Legendary Packers Scout Jack Vainisi a Senior Committee Finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Vince Lombardi is considered one of the best if not the greatest coach in the history of the NFL. But Lombardi's dynasty would not have been possible and Lombardi may never have coached the Green Bay Packers if not for Jack Vainisi.

Vainisi is an overlooked figure by many fans, but now, the veterans committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame has made the former Packers scout one of 25 former players, coaches and builders who are still in the running for a spot in the hallowed halls of Canton, Ohio.

Not too many scouts get honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Scouting is a thankless job that often goes unnoticed by fans and the media alike. It involves long trips around the country, endless stays in hotel and motel rooms, eating meals on the go and time away from family in search of football talent.

But few people were better at it than Jack Vainisi. He joined the Packers shortly after he graduated from Notre Dame in 1950 and helped build a team that won five championships in seven seasons in the 1960s.

Vainisi was ahead of his time. He did more than most scouts during that era. In addition to traveling to watch players, he set up an extensive network of contacts with coaches throughout the country with many of them having ties to either the Packers or the Fighting Irish. Vainisi didn't only ask coaches about their players but about opposing team's players as well. And in the days before computers and the Internet, he set up an extensive collection of binders containing all his scouting information. He scouted nearly 4,000 players during his time with the Packers organization.

The hard work paid off. The Packers added eight Hall of Fame players based on Vainisi's recommendations. The group includes Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Jerry Kramer and free agent signee Willie Wood.

Hornung had fond memories of Vainisi. "I loved Jack Vainisi -- all the players did," Hornung later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He was a football man, that's what he was, pure and simple. He brought so much talent to Green Bay, but it took Lombardi to make us champions."

Other outstanding Packers players added after strong recommendations by Vainisi were Dave Hanner, Boyd Dowler, Max McGee, Bob Skoronski, Dan Currie, Hank Gremminger and Ron Kramer. Many of they key components of the Packers dynasty of the 1960s joined the team because of Vainisi's work.

He was also largely responsible for the Packers 1958 draft class, widely regarded as one of the greatest in league history. The Packers added three eventual Hall of Fame players in oe draft with Taylor, Nitschke and Kramer. In the first round, they added Currie who was a mainstay at linebacker.

Vainisi did more than just select talent, though. It was because of Vainisi that Lombardi came to Green Bay in the first place, at least that was what the Packers coach and general manager told the team's executive board when he interviewed for the job in 1959.

It was also Vainisi who told Lombardi to insist on being named both coach and general manager of the team because he told Lombardi the executive board would get his way otherwise.

In his outstanding biography of Lombardi, "When Pride Still Mattered," author David Maraniss had this to say about the role Vainisi played in building Lombardi's championship teams. "If Lombardi found the best in his players, their performance, in the end, was limited by what that best could be. Lombardi inherited an uncommonly talented collection of athletes when he came to Green Bay and Jack Vainisi realized that before anyone else."

Sadly, while Vainisi helped created the talented roster that Lombardi molded from also-rans to a championship team, he didn't live long enough to see the fruits of his labor. He had contracted rheumatic fever while stationed in Japan with the Aarmy after World War II and it weakened his heart. He died of a heart attack at the age of 33 on November 27, 1960, roughly a month before Lombardi's squad played the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFL Championship.

"We were all deeply shocked," Lombardi told reporters shortly after Vainisi passed away. "I have lost a close personal friend. I had known [Jack] for several years before I came here. It will be hard to do without him."

The Packers honored Vainisi in 1982 when he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. Now, one of the greatest scouts in the history of the NFL has a chance to be immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an honor he richly deserves.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (16)

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packerbackerjim's picture

July 09, 2022 at 02:11 pm

He is totally deserving of HOF status. Beatification wouldn’t be much of a reach.

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AliciaRay's picture

July 14, 2022 at 10:32 pm

Thank you so much! This is my Grandfather and I know all these comments mean the world to my family. I never got to meet him, but I feel like I have known him thanks to all the love & stories I’ve heard.

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CheeseEdWest2's picture

July 09, 2022 at 05:25 pm

Up there right next to Saint Vince.

