10 Things You Probably Don't Know About Vince Lombardi
1) Lombardi, symbol of bedrock Midwest values, was a New Yorker. The Italian American Catholic, who won his greatest fame on the frozen tundra of Green Bay's Lambeau Field, was a Brooklyn boy who was born and raised in Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay neighborhood. He graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx where he earned fame as one of the "Seven Blocks of Granite." Much of his coaching career, from St. Military Academy at West Point to offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, were in the Tri State area. "As far as Midwestern values, I always thought of Vince Lombardi as kind of reflecting the nation's values. He seems very American to me. Not in a Midwestern way but just in a general American way."
2) He was a late bloomer who served as an NFL head coach for only 10 seasons. The long time assistant coach despaired of ever becoming a head coach before finally landing the Packers job at age 45. Once installed in Green Bay, he ripped off 5 NFL titles and 2 Super Bowls in only 9 seasons. He stepped down from coaching in 1968, then returned with the Washington Redskins in 1969 before dying of colon cancer at age 57 in 1970. He never had a losing season. "He just kept at it. He never stopped working and he never stopped making himself a better coach. During the 1950's, the Giants had both Lombardi and Tom Landry as assistants under head coach Jim Lee Howell. Lombardi ran the offense. Landry, who went on to capture two Super Bowls of his own with Dallas Cowboys, ran the defense. The two helped the Giants win the title in 1956. But the Giants lost in overtime to Johnny Unitas and Baltimore Colts in the 1958 "Greatest Game Ever Played" championship game. "It's one of those interesting pieces of trivia: two of the greatest coaches in the NFL were assistant coaches on the same team. Amazing."
4) His first head coaching job was basketball coach at St. Cecilia where he also taught Latin and physics. "Apparently, he was not a bad (basketball coach). That's the thing about Lombardi, he was a leader. He distilled everything to its simplest principles."
5) To relax, he liked to clean out closets at home and read cookbooks. "He was human. And he didn't cook."
6) President Richard Nixon briefly considered him as a VP candidate. That changed when Nixon found out Lombardi was a Democrat. "I don't know where David dug that up. But I trust it."
7) A dying Lombardi had stern advice for New York Jets QB Joe Namath. While the dying Lombardi lay sleeping in his hospital bed, he startled his wife one night by shouting, "Joe Namath. You're not bigger than football! Remember that!!" He's also said to have predicted that Namath's AFL champion Jets would upset the NFL Joel Bitonio XXXXL Jersey champion Colts in Super Bowl III.
8) Had a brownsnflofficialonline.com/Johnny_Manziel_Jersey_Browns gay brother, Harold Lombardi. "He was never disparaging in any way about his brother. "He and a couple of other coaches for Army went there and taught football."
10) He used to screen Army game films for General Douglas MacArthur, a huge fan of Army football. "He had friends in high places."
Reid Cherner has been with USA TODAY since brownsnflofficialonline.com/Joel_Bitonio_Jersey_Browns 1982 and written Game On! since March 2008.
He has covered everything from high schools to horse racing to the college and the pros. The only thing he likes more than his own voice is the sound of readers Johnny Manziel 4XL Jersey telling him when he's right and wrong.
Michael Hiestand has covered sports media and marketing for USA TODAY, tackling the sports biz ranging from what's behind mega events such as the Olympics and Super Bowl to the sometimes hidden numbers behind the sports world's bottom line.