Born on April 9, 1898, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Earl "Curly" Lambeau formed the Green Bay Packers football team in 1919. One of the era’s most innovative coaches, he popularized the use of the forward pass and won six National Football League championships with the Packers. Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, he passed away on June 1, 1965.
Earl Louis Lambeau was born on April 9, 1898, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Named captain of the Green Bay East High School football team as a senior in 1917, he went on to play for legendary coach Knute Rockne at the University of Notre Dame. However, he contracted a severe case of tonsillitis and was forced to return home before his sophomore year.
Lambeau was employed as a shipping clerk for the Indian Packing Company when he and George Calhoun, sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, hatched the idea to form a football team. On August 11, 1919, Lambeau and Calhoun met with prospective players in the editorial room of the Press-Gazette. After a discussion with Indian Packing Company executive Frank Peck, who agreed to provide backing money in exchange for use of the company name, the Green Bay Packers were born.
The Packers joined the American Professional Football Association in 1921, but the franchise was forfeited after the team illegally used college players. Lambeau put up $50 of his own money to get the Packers reinstated to the reformatted National Football League in 1922, then managed to secure contributions from Press-Gazette owner Andrew B. Turnbull to help keep them afloat for the season. The following year, Turnbull convinced local businessmen to buy stock and turn the Packers into a non-profit organization.
The team's financial problems solved, Lambeau could turn his attention to the gridiron as a player-coach. He was a capable halfback at 5'10", 187 pounds, but he stood out as one of the era's innovative minds. Adopting Rockne's use of the forward pass, Lambeau built the Packers into an offensive juggernaut with his intricate schemes. He won his first of three consecutive NFL championships in 1929, his last year as an active player, and added titles in 1936, '39 and '44.
Lambeau established a series of practices and methods that would become commonplace within the NFL. He popularized the formation of summer training camps and film study sessions, and his was the first team to travel via airplane. Lambeau was also the first to create a separate training facility for his team, but his decision to spend $50,000 on the Rockwood Lodge for that purpose in 1946 caused a rift within management, and led to his departure from the Packers after the 1949 season.
Lambeau spent two years coaching the Chicago Cardinals and two more with the Washington Redskins before announcing his retirement after the 1955 season. He spent a total of 35 years as a head coach, compiling a record of 226 wins, 132 losses and 22 ties during his 33 official years in the NFL/APFA.
Elected a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, Lambeau passed away from a heart attack on June 1, 1965, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Three months later, the Packers changed their stadium name to Lambeau Field, and today a statue of the legendary coach and innovator stands on its grounds, watching over the team he founded and brought to prominence.
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