Robert De Niro will play the celebrated American football coach Vince Lombardi in a big screen treatment being lined up by Tribeca Productions.

De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions is producing with ESPN Films, Andell Entertainment, the NFL and Chris Olsen.

Eric Roth, an Oscar winner for Forrest Gump and nominated for three other screenplays including The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, is writing the story.

The film will centre on Lombardi’s life during the years he transformed the Green Bay Packers from the worst team in the National Football League into five-time champions.

The project is out to directors and the producers are aiming for a 2012 North American release on the weekend between the AFC and NFC Conference Championships and the Super Bowl.

ESPN and Andell Entertainment control the rights to Lombardi’s life story through his estate and Vincent Lombardi Jr, as well as the rights to the sports book Instant Replay by former Packer Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap.

“Having an icon portray an icon on film is amazing, and with a writer as talented as Eric working on the script, the results could be magical for NFL fans,” ESPN Films’ senior vice president Ron Semiao said.

“We’ve had an extraordinary relationship with ESPN for five years through the Tribeca Film Festival, and now we’re able to extend that association into production,” Rosenthal added.

CAA collaborates with ESPN Films on film projects and represents De Niro, Roth and Rosenthal.