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1965 Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers Game Worn Sweater

Chris Brigandi

Is there a better piece of football memorabilia in existence? Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers coaching sweater is the HOLY GRAIL! With provenance from the NFL team owner who received it from the #GOAT himself, this one-of-a-kind sweater is the cornerstone to even the best football collections.

Click here to see for yourself: Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers 1965 Game Worn Sweater

 

Imagine watching the NFL Playoffs alongside the man for whom the championship trophy is named …

For Edward Neill Williams, son of former Washington Redskins owner Edward Bennett Williams, this football fantasy became reality when he was just eight years of age. The year was 1968, and Vince Lombardi had just been named head coach of the Washington Redskins for the 1969 NFL season. In an attempt to get a head start on the upcoming season and establish a championship culture in Washington D.C., Lombardi invited his new boss and his son to his new home in Potomac, Maryland to watch the NFL playoffs.

Many sports enthusiasts would argue that football’s ascension to the top of American sport began as early as 1959, the year Vince Lombardi was named head coach of the Green Bay Packers. While baseball was still considered America’s pastime, Lombardi’s early impact sparked the NFL’s rise in popularity to where it is today, nearly 60 years later.

Born in 1913, Vincent Lombardi was certainly what one would call a football-lifer. Although undersized and ridden with poor eyesight, Lombardi began his football career as an offensive lineman at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. Under the tutelage of head coach Jim Crowley, one of the “Four Horsemen” in Notre Dame’s legendary backfield in the 1920’s, Lombardi’s hard work and toughness always stood out, despite his physical short comings. By his senior year he was the starting right guard for the Ram’s famous offensive line dubbed the Seven Blocks of Granite, one of the most feared front lines in all of college football.

Lombardi gained his first coaching experience in 1939 as an assistant coach at St. Cecilia’s High School in Englewood, New Jersey. In 1942, he took over as the program’s head coach and quickly turned St. Cecilia’s into one of the top high school football teams in the nation. In fact, in just his second year, Lombardi led St. Cecilia’s to a title over a Brooklyn Prep team led by senior quarterback Joe Paterno.


In 1947, Lombardi returned to the Bronx to coach Fordham’s freshmen football and basketball teams, and would later be promoted to assistant coach of his alma mater’s varsity football team. After just two seasons as a coach at Fordham, Lombardi joined the football program at West Point, where he served as Army’s assistant/offensive line coach. This is where Vince Lombardi developed his coaching philosophy that would ascend him into football lore years later. Under legendary head coach Earl "Colonel Red" Blaik, Lombardi was able to combine his own religious background with West Point's military discipline, creating a unique approach to coaching.

Several years ago, our very own John Brigandi was fortunate enough to attend a dinner with Jerry Kramer, a Green Bay Packers legend who won seven championships while playing for Lombardi. The offensive guard and kicker told John that what made Vince so good was that he knew exactly how to motivate each one of his players, and this is what set him apart from all the other coaches. At the time, there was really only one approach to coaching a football team: TOUGH-LOVE. Each coach had a specific philosophy, and as a player, you either fell in line or you got left behind. Lombardi was able to recognize that the team was a large group of individuals from different backgrounds and upbringing; and he was the first coach to understand and utilize that individuality.

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”
“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

He knew what made each of his players tick. Some needed to be screamed at, others needed to be encouraged. By tapping into each of his player’s psyche, he was able to get this group of individuals to work together to achieve the ultimate, common goal… a championship.

This philosophy, certainly developed at the United States Military Academy at West Point, was the key to Lombardi’s success. In 1954, he finally made the jump to professional football as the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants. In 1956 the Giants defeated the Chicago Bears for the NFL Championship game, Lombardi’s first, but certainly not last, championship.

In the 1950’s the Green Bay Packers were one of the worst teams in the National Football League. They consistently finished in the bottom of the standings, and in 1958, despite having five future Hall of Famers on the roster, the Packers finished the season with only a single win. It was time for a change, and there were a lot of questions in Green Bay about the franchise’s future. Vincent Thomas Lombardi was the answer, signing on as the team’s head coach in 1959.

Lombardi’s impact on the Packers was instantaneous. He quickly turned the team around and was named Coach of the Year after his first season in Green Bay. Since Lombardi’s inaugural season, the Packers have sold out every single game.

In his second season, the Lombardi Packers made it to the NFL Championship game, where they were defeated by the Philadelphia Eagles. Following the devastating loss, the head coach told his team that they would never lose a championship game ever again… and he was right.

