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Vince Lombardi On Broadway: NFL To Help Produce Play

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NEW YORK — The NFL is taking Vince Lombardi to Broadway.

For the first time, the league will help produce a Broadway play, its first venture into live theater. The league will serve as a special producing partner of "Lombardi," which will star Dan Lauria, a regular on the TV show "The Wonder Years" and former college football player and high school coach.

"Lombardi" is scheduled to open Oct. 21 at the Circle in the Square Theatre. It will be directed by Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail.

"Football and Broadway are both iconic American forms of entertainment, and the NFL is proud to bring these two unique and passionate audiences together under one roof," said Tracy Perlman, NFL vice president of entertainment marketing and promotions. "Lombardi's charisma and coaching style were legendary – and intensely theatrical. Football fans will learn more about the dramatic private life of the sports hero for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, and Broadway audiences will be captivated by the story of a family chasing the American dream."

Although the NFL is not putting up any money for the play, it will promote and market "Lombardi" through NFL Network, and its teams, specifically the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi won five NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls, with the Packers.

Lauria, who played at Southern Connecticut State, will be at next week's draft and will journey to Green Bay at some point this offseason. The actor hopes to "get a sense of what Vince Lombardi meant and continues to mean to the fans, particularly in Green Bay," said Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of corporate communications.

The original concept for the play was brought to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell by Tony Ponturo, who was behind Anheuser-Busch's heavy involvement in sports sponsorship and now runs a sports and entertainment management and marketing company. Ponturo will serve as producer of "Lombardi," which is based on a book by David Maraniss. Academy Award winner Eric Simonson has written the Broadway adaptation.

The league also is involved with a film project on the Hall of Fame coach that will star Robert De Niro.

"There are few actors who could accurately portray the fire, passion and grit of Lombardi," said Charles Coplin, NFL vice president of programming, "and we're thrilled to have Robert De Niro on our team."