8. Middle Linebacker Jack Lambert was the toughest
Jack Lambert was too small to play linebacker in the NFL, weighing just 204 pounds when they drafted him. The Steelers didn’t even need a middle linebacker, since they had a player in Henry Davis who had just made the Pro Bowl a few years ago.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were insane to draft him in the second round out of Kent State. But they did and were blasted by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, who wrote that Lambert figured to be the number five linebacker if he panned out. it turned out to be a brilliant pick.
What seemed to set him apart was his ability to call upon a berserker fury with adrenaline, rather than exceptional speed or athleticism. Lambert was one of the hardest hitters in the NFL, and he seemed to save his hardest hits for the Browns and especially quarterback Brian Sipe.
One of the best quotes from Lambert is as follows:
"“I believe the game is designed to reward the ones who hit the hardest… if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t play”"
On three occasions, 1978, 1981, and 1983, Lambert was fined for hits on Brian Sipe. There is a video for the 1978 game, which shows the hit was clearly late and out of bounds. However, we cannot see how the hit was delivered. Also, remember that back then, helmet-to-helmet was legal and considered to be a good technique. We can also see Sipe getting up immediately.
In the 1981 game, Sipe had to leave the game with a concussion. In the 1983 game, the Browns won, with Sipe throwing four touchdown passes. Lambert was ejected for the late hit.
On the scale of nasty things that middle linebackers do, Lambert certainly earned his share of fines and even ejections, but he comes across as a tough, tough guy rather than someone who is simply malicious.
Off the field, he has stayed out of the limelight since retiring. He and his wife Lisa raised four kids in a rural Pennsylvania community with a population of less than 1,000, about an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh.
He also coaches youth baseball and basketball teams and takes care of local athletic fields. He sometimes signs autographs but maintains a very private life. His neighbors are dimly aware that he is Jack Lambert the ex-Steeler, but he fits right in the community, and they say you would never know he’s anything but a regular guy.
I believe that it’s true, but I’m not in a hurry to meet him.