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Vince Lombardi is a notable figure in football, even eventually becoming one of the greatest leaders in the history of any American sport. He not only applied his faith in his everyday life but also in his career as a professional football coach.
A man who led by example, he encouraged his football athletes not just to excel in the sport but also in their individual lives.
Early Life, Preparation for Priesthood, and Football
Vincent Thomas Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913 in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to Italian immigrants Matilda Izzo and Enrico Lombardi. He grew up in a middle class and ethnically diverse neighborhood, but experienced discrimination because of his Italian immigrant background.
Nevertheless, Lombardi’s parents saw to it that he always attended mass on Sundays and had dinner with relatives and church figures.
At the age of 15, he enrolled in a program to become a Catholic priest. Early on, he was keen on sports and played basketball and baseball in school.
However, his eagerness and passion for sports were hindered by his poor eyesight and poor physique. Despite these obstacles, he continued playing football during his studies, going against the rules of the school.
He didn’t pursue priesthood, instead enrolling in the St. Francis Preparatory High School. There he played as a fullback for the school’s football team. He eventually became one of the members of the All-City football team.
In 1933, he got a football scholarship at the Fordham University. He was only 5’8 and weighed 180 pounds, but he proved to be an aggressive and effective player. In one game, he suffered an injury to the mouth and lost several teeth.
They lost in the final game that season against NYU, making it impossible for Fordham to participate in the Rose Bowl. This experience taught Lombardi a lesson: to never underestimate an opponent.
Lombardi’s first stint at coaching was at St. Cecilia in New Jersey in 1939. He became assistant coach in 1942, and by 1943, St. Cecilia became the top football team in the US.
Lombardi won a total of six championships, then became the freshman assistant coach at Fordham University in 1947. In 1948, he became an assistant coach at the US Military Academy at West Point, where his position greatly influenced what would become his coaching style.
He eventually accepted a coordinator position at the New York Giants at age 41. At a certain point in his career, he feared that he would never become head coach due to his Italian background. This changed when he was accepted as a manager and head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay Packers and Success as Head Coach
From 1945 to 1958, the Packers, a team with five future Hall of Famers, did not win even a single game out of seven. The Packers were losing popularity fast, and fans didn’t even show in the Lambeau Field and Milwaukee County Stadium. The team was on the brink of being phased out.
But when Vincent Lombardi was hired in 1959, he turned things around. He introduced rigorous training methods, and with his religious convictions and punishing regimens, he inspired the players to win.
He earned the title “The Pope,” and led the Packers to a 7-5 win that year. He even earned the Coach of the Year award. In 1960, the fans were inspired by these efforts, and the all Packers games were sold out ever since.
Lombardi was determined to ignore racial prejudices during his time and focused on scouting for the best players. He didn’t treat his players as black or white, but instead, as Packers green. He was also famously known to have fired people who insulted gay players and staff.
Vince Lombardi became a legend. In the NFL history, the only four coaches that have won five championships were Vince Lombardi, Bill Belichick, George Halas, and Curly Lambeau.
What makes Lombardi’s accomplishments greater than the other three, however, is the length of time he was able to accomplish such a monumental feat. Lambeau accomplished his 5th win after 19 seasons. Halas got his after 20 seasons, and it took Belichick 22 seasons to get his.
Lombardi won his fifth Super Bowl title on his 9th coaching season, and had already won five titles in his 10 years as head coach in the NFL.
He was already 46 years old when he was given the opportunity to coach for the NFL. Despite the odds, Lombardi saved the Packers, and the seemingly miraculous way he did it made him the greatest football head coach of all time.
If you feel that winning is impossible, here are 101 inspirational quotes from Vince Lombardi that might just inspire you to persevere despite the odds.
