Just weeks after his death in 1970, the Rotary Club of Houston was authorized by Vince Lombardi’s widow, Marie, to establish the Lombardi Award, an annual honor which originally recognized the nation’s best collegiate lineman or linebacker and also celebrates the memory of one of football’s greatest coaches.
As stipulated by Mrs. Lombardi, net proceeds from all Award and associated activities are contributed to Cancer Research and children who can not afford treatment to fight the disease that claimed the life of Coach Lombardi. Since the award’s inception in 1970, millions of dollars have been raised to help programs of cancer research, public education and direct services to cancer patients. Eligibility for the award has recently been expanded to include any player who demonstrates outstanding performance and skill in offensive or defensive positions and best exemplifies the discipline, virtue and wisdom that defined Vince Lombardi’s exceptional brand of leadership.
Vince Lombardi guided the Green Bay Packers to their first two Super Bowl titles, leading the Packers to six divisional championships and five NFL Championships in a coaching career that led to his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1971.
A fierce competitor on the field and a highly motivational man off the field, Lombardi first gained notoriety as one of the legendary “seven blocks of granite” while playing as a lineman at Fordham University in New York in the mid 1930’s. He was a high school Latin and chemistry teacher before beginning a collegiate coaching career in his native New York.
He was named head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1959 at the age of 46 and immediately turned around the fortunes of the Pack, guiding the club from a 1-10-1 mark in 1958 to a 7-5 record in his first season. After the second of his Super Bowl titles in 1967, he stepped down from his coaching duties in 1968 and served as Packers general manager. Missing the fast pace of the NFL sidelines, Lombardi accepted a position as general manager and head coach of the Washington Redskins in 1969 and guided Washington to a 7-5-2 mark. Tragically, he was stricken with cancer during that 1969 season and succumbed at the age of 57 in 1970. Today the legacy of Mr. Lombardi is carried on by his estate as well as by the annual Rotary Lombardi Award. For more information on the career of Vince Lombardi, we invite you to visit his official web site at www.vincelombardi.com.