Without Vainisi (above, second from right), would Vince Lombardi have won five championships? Perhaps, but there’s no question that Vainisi’s scouting acumen helped those legendary teams by plying Lombardi with a host of future Pro Football Hall of Famers.
In 1950, then-Packers head coach Gene Ronzani hired the then-23-year-old Vainisi to organize the team’s personnel department. Vainisi, doing something most teams didn’t, sought the opinions of college coaches in his scouting, and was essentially a one-man band in the scouting department in Green Bay.
It paid off: The Packers went on to draft or acquire 10 future Pro Football Hall of Fame players with Vainisi on staff — center Jim Ringo, tackle Forrest Gregg, halfback Paul Hornung, fullback Jim Taylor, linebacker Ray Nitschke, guard Jerry Kramer and quarterback Bart Starr. He also signed safety Willie Wood as a free agent in 1960 and traded for Willie Davis and Henry Jordan.
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According to David Maraniss’ Lombardi biography, “When Pride Still Mattered,” Vainisi lobbied team president Dominic Olejniczak and Packers board of directors to hire Lombardi as coach, and during his interview, Lombardi told the board that he would not have considered Green Bay if it was not for Vainisi.
Sadly, Vainisi never saw any of Lombardi’s championships. He died of a heart condition at age 33 on Nov. 27, 1960. He never held the title of general manager but had an enduring impact.
“He was the unsung hero of that whole era,” Starr once said. “Jack gets forgotten sometimes, but his eye for talent made it all possible.”