Vince Lombardi hasn’t been on a football sideline in more than 40 years, but the principals that the Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers coach preached about are still relevant today.
The Sheepshead Bay native was honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Hometown Hall of Famer at his former high school St. Francis Prep last Tuesday. Lombardi, a 1933 graduate, was an All-City standout at St. Francis, which is now in Queens, back when it was located in Cobble Hill. Lombardi’s achievements speak for themselves: two Super Bowls and five conference titles. What’s more important is how he got there — and what we can learn from him to get to where we want to be in our own lives.
“He really was a case study for leadership,” his grandson John Lombardi said.
So much is made of individual performance in our society. Lombardi, on the other hand, preached execution and teamwork. A squad needed all of its parts working as one to win, not just one dominating. That was the essence of the power sweep running play that won him all his titles.
“He would have been an excellent leader today,” said legendary St. Francis Prep coach Vince O’Connor, who lives in Park Slope.
To Lombardi, coaching was about more than nurturing good players. It was about growing good people as well. That came from honesty, respect, and pushing them to give their best, even if they didn’t always do it. Rutgers football coach Kyle Flood, a St. Francis Prep alum, spoke about how that was the thing all of Lombardi’s former players — from St. Cecilia’s high school in New Jersey to the Washington Redskins in his final season — said about him.
“At all times it, comes out how much he cared about his players,” Flood said. “How much he cared about them as people. How much he knew about them as individuals.”
Lombardi also has a link to another famous Brooklyn football player with National Football League ties. His only loss as a senior at St. Francis Prep, according to his grandson, was to Erasmus Hall and star quarterback Sid Luckman, who went on to play for the Chicago Bears. The younger Lombardi said according to family lore, it was after that loss that his grandfather decided football was going to be his life’s work. The rest is history, and a legacy we can still find inspiration in today.
“There have been a lot of great coaches,” John Lombardi said. “He seems to kind of endure more than the rest of them.”