The following is an excerpt from the book, From Black to Gold - The Pittsburgh Steelers, which will launch this Saturday, July 24. The book is a handsome hardcover publication that sells for $24.95 plus shipping/handling. BTSC readers will hear more details very soon!
John Harold Lambert and I went to college together at Kent State University in the early 1970s. He was unaware of that fact and I, of course, was acutely aware. Attending every home game during his senior season, I remember #99 going from sideline to sideline with fierce tenacity. He was flagged once for hitting the quarterback too hard - on a perfectly legal play. It is hard to believe now that Lambert did not receive a full scholarship into Kent in 1970, small as it was compared to most Division I schools. He was a gangly 6-5 string bean who weighed about 190 pounds. He never looked like a football player, even Chuck Noll admitted that later, but his instincts and passion about the game would lead him on a path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, just 30 miles south of his Ohio hometown of Mantua. I took delight in seeing and knowing such a great football talent before the rest of the country had much of an idea.
Of course, scouts knew who he was. Art Rooney Jr., who headed up the Steelers' scouting department, made the short drive to Kent one day. The practice field was too muddy that afternoon, so the team, without the luxury of major-college facilities, practiced on a parking lot full of cinders and gravel. That meant nothing to Lambert, even wearing shorts. He still pursued with reckless abandon and displayed the same intensity at a practice, on gravel, that he did on game-day. On one play, Lambert ended up face-first in the cinders. He refused treatment as if nothing happened. For the rest of the practice, Lambert calmly picked pieces of gravel from his face, knees and elbows. Mr. Rooney had seen enough.
More to come in From Black to Gold!