So, just stumbling around looking for something fun to share with you guys on this Wednesday afternoon, I come across a story told by Mark Dufresne and his 1978 training camp experience. Who is Mark Dufresne? Good question, and probably one not even our most knowledgable historians will have an answer to. Dufresne was a rookie TE in 1978 for the Steelers, drafted out of the University of Nebraska. He would not break camp or ever play for the Steelers, but he did have a story about that year's training camp that highlights the type of player and competitor that Jack Lambert was.
The setting was a Sunday scrimmage near the end of the 1978 training camp. Dufresne, a tight end, was asked to release inside and block Lambert, sealing the edge and ideally opening up a running lane on the outside for the called sweep play:
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.
Intentionally, Coach Noll commended Dufresne for his block at a decibal level that all the squad could hear, you know, just to humiliate and ignite Lambert a touch more.
Before he could feel too good about himself, Coach Noll barked out orders to run the same play again!
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.'
I'm sure you can imagine what happened next. Bam. Dufresne gets steamrolled. However, to his credit, he bounced up and got in a scuffle with the legendary Lambert.
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 my 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.
Dufresne concludes his story with a couple of lines about how he is still amazed to this day about how a skinny guy like Lambert could flat-out level opponents the way he did. In his words:
"That's the difference between simply great players and mythical legends..."
Other than just trying to provide you with a small slice of entertainment on your Wednesday afternoons, I bring this story up because I hope we see similar levels of competition and high-intensity this summer from the Steelers. We have a crowded roster, meaning some capable young men will be packing their bags without a job come August. Even if it means ruffling some feathers, I hope we receive news from Latrobe of similarly spirited altercations between players trying to make themselves and their teammates better.