A Lombardi returns to the Super Bowl
Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi never met his grandfather--Vince Lombardi died in 1970 and his grandson was born in 1981--but he grew up in a house steeped in football tradition and Lombardi's influence. He saw Lombardi's Super Bowl rings, watched all the old NFL Films videos, and dug various books on his grandfather off the family bookshelf.
Lombardi said he grew up loving football, but wanted to be a player, not a coach. When his career at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was over, Lombardi tried moving on. He was sent to Dayton, Ohio, to serve out his military commitment, and he had his eye on becoming an officer.
But after two years out of the sport, he became restless and remembered something his father, Vincent H. Lombardi, a one-time USFL executive, had told him:
"What he said to me is: 'If you can live without football, do it,'" Joe Lombardi said. "If you can't, do football."
Yearning to return while watching college games on television, Lombardi got a job coaching at the University of Dayton, where he could break into the field while fulfilling his service obligation. From there, he went to the Virginia Military Institute to the XFL to Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., never certain he would ever end up in the NFL.
An Air Force connection, however, helped him land a job with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006 and, a year later, he joined the Saints. Now, he is closer than ever to touching the league's championship trophy -- named for his grandfather -- and adding a Super Bowl ring to the family's collection.
"Up to this point, it's been just the Super Bowl -- unrelated to my family ties," Lombardi said. "I think if we win this game, I will look back and it will be a little extra special because of those connections.
"But if we lose, I will just want to forget about it."
-- Amy Shipley
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