One of the greatest actors of the 20th century is helping spearhead a film about football’s greatest coach. Robert De Niro seems the perfect fit to portray NFL coach Vince Lombardi in the ESPN Films’ biopic Lombardi. Even better, Academy-Award winning screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) will pen the adaptation.

With involvement from De Niro’s Tribeca Productions and the National Football League, this is bound to be a fact-driven epic exploring the career of one of sports’ most distinguished alumni. The NFL itself seems to be genuinely excited about the endeavor, and why shouldn’t they be? NFL Vice President of Programming Charles Coplin and his football puns speak loud and clear.

“There are few actors who could accurately portray the fire, passion, and grit of Lombardi, and we’re thrilled to have Robert De Niro on our team. With the addition of De Niro, Eric [Roth], and Tribeca Productions, we have a deep bench to produce a film worthy of the legendary coach and American icon.”

ESPN has acquired the life rights to Lombardi’s story from his son, Vince Lombardi, Jr. They did the same for the 1968 book “Instant Replay,” the most revered biography of the famous coach, written by Dick Schaap and ex-Packer Jerry Kramer.

While this is a handful of great news for sports fans, don’t get too carried away; We’ve yet to see ESPN Films produce a genuinely entertaining and riveting feature. 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story is probably the studio’s best work and it still missed the mark. Lombardi will be the best chance for ESPN to hit it big if they can finally get a theatrical release, especially considering the team they’re assembling.

On the acting front, De Niro seems to be getting busier and busier with three films (Machete, Stone, Meet The Fockers) scheduled to release this year and 11 others in development. Considering he has arguably yet to provide a memorable performance this millennium, Lombardi may be the perfect persona to break the 68-year old actor out of his funk.

Set to release in 2012, Lombardi will likely explore his storied career filled with epic speeches and countless victories (actually, you can count them: 96). His career, capped by a 9-1 postseason record, was cut short in 1970 when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Vince Lombardi died ten weeks later at age 57.

Source: THR Risky Business