LEAP OF FAITH
Josh Lambo's path to the game-winner in Oxford
began long ago on a youth soccer pitch in Chicago
by Will Johnson '01
Texas A&M Football Show
With time winding down in Oxford against Ole Miss, Texas A&M found itself in a 38-38 tie.
Coach Sumlin called on kicker Josh Lambo to win the game as time expired.
As he lined up for the kick, ESPN’s Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit were up high--near the top of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium--looking down on him. Together they sized up the moment.
“Now it’s gonna be on the leg of Josh Lambo,” Nessler announced to America.
“Think about how big this kick is,” Herbstreit interjected, referencing the upsets that transpired earlier Saturday.
- Josh Lambo
Asked to win a Southeastern Conference game on the road in the final seconds, you might find it interesting to learn how Josh Lambo was tabbed for this moment with the game on the line in Oxford.
The path actually begins on a youth soccer pitch near Chicago.
“I started playing soccer when I was about four years old in a little YMCA league, boys and girls playing together,” Lambo remembers. “There are no real positions. Everyone just ‘beeswarms’ to the ball. I was a short, little, chubby kid who couldn’t run, so they put me in goal.”
But not long after, soccer got a lot more organized, and serious, for Lambo.
“I eventually grew into my body, and I’ve been about the same size since I was in eighth grade, about six feet tall. So, I was kind of head and shoulders above everyone, and I took up about half the goal. I started playing pretty well and got on some good club teams, got some recognition, and soccer just took off from there.”
He graduated high school in two-and-a-half years, and his soccer progression was on an even faster track.
Lambo was invited to train in the USA National under-17 program in Florida, where he played his way on to the U-20 US squad. He was competing against some of the world’s best all while spanning the globe--to the Carribean, South Korea and Egypt.
In 2008, Lambo was drafted by FC Dallas of the MLS, with the eighth pick in the first round.
His reaction may surprise you.
“I was hoping I was going to be seventh, and go home to the Chicago Fire.”
Chicago took Patrick Nyarko with the 7th pick, but Lambo wasn’t worried.
“Chicago also had the 12th pick as well, so I was thinking, ‘That’s okay, the Fire will just pick me 12th and I’ll still get to go back to Chicago’, because (with) the teams in between there…I didn’t know anyone was interested in me.”
But someone was.
“So, the commissioner goes up there and says, ‘With the eighth pick, FC Dallas selects’ and he says my name.
“And I go…Dang it!”
Home wasn’t in the cards.
“Not that I was ungrateful, but I was really looking forward to going home. I moved away from my house at 14 (to pursue soccer), and everyone was saying, ‘You’re going back to Chicago, they’re going to draft you’.”
“I go up there and get the hat and the scarf. I thank all my family and friends for the support.” With a long pause Lambo then thanks “FC Dallas for this wonderful opportunity.
“I had to look down at my scarf because I was that close to saying Chicago Fire.”
While with FC Dallas he was married to his wife, Amy. But after the 2011 season, he was looking at a very difficult upcoming process in professional soccer.
“The contracts offered to me after FC Dallas released me weren’t right for Amy and I. They were either too little pay for a married guy, or the chance to be jumping around between teams and leaving Amy by herself in a strange city. It wasn’t worth it to me. That’s not how I wanted to start my marriage.”
“I did a lot of praying about it, and I asked God to close every door, but just keep one open.”
He’d played very little football in the past--nothing serious--but he did win the national punt, pass and kick competition as a 10-year old. Football was the one door that remained open.
“I pursued it with everything I had. I sent out close to 30 or 40 emails to different schools, and had a pretty good highlight tape. It had a video of me hitting a 70-yard field goal on a very windy day in Wisconsin.
“A&M was the only school that responded to me.”
Really? No one else?
“Yeah. Coach David Beaty responded to me that night. It was A&M from there out.”
He was on his way to Aggieland.
Making a transition in his life while Texas A&M football made the biggest move in its existence.
“I’d never played football before, never even kicked in a game,” he says. “And this is a big-time university. We’re in the SEC now. They really took a leap of faith with me and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
And it all led him to Saturday in Oxford, called upon to win the game.
“Primetime, ESPN, national television, SEC game winner on the road. It was the coolest moment in my sports career, and it’ll be tough to beat.”
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