'You're my people, I've selected you,' he told them. 'You're going to wear this uniform with pride. You're now a member of the Washington Redskins, and there's a lot of responsibility that goes along with that. Don't you ever forget it.' It was the last time I ever saw him alive."
A few days later, on July 27, Lombardi returned to the hospital for more surgery after it was determined that the original diagnosis had been incorrect. The tumor was malignant, and this particularly virulent strain of cancer had spread. Though his family ordered a news blackout on his condition, the team and his loved ones knew that the illness was terminal. At 7:12 on the morning of September 3, the man many consider the greatest coach in the history of the game died at age 57, two weeks before the start of the 1970 season.
President Richard Nixon interrupted a state dinner for the president of Mexico in San Diego to speak about Lombardi. The entire football team flew to New York to be among 3,000 mourners at the funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Williams eulogized Lombardi, saying that "he had a covenant with greatness. He was committed to excellence in everything he attempted.