Throughout the history of the NFL, Vince Lombardi holds a sacred place in the league’s lore. He was one of the pioneers for the game of football and helped bring a litany of eyes toward the league during his time as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers that helped earn him the prestigious honor of having the Super Bowl trophy named after him. Lombardi established the recognition as being one of the all-time greatest head coaches that the league has ever had. However, his life after his illustrious was tragically cut short.
Vince Lombardi’s coaching career before the pros
Before he stepped in as the Packers head coach, Vince Lombardi was an athlete in his own right as he played fullback at Fordham University, where he played for the Wilmington Jets and Brooklyn Eagles each for a year.
It didn’t take long for him to get the coaching bug as he took being the head coach at St. Cecilia high school in Englewood, New Jersey, at age 26. He coached for five years that position after spending three years as an assistant coach. The school was recognized as one of the top teams in the country. During his eight-year span, he won six championships.
Lombardi had a short stint at Fordham in 1947 as the head coach of the freshman football and basketball teams. The following year, he took up an assistant job as the offensive line coach at West Point, which was a part of his career that profoundly impacted his coaching style. He spent five years with the school before getting his first shot to head to the professional level.
Vince Lombardi’s coaching career takes off with Packers
Lombardi entered the professional ranks at age 41 with his first opportunity being the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants in 1954. He held that spot for five years with the Giants before he received the chance to become the head coach and general manager of the Packers.
In his first year, the Packers finished with a 7-5 record while winning his first of his two Coach of the Year awards. Things took off from that point as Green Bay became a powerhouse in the league that saw them reach five total NFL championships in seven years. That was followed by earning victories in the first two Super Bowls.
Lombardi never had a losing season in his eight years at the position where he compiled a 105-35-6 record. That included him finishing with a 9-1 mark in the playoffs with that lone loss being in the 1960 NFL championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He had the opportunity to coach several all-time great players such as Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Herb Adderley, Willis Davis, Jim Ringo, Willie Wood, and Dave Robinson.
Vince Lombardi’s tragic death
Following the 1967 season, Vince Lombardi stepped away from being the Packers head coach in February 1968. His final season as an NFL head coach came in 1969 in his lone campaign with the Washington Redskins, where he gave the team their first winning season in over a decade.
In June 1970, at Georgetown University Hospital, tests found he had fast-growing cancer in his colon. Three years before that, he had refused his doctor’s recommendation to undergo a proctoscopic exam as he was experiencing digestive tract problems. He underwent exploratory surgery the next month, which found out the cancer was terminal. A few months after that, on September 3, 1970, Lombardi passed away at age 57.
That brought a tragic end for one of the most beloved and respected figures in the game of football. Lombardi left a lasting legacy and is still referred to as being arguably the greatest head coach in league history. His impact on the game is forever felt.