Vince Lombardi Quotes
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi
“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” – Vince Lombardi
“Individual commitment to a group effort, that is what makes a team work.” – Vince Lombardi
“After the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and all the pomp and fanfare has faded, the end.”- Vince Lombardi
“In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” – Vince Lombardi
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” – Vince Lombardi
“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” – Vince Lombardi
“Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him. It’s something we call heart power. Once a man has made this commitment, nothing will stop him short of success.” – Vince Lombardi
“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” – Vince Lombardi
“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious.” – Vince Lombardi
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi
“Leadership rests not only upon ability, not only upon capacity; having the capacity to lead is not enough. The leader must be willing to use it. His leadership is then based on truth and character. There must be truth in the purpose and will power in the character.” – Vince Lombardi
“Inches make champions.” – Vince Lombardi
“If you can accept losing you can’t win. If you can walk you can run. No one is ever hurt. Hurt is in your mind.” – Vince Lombardi
“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” – Vince Lombardi
“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” – Vince Lombardi
“Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up — from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s OK You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.” – Vince Lombardi
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi
“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.” – Vince Lombardi
“If you aren’t fired up with enthusiasm, you’ll be fired with enthusiasm.” – Vince Lombardi
“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.” – Vince Lombardi
“Confidence is contagious; so is lack of confidence.” – Vince Lombardi
“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” – Vince Lombardi
“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vince Lombardi
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” – Vince Lombardi
“There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything. I do, and I demand that my players do.” – Vince Lombardi
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vince Lombardi
“There is only one way to succeed in anything and that is to give it everything.” – Vince Lombardi
“Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing-the result.” – Vince Lombardi
“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” – Vince Lombardi
“Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.” – Vince Lombardi
“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.” – Vince Lombardi
“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi
“Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.” – Vince Lombardi
“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.” – Vince Lombardi
“Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” – Vince Lombardi
“The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.” – Vince Lombardi
“It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you’ve got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not yet a winner.” – Vince Lombardi
“Unless a man believes in himself and makes a total commitment to his career and puts everything he has into it – his mind, his body, his heart – what’s life worth to him?” – Vince Lombardi
“I would say that the quality of each man’s life is the full measure of that man’s commitment of excellence and victory – whether it be football, whether it be business, whether it be politics or government or what have you.” – Vince Lombardi
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi
“Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” – Vince Lombardi
“Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there.” – Vince Lombardi
“Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures.” – Vince Lombardi
“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.” – Vince Lombardi
“It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men.” – Vince Lombardi
“After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.” – Vince Lombardi
“If you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.” – Vince Lombardi
“They call it coaching but it is teaching. You do not just tell them…you show them the reasons.” – Vince Lombardi
“Most important of all, to be successful in life demands that a man make a personal commitment to excellence and to victory, even though the ultimate victory can never be completely won. Yet that victory might be pursued and wooed with every fiber of our body, with every bit of our might and all our effort. And each week, there is a new encounter; each day, there is a new challenge.” – Vince Lombardi
“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.” – Vince Lombardi
“Morally, the life of the organization must be of exemplary nature. This is one phase where the organization must not have criticism.” – Vince Lombardi
“In order to succeed, this group will need a singleness of purpose, they will need a dedication, and they will have to convince all of their prospects of the willingness to sacrifice.” – Vince Lombardi
“Once you have established the goals you want and the price you’re willing to pay, you can ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure and the temporary failures.” – Vince Lombardi
“Mental toughness is Spartanism, with all its qualities of self-denial, sacrifice, dedication, fearlessness, and love.” – Vince Lombardi
“There is no substitute for work.” – Vince Lombardi
