Professional Football And The Bible

Day 1 of 10 • This day’s reading

Devotional
"Vince Lombardi Engraves Paraphrased Bible Verse on Championship Ring"

Super Bowl II (January 14, 1968): Green Bay Packers 33, Oakland Raiders 14

“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

Legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi wasn’t the first person to utter that iconic quote (most historians credit the saying to UCLA football coach Red Sanders), but he’s most responsible for making it a permanent part of the American sports lexicon.

That’s because Lombardi was the quintessential winner and one of the most famous coaches in NFL history. After 15 seasons of mediocrity, Green Bay hired the Brooklyn native to return the storied franchise back to its winning ways. Over the next nine seasons, Lombardi exceeded all expectations as he led the Packers to an 89-29 record and five NFL Championships (including Super Bowls I and II).

Today, his legacy lives on through the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which is given to the NFL champion following the annual AFC-NFC matchup.

But as much as he was committed to excellence as a coach, Lombardi was even more ardent in his dedication to his faith and his family. Known for his staunch Catholic beliefs, the beloved leader never missed Sunday mass and originally studied to become a priest.

After Green Bay won Super Bowl II, Lombardi had the words “Run To Win” engraved on his championship ring. It was a paraphrased reference to a Bible verse that has been popularized within the context of athletic competition.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

While the words of the apostle Paul have sometimes been used to justify an unfettered competitive spirit, Lombardi seemed to understand that it was actually the heart behind an athlete’s effort that mattered more than anything.

“When we place our dependence in God, we are unencumbered, and we have no worry,” he once said. “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.”