St. Francis Preparatory School senior Kevin Brown had trouble choosing his high school years ago, but he had one requirement: it had to have a football team.
His mother chose St. Francis and when he first joined the Terriers, one thing he’ll never forget the coaching staff told him is that legendary pro football head coach Vince Lombardi was also a student there.
“I was surprised,” Brown said. “I thought they were playing with me.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame recognized the late Lombardi in a ceremony at his alma mater on Wednesday as part of the Hometown Hall of Famers program, which is sponsored by Allstate.
“It opened up my eyes to see that I’m really part of something that’s so big,” Brown said of the ceremony to honor the football great.
Lombardi, a former Green Bay Packer head coach, maybe a Wisconsin icon, but he got his football start right here in New York City. He first played organized football on the St. Francis Prep football team.
Lombardi’s grandson, John, who accepted a plaque on behalf of the family, said his grandfather realized he wanted to dedicate his life to football because of his experience at St. Francis.
The family decided to donate the plaque to the school to help motivate current students to strive for success in whatever career they choose.
“I think [my grandfather] is just an example of someone who had a vision of what they wanted to accomplish and went after it with every ounce of what he had and that’s the lesson,” John said.
After Lombardi graduated St. Francis in 1933, he went to play football at Fordham University in the Bronx.
Lombardi is attributed for saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” and he certainly knew how to win. He led the Green Bay Packers to three straight and five total league championships, including the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967.
Lombardi was entered into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy, the award for the winning team in the Super Bowl, is named in his honor.
Rutgers University head football coach Kyle Flood, who is also a St. Francis graduate, praised Lombardi for his contributions to pro football.
“I don’t know that there’s any coach that doesn’t strive to do what Vince Lombardi was,” Flood said. “It’s an honor to call him one of our own.”