“Faithfulness and truth are the most sacred excellences and endowments of the human mind.” – Vince Lombardi
“Teams do not go physically flat, they go mentally stale.” – Vince Lombardi
“When we place our dependence in God, we are unencumbered, and we have no worry. In fact, we may even be reckless, insofar as our part in the production is concerned. This confidence, this sureness of action, is both contagious and an aid to the perfect action. The rest is in the hands of God – and this is the same God, gentlemen, who has won all His battles up to now.” – Vince Lombardi
“I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline.” – Vince Lombardi
“The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.” – Vince Lombardi
“There are three things that are important to every man in this locker room. His God, his family, and the Green Bay Packers. In that order.” – Vince Lombardi
“To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.” – Vince Lombardi
“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it character in action.” – Vince Lombardi
“Leadership is not just one quality, but rather a blend of many qualities; and while no one individual possesses all of the needed talents that go into leadership, each man can develop a combination to make him a leader.” – Vince Lombardi
“Success is based upon a spiritual quality, a power to inspire others.” – Vince Lombardi
“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” – Vince Lombardi
“There is only one kind of discipline, and that is the perfect discipline. As a leader, you must enforce and maintain that discipline; otherwise, you will fail at your job.” – Vince Lombardi
“A leader must identify himself with the group, must back up the group, even at the risk of displeasing superiors. He must believe that the group wants from him a sense of approval. If this feeling prevails, production, discipline, morale will be high, and in return, you can demand the cooperation to promote the goals of the community.” – Vince Lombardi
“Second place is meaningless. You can’t always be first, but you have to believe that you should have been – that you were never beaten – that time just ran out on you.” – Vince Lombardi
“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi
“No leader, however great, can long continue unless he wins battles. The battle decides all.” – Vince Lombardi
“To the winner, there is 100-percent elation, 100-percent fun, 100-percent laughter; and yet the only thing left to the loser is resolution and determination.” – Vince Lombardi
“Winning is a habit. Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs. Watch your beliefs, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character.” – Vince Lombardi
“You defeat defeatism with confidence.” – Vince Lombardi
“You never win a game unless you beat the guy in front of you. The score on the board doesn’t mean a thing. That’s for the fans. You’ve got to win the war with the man in front of you. You’ve got to get your man.” – Vince Lombardi
“If you don’t think you’re a winner, you don’t belong here.” – Vince Lombardi
“I’ve been in football all my life, gentlemen, and I don’t know whether I’m particularly qualified to be a part of anything else, except I consider it a great game, a game of many assets, by the way, and I think a symbol of what this country’s best attributes are: courage and stamina and a coordinated efficiency or teamwork.” – Vince Lombardi
“There is something good in men that really yearn for discipline.” – Vince Lombardi
“At many a moment on many a day, I am convinced that pro football must be a game for madmen, and I must be one of them.” – Vince Lombardi
“Before I can embrace freedom, I should be aware of what duties I have.” – Vince Lombardi
“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?” – Vince Lombardi
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi
“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” – Vince Lombardi
“It is and has always been an American zeal to be first in everything we do, and to win…” – Vince Lombardi
“I derived my strength from daily mass and communion.” – Vince Lombardi
“To be successful, a man must exert an effective influence upon his brothers and upon his associates, and the degree in which he accomplishes this depends on the personality of the man. The incandescence of which he is capable. The flame of fire that burns inside of him. The magnetism which draws the heart of other men to him.” – Vince Lombardi
“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!” – Vince Lombardi
“Winning is not everything – but making the effort to win is.” – Vince Lombardi
“Mental toughness is essential to success.” – Vince Lombardi
“Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization…” – Vince Lombardi
“The objective is to win: fairly, squarely, decently, win by the rules, but still win.” – Vince Lombardi
“Don’t succumb to excuses. Go back to the job of making the corrections and forming the habits that will make your goal possible.” – Vince Lombardi
“Teamwork is what the Green Bay Packers were all about. They didn’t do it for individual glory. They did it because they loved one another.” – Vince Lombardi
“The leader can never close the gap between himself and the group. If he does, he is no longer what he must be. He must walk a tightrope between the consent he must win and the control he must exert.” – Vince Lombardi
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” – Vince Lombardi
“Getting to the final is everything, and winning is icing on the cake.” – Vince Lombardi
“Brains without competitive hearts are rudderless.” – Vince Lombardi
“A team that thinks it’s going to lose is going to lose.” – Vince Lombardi
“When you’ve got the momentum in a football game, that is a time to keep going and get it into the end zone. We want to score for America’s families.” – Vince Lombardi