JACK LAMBERT, PART I
Steel City Insider: I'm shocked you called me back.
Jack Lambert: Listen, the first thing I want to do is apologize for not getting back to you sooner. We've had a rough week up here. We've got an old dog who had major surgery and we've been dealing with that every day, every day, and finally we had to put him down last night.
SCI: Sorry to hear that.
JL: Yeah, I know, but I mean we're dog people and it's been a rough week for us and the kids. But anyway, the reason I'm calling you back, and I don't call people back, is because I read your book about the '79 Steelers and I loved the stories. They were probably the best stories I've ever read from any book I've ever read about the Steelers. I have to tell you, from time to time I crack it open and I can get some laughs out of it. So anyway, what can I do for you?
SCI: Well, this book is called "Men of Steel" and it deals with former Pittsburgh Steelers and their life after football.
JL: Well that's an original title. Jesus, how long did it take you to figure that son of a bitch out?
SCI: That's the publishing house. It was going to be "Where Have They Gone?" and they changed the title. But it's 35 profiles of former players and what they've been doing with their lives.
JL: My life's not going to be very exciting for you. Sorry.
SCI: How's everything going? How's your health?
JL: Everything's going great. I tell you what, I've got four kids – two girls and two boys – and I spent most of my time this past winter either at the hockey rink or the basketball gymnasium. Our daughters' basketball team did really well this year. In fact they were in the playoffs and lost to Hopewell, who won the Triple-A state championship.
SCI: What team?
JL: Kittanning. And they really did well. Lauren had a chance to play in the Cajun Classic down there, and (she was) playing with Bill Cowher's daughter. She actually came away with the MVP of her team and Cowher's daughter came away with the MVP of that team, so that was kind of interesting. My son plays hockey and that's over now. The girls are both playing softball, and our baseball season is about to begin, which I'm very much involved in the Little League baseball season. It's just about kids, you know. They're 12 to 17. Lauren is 17 and she'll be going to Allegheny next year to play softball and basketball. She wants to try and do both, but I think it's a heavy load. She thinks she can handle it, so we'll see.
SCI: Are you trying to talk her out of it?
JL: Well, I think that trying to play two sports in college is a pretty heavy load. She'll play it maybe her first year and see how it goes. She can decide from there.
SCI: Are the boys like you in sports?
JL: It's hard to say at this age. John has an awful lot of ability. I'd like to see him be a little nastier. I don't know. He's got all kinds of ability, but I'd like to see him get a little more competitive. I think maybe when the hormones kick in maybe he will. We'll see what happens. The youngest one has wanted to play football forever. I'm totally against playing football at a young age. These other sports like hockey, you have to start skating early in order to be able to compete. I didn't start playing football until the ninth grade. I don't think it's a good thing, I mean starting really early. I remember playing in college I had teammates that played in these city leagues that started playing when they were eight and nine years old. By the time they got to college they were sick of it. And football's not like other sports. It hurts. It hurts to play. But anyway he drove me crazy last year. I wanted to put him off until this year to play but he drove us crazy and we let him play last year. He seems to like it.
SCI: Has he seen highlights of you?
JL: Oh, yeah. All the kids have seen those, but he has to increase his pain threshold (laughs), if you have a pain threshold at 12 years, I don't know.
SCI: What other work are you doing?
JL: Well I go to various card shows and make some appearances and do this, that and the other. My daughter's going to college next year and I've got to pay for it. My name's not Roethlisberger; my name's not Ward; my name's not Bettis. I don't lose $35,000 watches up in Detroit. I don't even know what a $35,000 watch looks like. When I lose one, I go back up to Wal-Mart and buy one that says Timex on it. It runs pretty good (laughs). I don't know. I can't even relate to what these guys are doing right now.
SCI: We assume you're a wealthy former player.
JL: For a guy who started off making $30,000 a year I'm doing pretty good. Christ, the kickers make more in one year than I made almost my whole career. And that's a kicker. He ain't even a damn football player. God bless them.
SCI: Weren't you a game warden?
JL: I was a deputy game warden for about nine years up here.
SCI: Why did you give it up?
JL: Mainly because my kids were starting to play sports and I was in the woods on Saturdays. I said, hey, this is enough of this. I wanted to get involved with them. I managed baseball teams the last five years now, and I umpire and take care of the fields up here in Worthington, so I'm involved in a great deal of Little League. I tell you what: I really feel I had my chance to shine and now I've got these four kids. My wife helps coach the Kittanning High School softball team. She was a volleyball player who went to Clemson on a scholarship. So we're involved with the kids' athletics and stuff.
SCI: Did you take pride in this past Super Bowl?
JL: I thought it was about time. What was it, 25 or 26 years? At my age I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to see another one again. But it was great for the city and great for the Rooneys. I'm happy for them. It's good stuff.
(To be continued Wednesday)