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AliciaRay's picture

July 14, 2022 at 10:39 pm

Thanks for your taking the time to comment on this! I know it means the world to my mom especially, his daughter.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 09, 2022 at 07:05 pm

Maraniss told the story of Jack Vainisi in "When Pride Still Mattered". Truly, Vainisi is as deserving of the HOF as any Packer....he was instrumental in the creation of the Lombardi years, including lobbying for Lombardi to get hired.

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AliciaRay's picture

July 14, 2022 at 10:41 pm

Thanks for your response, it means a lot to my family that you took the time to bring this up! Thanks!

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 10, 2022 at 12:55 am

I went on a fishing trip in Canada with Jack Vainisi's brother. We were in a small cabin with two other guys who were snorers, so we spent most of the time talking. Jack's brother is a doctor who has developed a number of renown eye treatments, but his passion is football as is mine. I was aware of his brother's scouting prowess and value to the Packers. I'm a lousy fisherman, so I'm glad we had a week or so to talk about things other than fishing. It would certainly mean a lot to Jack Vainisi's brother to have him selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I would vote yes if I were on the committee and I'm pulling for him to make it.

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Handsback's picture

July 10, 2022 at 08:18 am

Great story....thanks for sharing.

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AliciaRay's picture

July 14, 2022 at 10:43 pm

It would mean the world to his daughter Valerie. You must be referring to my Uncle Sam. Yes, I’m sure it’d mean the world to him as well. Just getting to the semifinals has been extremely uplifting! Thanks for sharing your story!

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Johnblood27's picture

July 10, 2022 at 08:17 am

Jack Vainisi was to scouting what Don Hutson was to pass receiving, Bart Starr was to quarterbacking, what Ray Nitschke was to linebacking, what Vince Lombardi was to coaching.

He belongs among them today.

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Handsback's picture

July 10, 2022 at 08:21 am

Good point, yet could we also say the same for the Steelers guy who made that 70s team and the man who made the 49er teams in the 80s?

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Johnblood27's picture

July 10, 2022 at 11:53 am

They followed in the footsteps of Jack Vainisi.

He developed many of the strategies and tactics which make up the responsibilities of modern NFL college and pro personnel departments today.

He was an innovator and leader enabling those who followed him to do their jobs effectively.

It could be said that the next steps past the techniques in pro personnel that Jack Vainisi pioneered only analytics is more than an incremental change.

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AliciaRay's picture

July 14, 2022 at 10:44 pm

Thanks for the support! You put this perfectly, thanks! I know his daughter, my mom, is reading these comments and they mean a lot to her. Thanks!!

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

July 11, 2022 at 04:36 pm

I began posting on Packers boards long ago - longer than I’d like to remember – and I recognize a few here who can say the same thing. I gave up the name I used to post under as the boards became more and more uncivil – a precursor to social networks today. Anyway, I have visited this site quite a bit but rarely post anymore. When I came back I decided to honor a largely forgotten figure from the Packers past and I narrowed it down to George Calhoun (partially responsible for the creation of the franchise) and Jack Vainisi. I chose Jack because of the impact he had on Lombardi’s Packers – and because he had a hand in bringing Lombardi to Green Bay. One of the great pieces of good luck and great timing in my life was I was 5-years old in 1959 and my Dad was a Packers fan.

Back to the great Jack Vainisi: Johnblood27 hit the nail on the head in both posts. Vainisi was both the best at his craft and a trailblazer upon whose shoulders many others have stood. What a tragedy he didn’t live to bask in the glory of his achievements. THANKS JACK VAINISI!

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AliciaRay's picture

July 14, 2022 at 10:49 pm

Wow! Thanks so much for posting this when putting things out there can be so controversial.

Your comment is so very much appreciated, and I’m sure my family has already seen this, but I can’t wait to share this with my mom & family!

Jack Vainisi was my grandfather, and though we never got to meet it’s through individuals such as yourself that I have grown to know him. Th for your time, and your comment means the world to us!

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AliciaRay's picture

July 14, 2022 at 11:07 pm

I just want to thank you for this article, and I’d like to say thank you for everyone supporting Jack Vainisi. My mother, his daughter, lost him at a very young age. I believe he will make it!! I’d like her to see him make it into the Pro Hall of Fame in her lifetime!

We are all so proud of his accomplishments, and I know how much Grandpa Jack getting this far has meant to my family. Thank you all so much for recognizing his accomplishments. It’s through my family and all of you that myself, my siblings & cousin Know him so well.

With deep appreciation,
Alicia

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