BBAO: Fan maintains Lombardi gravesite

We're Black and Blue All Over:

We've all experienced a resurgence of interest in former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi over the past year. He's been the subject of a Broadway play, an excellent HBO documentary and the trophy named in his honor returned to Green Bay this past winter. We've even read long stories about the house he lived in while coaching the Packers.

On Thursday, Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette brings us the story of Lombardi's gravesite in New Jersey, which is maintained meticulously by a devoted fan who found it overgrown and neglected when visiting 25 years ago. Gary Martin, now 58, has made the three-hour drive to the cemetery anywhere from four to 12 times per year go ensure the stone is readable and the plants around it are trimmed.

Martin was discovered recently by Lori Keck, who was Lombardi's secretary in Green Bay. She visited the site last Sunday.

Martin: "He's the guy that really brought professional football to the table, and the Super Bowl. I think he was a true leader of men, and I have to respect that. I noticed that nobody ever took care of his grave. So I felt like I was obligated to do that for all the joy he gave me."

The legend grows.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is concerned that players will have a tough transition when the NFL finally resumes team practices. Via Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune: "I don't care who you are, I think the only way to get in football shape is to do football things with the team. I can run like I'm Forrest Gump from one coast to the next, but if I don't do drills that pertain to football, I'm not going to be in football shape. The first day back, even guys who have been working out, it will be a little tough for them just because of the pace we go at. It's so much faster."

  • Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is supporting the Lincoln's Challenge Academy, a military boot camp for troubled youth. Dave Hinton of the News Gazette has more.

  • The mayor of St. Paul, Minn., has proposed an alternate stadium plan for the Minnesota Vikings that would put the stadium in Minneapolis, move the Minnesota Timberwolves to St. Paul's Xcel Center and build a new stadium for the St. Paul Saints. Details from the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

  • The Vikings rejected the idea and plan to continue pursuing their proposal in suburban Arden Hill. The team's statement: "We appreciate Mayor Coleman's thoughts regarding a stadium solution, but we are entirely focused on our partnership with Ramsey County. The Arden Hills plan offers the best site for the State, the team and our fans. We have done what State leaders asked us to do by bringing forward an ideal site, a workable finance plan and significant team and local contributions. Our work with State leaders on stadium legislation is on-going as part of the Special Session discussions."

  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press traces the rise of Detroit Lions draft pick Doug Hogue, a linebacker from Syracuse.