Enter Power Sweep, Stage Right

In a pivotal scene from the upcoming drama, Vince Lombardi shows his Packers the play that will make them the first Super Bowl dynasty
September 05, 2010

Lombardi. The very name tingles with dramatic possibility, which will be realized on Broadway next month. Based on When Pride Still Mattered, David Maraniss's 2000 best seller, and written by Eric Simonson, a member of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lombardi depicts the on-field triumphs of the feared-yet-beloved Packers coach who remains so hallowed that his name is on the trophy given to the Super Bowl champions. In the title role is Dan Lauria (cantankerous dad Jack Arnold in TV's The Wonder Years); his troubled wife, Marie, is played by Broadway and TV veteran Judith Light. In the scene below, provided exclusively to SI, it is 1959 and Lombardi, who has just taken over in Green Bay, is having his first meeting with running backs Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor, to whom he begins detailing the power sweep, the play that would become the cornerstone of the Packers' dynasty and the two players' eventual ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Lombardi's office; Lombardi, followed by Hornung and Taylor, both in street clothes.

LOMBARDI

Come in, boys.

HORNUNG

Hello, Coach—(Taylor grunts.)

LOMBARDI

How'd I do out there, fellas?

HORNUNG

Well, I tell you, Mr. Lombardi, you got their attention.

LOMBARDI

They could have walked out at once for all I knew.... I did not expect either of you till three days from now.

HORNUNG

Yes, sir.

LOMBARDI

Was there some sort of confusion with the dates? You're here early.

HORNUNG

Just a day or two.

LOMBARDI(Barks.)

Three days! How come?! This camp right now is for rookies and walk-ons only. What in the hell you hanging around camp for?!

HORNUNG

Well, sir—

LOMBARDI

That is not a question, Mister. If you come around camp, you come to work out, not to stand around and watch or sit with the others during lunch to make conversation. That is what we call a distraction. Why are you here?!

(He waits.)

That's actually a real question. Answer.

HORNUNG

Me and a couple of the boys, we were... .

LOMBARDI

What?! You were what?!

HORNUNG

Nothing.

LOMBARDI

Were you thinking you could get a head start on your bar hopping?

HORNUNG

No, sir.

LOMBARDI

Do not lie to me, Paul Hornung! You were spotted till all hours of the night at a place called Bucky's Beanery. This establishment is off-limits. I've got a list—(Picks up a piece of paper from his desk.)

I've got a list here of all the bars and restaurants you are never, ever allowed to frequent again, and if I catch you there, you will be fined. You understand?

HORNUNG

Yes, sir.

LOMBARDI

Jim, why are you here early?

TAYLOR

I messed up on my calendar dates.

LOMBARDI

(After a beat.)

O.K. Both of you owe me 50 dollars.

TAYLOR

What for?!

LOMBARDI

You missed curfew.

TAYLOR

I didn't go out drinking.

LOMBARDI

Yet you weren't in your bed by 10.

HORNUNG

I thought curfew didn't start till Tuesday.

LOMBARDI

Mister, curfew started the day you showed up to camp! There is going to be a new way of doing things around here. You understand?

TAYLOR/HORNUNG

Yes, sir.

LOMBARDI

Now. While I got you here, we might as well make it worth our time. Tomorrow you are going to suit up and work out with the rest of the team. Jim, you are the starting fullback. That is not going to change. Paul, the previous coach had you playing practically every position on the field.

HORNUNG

Yes, sir.

LOMBARDI

From quarterback to running back and placekicker. Safety, punt and kickoff returns.

HORNUNG

Yup.

LOMBARDI

How do you feel about that?

HORNUNG

When you put it that way, Coach, it makes me feel kind of tired.

LOMBARDI

Of course it does, because you can't do it. Nobody can. Did you like losing?

HORNUNG

Nobody likes losing.

LOMBARDI

That is my point exactly. I want you to know one thing, Paul Hornung, you won't have to worry about playing five positions anymore. You are my left halfback. You are my Frank Gifford. You're either going to be my left halfback, or you're not going to make it in pro football, you understand?

HORNUNG

Yes, sir.

LOMBARDI

Now. Every team has a certain play that is theirs, and if they are good enough at running it, then there is no team that can stop it. Ours is the Power Sweep, we call it forty-nine, and you two are the cornerstones of that play. Jim, you and Paul here are going to be my thunder and lightning. You two are the engine that drives this team to victory.

(Goes to the chalkboard. Now he is speaking to the entire team.)

And this play, gentlemen, will be our bread and butter.

(MORE)

(Diagrams the play. Film and still images wash over the set.)

The offensive end takes an open position exactly nine feet from this tackle. The tackle, Jerry Kramer, is wider than usual, for greater latitude to pull left or right. Then you, [Fred]Thurston—you may also break inside or outside, depending on how the play has broken. We create a seal here and a seal here and Jim Taylor, or Paul Hornung, as soon as you get the ball, you follow that blocker, and you run ... in ... the ... alley! You run to daylight! Wherever it shows. Inside the defensive tackle, inside the defensive end, outside the defensive linebacker. You run to daylight. Forty-nine. And this play can break any one of those three places. But ultimately, on this one play we have a hundred different options. Each man must read the defense as it happens and block according to his discretion. It's up to the team to decide which way it goes, each player making split-second decisions in concert. This is our signature play. This is the play that we must make go. Every team in the league is going to know we're going to run this play, and no matter how hard they try to stop us, they won't. Because they can't! And we will run it again and again and again!

(Lights shift back to Hornung)

HORNUNG

That season we went from 1-10-1 to 7--5. You want to understand Coach, you watch that play. It's him.

Now on SI.com

For a gallery of rare Vince Lombardi photos, go to SI.com/photo

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