Whether standing 55 yards out from the uprights at Texas Tech or dealing with his diabetes or a head coach that joked he didn’t speak with the player until after a pair of game-winners last season, Lambert is at ease with every aspect of his persona and athleticism. It’s a disposition developed early, and honed later at the collegiate level, where the then-sophomore proved his fortitude and grit with a pair of walk-off field goals that boosted West Virginia past Maryland and Texas Tech last year.
The season certainly would have projected quite differently if not for those 47- and 55-yarders, respectively, and it appears Lambert has regained his footing – pun intended – after an injury in the preseason forced him to miss a month of weight training and threatened his early success.
“I got hurt in agility drills,” Lambert said of his lower body issues, which remain publically undefined because of the NCAA’s HIPPA standards. “I was injured at the beginning of camp, and that took a month off of doing the same training as other players. I did more stretching during that time. Health-wise, yes, I’m 100 percent. Strength-wise, 80 (percent). But it’s easier for kickers to progress during the season because we don’t have the demands on our legs that other positions do.
“I am lifting hard right now in the weight room, whereas other positions are trying to maintain all those gains they made in the weight room during the offseason. So hopefully another month and I’ll be all the way back.”
Lambert, known as a player who continually pushes himself physically, had to be reined in by assistant coach Joe DeForest for over-kicking during his freshman season. Last year, as a sophomore, Lambert remained healthy throughout the season, and arguably got stronger while being named a Lou Groza Award finalist after setting an NCAA record for most 40-plus yard field goals with 16, most games with multiple field goals (10) and most games with three or more field goals (six).
WVU placekicker Josh Lambert talks development, relationships
With two seasons remaining, Lambert already ranks fifth on West Virginia’s all-time made field goals list with 50, and needs just nine for sole possession of second place behind Paul Woodside’s record of 74.
That’s caused head coach Dana Holgorsen to label him a “gamer,” and say that “he’s pretty darn consistent. We’re talking about a Lou Groza finalist, one of the better kickers in the country. I was proud of what he did, knocking three through there (against Georgia Southern).
“If you want to put a title to that, I guess (gamer is fine),” Lambert said of his response to Holgorsen’s praise. “When the game starts, no matter what happens, I am ready to go now, having gone through everything and being comfortable. I know what I am capable of. I know what I have to do to be good. I know how to manage everything. It’s good to know that in those situations, you are able to come through. I would say I feel more comfortable in those situations than any other.”
Lambert’s 26-, 32- and 22-yard field goals, and his conversion of all four PATs, in the 44-0 opening win against GSU was a good sign after some initial adjustments to holder Nick O’Toole, who replaced the departed Michael Molinari, a staple at the position for Lambert’s first two years.
“When we first started, there was an adjustment period, but since then there hasn’t been a problem,” Lambert said. “He’s done a good job.”
Note: A longer version of this feature – including how Lambert and teammate K.J. Dillon deal with their Type 1 diabetes as athletes and during games – can be found in this week’s print edition of the Blue and Gold News . Below is an excerpt:
Josh Lambert hasn’t truly experienced the valleys typical of young kickers. He seems perpetually at a peak, nailing 55-yard walk-offs and making the routine just that. And the idea is to keep it that way, in more ways than one. Because Lambert, like teammate K.J. Dillon, has diabetes.
Diagnosed at age 10, Lambert checks his blood sugar level as many as 10 times a game, well above the average of four to eight times daily for Type 1.
“I like to keep my blood sugar a little higher during games, because high blood sugar isn’t going to affect me on the field, whereas a low blood sugar would,” Lambert said. “If it starts to creep up, then I will take insulin on the sideline.”
Lambert’s forthcoming, honest attitude and approach to the diabetes started shortly after his initial diagnosis as a child in Texas: “When I was first diagnosed, I went to the doctor, a regular family (physician), and he checked the blood sugar,” Lambert said. “And it was 1,087. A normal person’s would be 80 to 120.”
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