Friday, March 7, 2014

Lombardi and the Jesuits

In Patrick McCaskey's new book, Pillars of the NFL, the football lives of the 10 coaches in NFL history are explored.  There are many interesting side stories that we gathered along the way to publication. Many related to Vince Lombardi.

The great Green Bay coach, Vince Lombardi, came from a terrific Italian-American family.  His family was a collection of hard-driven men and strong energetic women who lived faith-based lives. Vince Lombardi's parents settled in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn.  Both sides of Lombardi's family loomed large and active in Brooklyn.  Lombardi experienced the richness of a large expansive family and he was also a product of Catholic education that included several years at Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception, a Prep School that educated students who expressed an interest in the Priesthood.  

Lombardi obtained a scholarship to play football at Fordham University.  Fordham and its Jesuit tradition would have a great impact on him. In this tradition, individuals are highly valued along with their potential. The “cura personalis” (care for the entire person) is central. Jesuits value each individual and his or her potential. Jesuit teachers direct and encourage students to pursue great personal excellence in all aspects of life. This principle of excellence, called “magis,” comes from the Latin phrase “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” (for the greater glory of God), which is the motto of the Jesuits dating back to the order’s founder, St. Ignatius Loyola. 

Fordham was a national power when Lombardi joined the team. He came to Fordham as a fullback, but he was too slow for the backfield and Coach Crowley moved him to guard. Lombardi was challenged in many ways at Fordham. Early on, there were injuries. As a small 180-pound lineman, he had to compete with much bigger more powerful players. Crowley moved players around to get the best men on the field. As a senior, Lombardi would be included in that number. 

Coach James Crowley had played for Curly Lambeau at Green Bay East High School and then played at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne, where he and three others in the backfield were immortalized by Grantland Rice as the famous “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”  As a lineman, Lombardi would have to
clear his head of any “four horsemen” images, if he ever had them. However, he would become an official member of the Fordham’s famous offensive line called the “Seven Blocks of Granite.”

The idea of hard work and achievement is something that was fostered in both Lombardi’s home and at Fordham. He passed it on as well. Lombardi often displayed a concern for his players and their potential well beyond the lines of the football field. He drove players to excel not just for their own good, but to give honor to something greater.
Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Update: Sporting Chance Press's Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey now available--March 2014!  Order your copies here  for immediate shipment.