Lombardi legacy goes beyond Green Bay and Super Bowl

Published February 04, 2011

| Reuters

By Simon Evans

Lombardi's old team, the Green Bay Packers, face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium but it is in Wisconsin where the memories of the charismatic disciplinarian are treasured most deeply.

Film footage shows Lombardi, who paced the sideline in a long winter coat and Fedora hat, as a coach who could reprimand players with a sharp comment but also bring out their best with his ability to inspire.

"Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate," Lombardi once said.

Players who failed to live up to his demands for hard work, sacrifice and dedication were quickly shown the door, an approach which he summarized in one of his many phrases that have become part of the Lombardi legacy: "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm".

It is rare to hear such frankness from the modern NFL coach but Lombardi, whose second assistant coaching job was at the military academy at West Point, installed a respect for authority and insistence on order that is still a defining characteristic of NFL teams.

Lombardi's impact has been so deep and his character so fascinating that there is a Broadway musical celebrating his life and a Hollywood movie, with Robert De Niro playing the coach, in the pipeline.

"I think every coach that's ever had the opportunity to step on the playing field, or even on the practice field, is aware of Coach Lombardi's presence and the importance and the impact that he's made on the coaching profession.

"When you talk about excellence and discipline, work ethic, he was the one that really brought all that to the forefront.

"He's such a big part of the history and tradition of the Green Bay Packers, something that we celebrate all the time as an organization, something that's being celebrated right now on Broadway, and we take a tremendous pride and focus on bringing that trophy back where it belongs."

When Lombardi died in 1970, at the age of 57 after having been struck by cancer, then U.S. President Richard Nixon sent a telegram of condolence to his widow Marie signed 'The People.'

His name will be honored, as every year, at the Super Bowl when the sterling silver Vince Lombardi Trophy is presented to the winning team's owner.

"This is the opportunity to bring the Lombardi trophy home, and we're going to give it everything we've got."

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