In the 1960’s, the Green Bay Packers won a total of five NFL Championships - 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, in addition to winning Super Bowls I and II following the 1966 and 1967 seasons. Seven titles in nine years is unprecedented in any sport, and without question the 1960’s Green Bay Packers led by Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi will go down in history as one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports.

Following his 1967 NFL championship and Super Bowl II victory, Lombardi stepped down as the head coach in Green Bay. He remained with the Packers for the 1968 season as the team’s general manager before moving on to coach the Washington Redskins.

Which brings us back to the winter of 1968…

We mentioned that Lombardi invited his new boss, Redskins owner Edward Bennett Williams, and his son to watch the NFL playoffs. What a day it must have been for Williams to get acquainted with his new coach, and of course, for an eight year old boy to watch football at Vince Lombardi’s house. But the primary purpose of the visit was to get a head start on the upcoming season. In a letter of provenance from Williams’ son, his father and Lombardi “talked about how the Redskins would soon be playing championship football.” In typical Lombardi fashion, he wasted no time implementing his style and philosophy. Williams hired him to establish a winning culture in Washington, and that’s exactly what Lombardi was going to do. In fact, in his first and only season as the Redskins head coach, the team posted their first winning record in 14 seasons.

There was only one problem with this preseason meeting…

When Williams and his son arrived at Lombardi’s house, they were surprised by what the Hall of Fame coach was wearing. His attire was a bit questionable, to say the least, and certainly did not match his new job title.

On this special day, although now officially at the helm of the Redskins locker room, Vince Lombardi was wearing his Green Bay Packers coaching sweater, the exact same sweater we have offered here!

Was it a lighthearted joke? Possibly.
Perhaps it was simply a case of an old habit dying hard.
The answer is lost to the ages.

Whatever the case may be, Williams Sr. took no offense to the pull over, and even joked that his new head coach would have to get rid of all his Packers gear now that he was in Washington. A week later, Lombardi sent the sweater to Williams as a gift. It remained in the Williams family ever since… until now!

This Sand Knit pull over sweater worn by Vince Lombardi is a Canton worthy artifact! The sweater shows moderate-heavy use, as its heavy wool material was perfect for the rough conditions of Lambeau Field, but it still remains in flawless condition. There are absolutely no moth holes, stains, or other imperfections typically found on such pieces. Of course, the sweater is dark green, and features the Packers matching gold and white trim along the neck, wrists, and waste lines.

The back of the sweater features single-tackle twill stitched “PACKERS” arching across the top. The gold lettering pops off the green wool. More importantly, the gold number “1” stitched on to the lower left side of the front of the jersey. This signifies that the head coach is technically the #1 man on a team’s roster, and affirms that this particular example was in fact worn by Lombardi. The only other member of the Packers organization to officially wear #1 was Earl “Curly” Lambeau, who founded the Packers in 1919. The inaugural Hall of Fame inductee was the team’s first head coach and played halfback for 11 seasons. Consequently, the Packer’s iconic stadium, Lambeau Field, is named after the Green Bay Legend.

By far the most impressive feature of this Hall of Fame piece is the inside of the sweater. Underneath the original Sand Knit manufacturing tag and size is a strip stitched into the collar that reads “V Lombardi” in gold script lettering.

There is only one other extant Lombardi game-worn article in the hobby, which came from his early years as a college offensive line coach at West Point. The 1950’s style sweater was found in a thrift store, and was sold at auction a years back. This particular example, however, did not have Lombardi’s name stitched into the collar (just handwritten),  meaning it was a generic issue by the team. Today, the owner of that sweater is asking $100,000 - good value considering it's the only other known Lombardi coaching sweater. With that being said, it's still from his young days as an unknown college o-line coach and doesn't carry the prestige as head coach of NFL's greatest franchise in history-- the 1960's Green Bay Packers!

The fact that our sweater is the only example with the name stitched into the collar, meaning it was team-issued specifically to Lombardi, increases the value astronomically. But more importantly, it’s from the 1965 championship season during Lombardi’s Packer dynasty of the 1960’s. Without a doubt, this sweater is the most special piece of football memorabilia in the hobby.

In addition to the #1 and Lombardi’s name stitched into the jersey, the originality of the sweater is absolutely flawless. Mears Authentication deems the sweater 100% authentic, and even provides images used for style matching. We also have the iron-clad letter of provenance written by Edward Bennett Williams’ son detailing that special day that led to Lombardi’s gifting the sweater to the family. 

This is by far one of the most impressive pieces we've ever had in our collection... without a doubt, this falls into Brigandi Quality.



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