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Former Lombardi Award winner, Wilmington resident presents trophy 50 years later

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 11:21 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Lombardi Award is presented annually to the most outstanding offensive or defensive lineman in college football. In 1971, the honor went to Walt Patulski. A half-century later, the former NFL player was given the opportunity to present the award to this year’s recipient.

The ceremony was held in Houston, but Patulski now lives in Wilmington. He joined Wednesday’s ceremony virtually from a gathering with some of his friends, family members, and former teammates from when he played at Notre Dame.

“It’s amazing to be together and be able to share stories,” Patulski said, standing with some of his former Fighting Irish teammates.

Patulski was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the first overall pick in the 1972 NFL draft. He went on to play four seasons in Buffalo before playing his final season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When Patulski won the award in 1971, it was presented to him by then-U.N. Ambassador and eventual 41st President George H.W. Bush. Tonight, Patulski helped present the award to Aidan Hutchinson from the University of Michigan.

“He’s pretty amazing,” Patulski said about Hutchinson. “Very quick, very fast, tall, and a real defensive force.”

Patulski brought his Lombardi Award with him to Wednesday night’s event. He says the trophy is the most prized award he’s ever won.

The former pro also spoke about the changes the sport has gone through since he last stepped foot on the gridiron.

“I think the game has sped up. It’s faster,” Patulski said. “The players are probably bigger. The artificial turf has really added to it and they start at a younger age training and specializing.”

The Lombardi Award is named after legendary coach Vince Lombardi, who also lends his name to the Lombardi Trophy, presented to the Super Bowl champion each year.

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