When Pride Still Mattered

2 February marks the day that Vince Lombardi accepted the position of head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers in 1959.

As a head coach in the NFL, Lombardi never had a losing season, compiling a regular season winning percentage of 72.8 (96–34–6), and 90% (9–1) in the postseason for an overall record of 105 wins, 35 losses, and 6 ties in the NFL.

In 1947, Lombardi became the coach of freshman teams in football and basketball at Fordham University. The following year he served as an assistant coach for Fordham’s varsity football team.

Following the 1948 football season, Lombardi accepted an assistant’s job, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a position that would greatly influence his future coaching style. In 1954, Lombardi, age 41, began his NFL career with the New York Giants.

He led the Packers to three consecutive NFL championships — in 1965, 1966, and 1967 — a feat accomplished only once before in the history of the league. At the conclusion of the 1966 and 1967 seasons, Lombardi’s Packers would go on to win the first two Super Bowls.  Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers to championships in five of seven seasons.

Having experienced prejudice directed at his own family for their Italian heritage, Lombardi had no tolerance for discrimination. He let it be known to all Green Bay establishments that if they did not accommodate his black players equally as well as his white players, then that business would be off-limits to the entire team. When taking the team on the road, for the 1960 regular season, he instituted a policy that the Packers would only lodge in places that accepted all his players. Richard Nicholls, the lifelong partner of Lombardi’s younger brother, Hal, stated, “Vin was always fair in how he treated everybody…a great man who accepted people at face value for what they were, and didn’t judge anybody. He just wanted you to do the job.”

NFL Films and HBO collaborated to produce a documentary on the coach, a brief promo for which appears below…