardi grew up loving football, and got a football scholarship to Fordham University. Despite being merely 5'8", 180 pounds, he was the starting Right Guard in an offensively line that was dubbed "The 7 Blocks of Granite". He couldn't continue his own playing career due to the Great Depression, but eventually became the Head Coach of a now-defunct Catholic High School in New Jersey, which he made into one of the best in the nation. He then coached the West Point team, and was influenced by legendary coach Colonel Red Blaik. Here he developed his reputation for toughness and efficient execution, which would became the hallmark of his coaching style and the teams he coached. When he came to Green Bay in 1959, the team was playing poorly, broke, dispirited, and in danger of dissolving. That year they showed immediate improvement, going 7-5. The next year, they made it to the championship game, and lost in a heartbreaking, final seconds shortcoming at the goal line to the Philadelphia Eagles. After the game, and after the press corps had left the locker room, Lombardi told his team, "This will never happen again. You will never lose another championship." He was right. The Packers went on to win the NFL Championship in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, and 1967, and the newly invented "Super Bowl" in 66 and 67. In his first 7 seasons as Packers Head Coach, Lombardi had won the championship game 5 times.

But it was not merely his success on the field which made Lombardi so legendary. It was his style, his candor, his passion, his ability to inspire the men he led, that set him apart. He preached consistent execution of simple plays, claiming that result he hoped for after each snap wasn't a quick touchdown but "four yards and a cloud of dust." The bitter cold of Green Bay suited him perfectly. He told his lineman to wear short sleeves with no gloves to intimidate the other team. He went for it on 4th and goal with the championship game on the line in 1967's "Ice Bowl", arguably the greatest game ever played. He didn't merely teach his players how to win games, he taught them how to be stronger men. Perhaps this video and these quotes will help explain how.

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