.- Joe Lombardi has one of the most recognizable last names in sports thanks to his iconic grandfather, Vince, who took the National Football League by storm during his coaching tenure with the Green Bay Packers.
Joe carried on his famous grandfather's Super Bowl winning legacy by winning a world championship ring of his own as a coach with the 2009 New Orleans Saints, but it all takes a backseat when it comes to his Catholic faith.
He lives by his grandfather's credo of "Faith, Family, and Football," and was emphatic that the importance of the trio was followed in that order. His Catholic faith has played an instrumental role in his life, Lombardi said of his grandfather. Vince died just nine months after Joe was born in 1970.
"I never had a chance to really meet my grandfather, but the things he has passed on about our Catholic faith lives on with me today," said Lombardi, who has been married to his wife Julie for 13 years and has six children.
He has been successful in various coaching positions on different levels from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Mercyhurst College to coach of tight ends and running backs for the New York/New Jersey Hitmen of the now-defunct XFL. He coached tight ends and tackles at Virginia Military Institute and even played for the United States Air Force Academy, where he was named a lieutenant and served four years and earned three letters.
These various positions have helped season Lombardi and allowed him to bring those experiences to the position he holds currently in the NFL as quarterbacks coach for New Orleans. Yet he does not hesitate to explain how the game of football and his Catholic faith are similar in building a foundation for success.
"In football, you deal with the Xs and Os and the game is about the fundamentals such as blocking, tackling, throwing, and catching the ball," Lombardi said. "You look at the fundamentals of our Catholic faith and they are built on our sacraments, confession, the rosary, and attending Mass."
"Football can be a very demanding profession, and it takes a lot of time from your family. You are up early and go to bed late and many things get put on hold. I have a long drive and there's no reason why I can't say a rosary instead of listening to music in the car while driving across the bridge on the way to practice or on the way home. I don't golf, I don't fish, I don't hunt, and I have no hobbies. I live a simple life. It is all for my family and my faith."
His daily life is guided by using his Catholic faith and has helped through many situations over the years. One that stands out to him is a conversation where he had to defend his stringent following of the Catholic faith.
"I have friends who are not Catholic and they sometimes bring up reasons why they disagree with the Catholic church and its teachings, and even some friends who are Catholic sometimes are skeptical of their own faith," Lombardi said. "There are other religions for others to follow, but they do not stress the important aspects such as sacraments, confession, going to Mass, and more. I have some friends who say they do not want to be told what they have to do."
Lombardi said that his Catholic faith is very important to him and plays an instrumental role in his life, but nothing is more important to him than the sacraments of Mass and the holy Eucharist.
"I can be talking to a friend and they can tell me parts of the Catholic faith that are not important to them," Lombard said. "It is all about the sacraments for me."
"Your faith gives you a sense of perspective. It shows how the world is a small blip and we are working all toward eternity. You have to trust that things will work out. It may not be what you want at the time, but God has bigger plans for you. It is an eternal thing that is much bigger and keeps our feet on the ground."
Lombardi sums up how he would describe his Catholic faith to someone he never met in a quote by famed writer C.S. Lewis who became known as one of the most influential Christian writers of the 20th century.
"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."
Posted with permission from the Catholic Sports Association, an organization dedicated to highlighting Catholic sports professionals and enriching junior high and high school student-athletes with Catholic sports articles, conferences, a Web series, and other programs.