Lombardi played at Fordham in the canicule afore face masks. He was a affiliate of the 1936 abhorrent band abundantly accepted as the Seven Blocks of Granite. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Even as he was acceptable his bristles titles with the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi never forgot the aboriginal athletes he molded into champions. Over the years he would bethink Joe McPartland as “the smartest football amateur I anytime coached.” He would ask accompany of Mickey Corcoran, who would drillmaster Bill Parcells at New Jersey’s River Dell Aerial Academy and occasionally bang the affronted kid out of the gym, Lombardi style, “How’s the basketball X-and-O guy doing?”
Joe Diemar, a above Yankees farmhand who would battle beneath the name of “The Masked Marvel,” already ran into Lombardi at Yankee Stadium, borderline whether the drillmaster would bethink him. “Hey Vince,” he yelled, afore Lombardi angry and said, “Slew-Foot,” his old appellation for the awkward Saint. Aback Andy Palau bootless to argue Yankee Stadium ushers afore a Green Bay-Giants d that he should be let bottomward a the acreage to see the Packers’ drillmaster — Palau had absent blow with his above St. Cecilia abettor while confined in the Navy — he screamed out, “Vince.” The drillmaster chock-full in his advance and coiled bottomward Palau and his adolescent son.
“My dad sat me on the fence a the dugout,” Mark Palau said, “and actuality I am talking to Vince Lombardi. I’ll never balloon that.”
In 1969, his alone division in Washington, Lombardi led the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record, their best in 14 years. He died of colon blight afore the alpha of the 1970 season. Dick Raphael/USA TODAY Sports
Lombardi admired to be in the aggregation of above Saints. He cried aback Iggy McPartland was advancing a priest, and aback Father McPartland visited him at Washington Redskins affected a year afore the coach’s death, Lombardi alien him as “my fullback.” Afterwards one Washington abettor looked the baby priest up and bottomward and said, “You’ve got to be badinage me?” Lombardi attempt back, “And he was a acceptable one, too.”
As the apprentice football drillmaster at Fordham in 1947, Lombardi had Larry Higgins and two added above Saints — Dick Doheny and Billy White — in his backfield. White was the best acquaintance of Vince’s adolescent brother Joe, whom Vince addled on the St. Cecilia convenance acreage and in the classroom, ambitious added from him than any added player.
Billy went to war afterwards Fordham; he was a additional abettor in the Marines in Korea. Another vet, Andy Lukac, a Pennsylvania aerial academy brilliant recruited to Notre Dame afore Apple War II, and afterwards absorbed to Fordham by Lombardi, put White on the alternation demography him into the service. “Andy,” Billy said that day, “I’ll apparently never see you again.”
According to the Military Times, White was dead by adverse adhesive blaze on March 29, 1953, afterwards he “repeatedly confused from position to position, shouting words of advance to his men,” and was awarded the Silver Brilliant posthumously for his valor. Lukac had accustomed White’s aftermost letter from Korea. Billy’s sister Eileen said her ancestors accustomed a letter from a medic who appear he’d teamed up with Billy on Christmas Eve, affective through the battlefield to sing “Silent Night” with every Marine in harm’s way.
“And Vince Lombardi agitated about Billy’s Mass agenda afterwards he died,” said Billy’s brother Jack, “and that meant a lot to us. The Mass was at St. Cecilia, and Vince cried afterwards aback anybody marched bottomward to the American Legion. He absolutely admired Billy. Vince admired anybody who played for him at Saints.”
Some of Vince Lombardi’s oldest active players accustomed at a restaurant a few afar from St. Cecilia, the Hungry Peddler in Cresskill, N.J., acquisition on the armpit of an old Apple War I affected to allotment their belief about an constant American icon. Corcoran and Cosgrove. McPartland and Leer. Lukac and Crane. They brought programs and yearbooks and bi-weekly clippings, but mostly they brought memories of a man who died continued afore he was accessible to go.
Lombardi is active at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Middletown, N.J., aing to his wife, Marie, who died 12 years afterwards he did. Rob Tringali for ESPN
“I’m not abashed to die,” a 57-year-old Lombardi told Father Tim Moore central Georgetown University Hospital, an hour afore the colon blight claimed him on Sept. 3, 1970. “It’s aloof that I had so abundant larboard to do in this world.”
It was no abruptness that Lombardi was amidst by longtime St. Cecilia accompany in the end. Father McPartland visited him a brace of canicule afore his death, and Lombardi pulled himself out of bed for a blessing. “He was bottomward to 150 pounds at the time,” McPartland recalled. “His aftermost words to me were, ‘Pray for me, Father.'”
Father Moore would be one of the readers at the burying Mass. “The cardinal of bodies at St. Patrick’s Cathedral that day was incredible,” Moore recalled in a buzz account bristles years afore his afterlife in 2001. “The two better funerals anytime captivated there were Bobby Kennedy’s and Vince Lombardi’s. … I bethink the 30 limousines activity bottomward the Garden State Parkway to the cemetery in Middletown [N.J.]. We exited and got on Route 35, and there were all these kids lined up and bottomward the road, cutting football jerseys, some of them crying. At the cemetery, bodies placed footballs a his grave. I did the ceremony. … I’ll never balloon the affect I acquainted the day I active him.”
Ian O’Connor sits bottomward with some above players of Vince Lombardi at the Hungry Peddler restaurant, to acquaint belief of the iconic coach
Back at the Hungry Peddler in Jersey, added than four decades afterwards that burial, Lombardi’s old players were befitting the drillmaster animate one added time. Lukac recalled how Billy White already drew the coach’s acrimony by missing the Fordham alternation to Buffalo because he couldn’t appropriately bond his Windsor tie (“You consistently capital us to attending like gentlemen,” the aback had explained to Lombardi). Lukac, a affiliate of Fordham’s Hall of Fame, said he still fusses over his Windsor ties because of Lombardi and White.
Henry Leer remembered how his aches and pains were met with the Lombardi adjustment to “run it off.” Joe McPartland remembered how the Saints acclimated to accumulate at Lombardi’s Englewood home for big dinners, and how the drillmaster delivered to his players a slight aberration of his best acclaimed line.
“Winning isn’t the best important thing, it’s the alone thing,” McPartland said. “That’s what he said to us.”
Lombardi’s oldest players still apprehend him like it was yesterday, and still actual abundant alive by his rules. And the accuracy is, the greatest drillmaster of all time would accept it no added way.
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