Winning Isn’t Everything; It’s the Only Thing

Vince Lombardi? Henry ‘Red’ Sanders? Joe Kuharich? Jim Tatum? Murray Warmath? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A controversial uncompromising statement about the importance of winning has been credited to two successful football coaches: Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers and Henry ‘Red’ Sanders of the UCLA Bruins:

Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.

Would you please determine who crafted this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in the “Tallahassee Democrat” of Tallahassee, Florida on February 7, 1950. The saying emerged from a dialog recounted by the columnist Fred Pettijohn. The name “Frnka” looks odd but is correct. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Tulane football Coach Henry Frnka recently asked UCLA mentor Red Sanders. “Winning isn’t everything, is it, Red?” To which Sanders replied. “No, it isn’t everything; it’s just the ONLY thing.”

There is evidence that Vince Lombardi and other coaches employed this saying in subsequent years, but based on current knowledge Sanders achieved victory; he won the motto creation competition.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Winning Isn’t Everything; It’s the Only Thing


  1. 1950 February 7, Tallahassee Democrat, In the Pressbox With Fred Pettijohn, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Tallahassee, Florida. (Newspapers_com)