New Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi bears the name of one of football’s most famous coaches. As the grandson of Vince Lombardi, it might seem that Joe was destined to become a football coach.
But that’s not actually true.
In fact, Joe was discouraged from trying to make a life out of football, just as his grandfather had discouraged his son a generation before:
“No, in fact, I think when you come from a football family you’re encouraged not to get into football,” he said. “My dad went off to college and told his dad that he was going to be a football coach and he was going to major in physical education. His dad said, ‘Well, that’s fine, but I’m not paying for a cent of your college then. You’re going to be a lawyer.’ So, my dad went to law school.
“Same thing with me. He said, ‘Hey, listen. Do something else. There is a lot of stress involved, it’s hard on the family.’ So you don’t go to the Air Force Academy with the thought that you’re going to be a football coach.”
Vince died the year before Joe was born so the two didn’t have a personal relationship. As a result, Joe’s connection to his famous grandfather felt in many ways the same as an ordinary fan:
“It was something that you always remember being a part of your life,” he said. “In some ways, not knowing my grandfather, he was to me maybe like he was to a lot of you, you know, someone that you saw on NFL Films or ESPN specials.”
So while Joe comes to Detroit with a famous last name, his road to becoming the Lions offensive coordinator hasn’t come with the perks that might otherwise come to someone following the family line into the coaching ranks.