Let's Learn From the Past: Lombardi Trophy

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With six Super Bowl championships, the Pittsburgh Steelers have captured more Lombardi trophies than any NFL franchise. But before the trophy was ever hoisted by NFL owners and players, it started out as a simple sketch on a cocktail napkin.

In 1967, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and Tiffany & Co. vice president Oscar Riedner developed the concept for the trophy over lunch, when Mr. Riedner drew an image of a football resting on a three-sided stand on a napkin. Mr. Rozelle liked the idea and commissioned the jewelry company to create the trophy.

Made entirely of sterling silver, the first trophy was awarded to the Green Bay Packers following their victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1967 AFL-NFL World Championship game. It featured the inscription "World Professional Football Championship," since the term "Super Bowl" was not officially implemented until Super Bowl III in 1969.

In 1970, following the AFL-NFL merger, the league received a shock when legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer at age 57. To commemorate his coaching career and victories in the first two Super Bowls, the NFL renamed its championship trophy in honor of Lombardi shortly after his death.

It was first presented as the Vince Lombardi Trophy following Super Bowl V when Johnny Unitas led the Baltimore Colts over the Dallas Cowboys. Coincidentally, this is the only Lombardi trophy not permanently retained by a franchise, as the City of Baltimore gained possession of the trophy in 1984 as part of the legal settlement related to the Colts' defection to Indianapolis.

Today, the Lombardi trophy, which stands 22 inches tall and weighs seven pounds, is an iconic symbol of America's most popular sport. A new trophy is produced each year by Tiffany & Co. in Parsippany, N.J., and then returned to Tiffany & Co. following the Super Bowl to be engraved with the names of the teams, game date, location and final score.

The Steelers name was last etched into the silver Lombardi trophy following their Super Bowl XLIII win over the Arizona Cardinals in 2009. The victory broke a three-way tie with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys for most Super Bowl wins in NFL history.

Visitors to the Heinz History Center can see all six of the Steelers' Super Bowl trophies from Friday through Nov. 30 as part of the new exhibition "Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame." Information: www.heinzhistorycenter.org.

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