VINCE PROMUTO: I was saddened to learn that Vince Promuto, a Redskins standout at guard in the 1960s, passed away last week at age 82. He was named to the Redskins' 70 Greatest Team that was announced in 2002 to honor the best players in franchise history. Last week, I nominated Promuto for induction into the Pro Football Researchers Association's "Hall of Very Good" all-time NFL players. Other Redskin greats, such as Larry Brown and Ron McDole, have already been inducted.
Promuto, undersized for his time at 6-1, 245 pounds, played his entire 11-year NFL career for the Redskins (1960-1970). He made the Pro Bowl twice (63 and 64) and provided pass protection for Sonny Jurgensen, who lit the skies in the 1960s to establish himself as one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. Promuto was a brutal blocker by today’s standards. He’d clothesline defenders and try to knock others out of games by aiming for their knees, two illegal techniques today. He said about the only thing one couldn’t do then was leg-whip an opponent, which involved hitting someone on the shins with the back of your heel.
Promuto played for only one winning team, the Vince Lombardi-coached Redskins that finished 7-5-2 in 1969, the franchise's first winning season since 1955. A native of the Bronx, N.Y, he enjoyed imitating the bullhorn-voiced Lombardi, who also grew up in New York City. In an interview for my book The Redskins Encyclopedia, Promuto shared the following about the legendary coach:
“He’d yell, `What the hell is going on around here.’ I could imitate him to a T. Once in a while he’d be near the locker room and hear me and look at me like, `You son of a bitch, you.’ ”
Of the five Redskin head coaches Promuto played for, he admired Lombardi the most by far. But as the militaristic coach ran his players to exhaustion in practice before the 1969 season, Promuto nearly called it quits. This quote is one of my all-time favorites:
“I went to see Lombardi one night in training camp,” Promuto said. “I said, `Coach, I’m no Mack truck or anything. I’m a human being. You’re screaming and yelling, and I’m not going to take it.’ What he said completely disarmed me. He went ‘ha ha, ha. You Italians are all the same. You get too emotional.’ Once I knew he had compassion, I could take anything he was willing to shove out.”
One personal story about Promuto: In 2007, he invited me and my family for an afternoon on his yacht in south Florida. It was a lot of fun learning more about a man who grew up on the mean streets of New York, didn't play football until his junior year of high school, and became one of the best offensive linemen in Redskins history. Rest in peace, Vince.
These photos show Promuto blocking in 1969 for Larry Brown, who was a rookie at the time, and Lombardi at a D.C. press conference where he was announced as the Redskins' coach.