"Lambert didn't see me coming until the last instant. He tried to square up but couldn't, and I drilled him -- just floored him. The play went for a score, and he got up cussing and yelling with the wildest eyes I've ever seen!" More...
I was a failed Steeler draft choice as a tight end coming out of Nebraska in
1978 (7th round, selected 187th overall), but during my brief stint with the team, I experienced a couple of memorable Jack Lambert moments first hand that I thought your readers would enjoy.
Lambert was as intimidating in camp as he was in games... maybe even more so. Nobody
messed with Jack. NOBODY. His respect was solid within the team. He was his own man and was not
into political correctness in the slightest because I believe his heart was
pure and he was comfortable within himself. At our first team lunch with the
vets in camp, we had to stand up and introduce ourselves -- rookies and star veterans alike -- and tell what school we played for. When it came his turn, Jack stood up on
his chair and shouted like a Marine drill sergeant, "I'm Jack Lambert,
I'm from Grambling and if you don't like it, you can kiss my
skinny white a$$!" He sat back down without even a trace of a smile and the
place just went nuts, howling and laughing. Grambling is, of course, a predominantly "black"
state university in Louisiana.
My other personal story occured during a very important Sunday scrimmage we
had shortly before the season started. We were all very tired and ornery after
several weeks of camp, and I -- like everyone else -- was in no mood for anyone to be hassling me. I was
a 6'3", 240-pound rookie tight end, so I had about 20 pounds on Lambert. The
particular play called for me to release inside and block down hard on Lambert
to set up a sweep around the right side. Lambert didn't see me coming until the last
instant. He tried to square up but couldn't, and I drilled him -- just floored him.
The play went for a score, and he got up cussing and yelling with the wildest
eyes I've ever seen! I was fairly certain that Mr. Lambert did not appreciate being
decked, especially by a rookie like me.
Current photo of Dufresne.
Dufresne played his college ball at Nebraska.
Dufresne sprints past a defender for a score.
Dufresne goes airborne for a tough grab.
Making sure that everyone (especially Lambert) could hear him, Coach Noll runs over
to me and yells "Great block, Mark! Super hit! You knocked Jack flat on
his ass! That's what I wanna see from every tight end in camp! Now let's go,
line it up again right now, same play!"
Oh sh*t, Coach! You gotta be kiddin' me! Run it again? Oh, sh*t! I glanced over at Lambert, who was now clearly
cranked up a couple of notches beyond ferocious. Had he any teeth, he would have been spitting
through them. As we broke the huddle, Noll brushed by me with a thin-lipped grin and half-whispered in my ear-hole, "Let's see what happens this time, rookie." So we line it up again, and by this time
Lambert is practically jumping out of his skin. I feel a virtual hug of kinship
and understanding from a number of my offensive teammates, some of whom lowered their heads (perhaps in a
brief silent prayer for me). On defense, they were all smiles... they knew what was coming.
So Bradshaw takes the snap and L.C. Greenwood (nicknamed "Hollywood Bags") mysteriously
allows me to slip past him without a touch (wow, I'm pretty quick, huh?) and
before I could go more than about three steps, WHAM! Lambert hits me at full speed and
flattens me like I'm a 3rd string punter! Not to be cliche, but I suspect my momma felt that hit... it left me a bit dazed.
Lambert then steps on me and catapults over my body to make a vicious hit on Thunder Thornton (our 2nd-year running back),
who was trailing me on the play. Needless to say, Jack stopped Thornton cold, then proceeded to
stand over me, screaming and hollering and calling me some very bad
names. In the heat of the moment, I lost my head. As Lambert turned to walk away, I dug my way out from under Thornton (who was still draped across my legs, perhaps shaking out the cobwebs),
angrily scrambled to me feet and took a swing at Lambert, catching him flush across the earhole.
In retrospect, that was not a very smart thing for a rookie tight end to do to
an already angry Jack Lambert. I thought he was mad before... but he wasn't. Now
he was mad. We exchanged some wild punches -- and what can only be described as
"colorful" language -- before the coaches and some teammates pulled us apart. I
was never so relieved in my life! I didn't sense that relief from him, however.
It turned out to be my only really memorable time with the great Steelers of the
late-70's, as I was cut soon after. I'm suspect he'd have no memory of it, since I
don't imagine it was an isolated incident in his long career. But it was
certainly memorable for me. How a skinny body like his could have packed so
much punch is just beyond me. That the difference between simply great players and
mythical legends, I guess...
It was fun for me to get that "cup of coffee" in the bigs, with the greatest team in NFL history without a doubt. Even my failure was a success for me, so I was proud to have been given the chance.
P.S. -- I was in the 1978 photos from camp at Latrobe, and my number (for that very short time) was 87. I didn't make it to the end, so I am not in any official pictures, and I don't have any snapshots of my own. I actually wrote the Steeler office a few years back to see if they had anything from that camp, and they didn't. Bummer! If anyone has any snapshots from '78 training camp, please contact us!
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