Legendary coach Vince Lombardi was tough. But consider what it was like wearing the black cleats of his son, playing high school and college football during those NFL Championship and Super Bowl days of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s.
That was tough.
Yet it is that toughness which is part of the gift the coach gave Vincent Lombardi Jr., 55, his son and namesake, during a childhood that was both inspirational and troubled.
“I went to my dad as a senior in high school and said I wanted to go into phys ed in college because I wanted to coach. He said, ‘That’s fine, but if you do, I won’t give you a penny toward it.”’
The response was harsh, but it came from a caring father, the son told the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce recently.
Coach Lombardi had fought through a hard life of football as a coach for the New York Giants, the Packers, then the Washington Redskins, mostly during the lean times when players and coaches took off-season jobs to make ends meet.
Although he helped usher in the era of big money, big pressure and televised games leading to the Super Bowl, whose trophy is named for him, Lombardi wanted none of it for his son. He pushed young Vincent into law school.
The son quit by Christmas of his first year. But after getting married, he went back the hard way, at night, while holding down a job and supporting a family. It was a challenge he’d meet, and it would help him to achieve his long list of accomplishments that includes writing two books on business (one is “Coaching for Teamwork”), a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and management positions with the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL Management Council in New York, where he handled labor relations.
The younger Lombardi also was president of teams in Oakland and Michigan in the now-defunct United States Football League.
These experiences have led to his current schedule that takes him to 80 cities a year as a motivational business speaker who preaches commitment, effort and teamwork.
His message is one that mirrors his father’s.
“There are three common denominators for winners and high-performance people. They are sticking to the fundamentals, communication with the emphasis on bottom-up communication, and commitment, finding a way to get people to give 100 percent,” he said.
Motivation, he said, is not just trying harder. It also involves mental toughness and mental discipline.
“Part of the reason my father endures is that he was so successful at a time of upheaval in this country: the ‘60s, Vietnam and that sort of stuff.
“I think the country lost confidence in itself and leaders of this country lost confidence in themselves,” he said. “But my Dad had no problem talking about discipline and duty as opposed to individual rights and license … I think he’d still be talking about that today.”
“I also think he’d take issue with the emphasis on the individual in this country today instead of community and the common good.”