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August 10, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Lambert set to be WVU’s lone kicker

MORGANTOWN — Josh Lambert is one of a kind on the West Virginia University football team.

As a placekicker, he is a depth chart of one and, as such, while many others may hold the fate of the Mountaineers in their hands, he well could hold it on his toe.

And that’s fine with him.

“Honestly I didn’t know what the reason was for me being the only kid, but my job is the same whether it’s me or me and 10 other kids,” he said during some down time on Friday morning.

Surely, it’s quite a compliment for a redshirt freshman from Garland, Texas, outside Dallas.

He understands that. He also understands the reality that Joe DeForest, who handles the West Virginia special team, put forth a day earlier while acknowledging that Lambert has all the tools to become one of the best placekickers in WVU’s history.

“He’s never kicked in a game,” DeForest pointed out.

And Lambert is well aware that is the one thing his resume lacks.

“I still haven’t accomplished anything here, so I still have to go out and do what I’m supposed to do,” he said.

Not that he’s worried about it.

“I’m confident I can handle it. Kicking is the same in game as I do every single day in practice. The only difference is there’s 60,000 people around. It’s the same kicks.”

And how’s he doing in practice?

“After today I am 44 for 49,” he said.

That would be 89 percent field goal accuracy, although he’s actually struggled the last couple of days.

“I had my first two misses yesterday, and I missed three today,” he reported.

There were no tears. There was no worried look upon his face.

“You are going to miss some. It’s how you bounce back. It’s a good thing to go ahead and miss after doing good, just so you know what it’s like,” he said.

Besides, there comes a time in camp with every athlete where the daily grind catches up with you.

“Right now we’re at a time in camp where my leg is getting tight,” he admitted.

As for his range, he says its 53 or 54 yards “comfortably” and that with the right conditions he could hit from 59 yards.

Lambert seems like a down-to-earth, normal kid … for a kicker. History tells us that many kickers are somewhat flamboyant, be they Pat McAfee or any of a thousand others who have hardly benefitted from the lonely existence of a kicker.

“There’s a lot of time to yourself,” Lambert admitted. “I try not to think about it too much. If you do something good you want to think about what got you to that point, and if you do something bad you need to think what you did wrong. But you don’t need to dwell on it too much. If you do, it will come back and bite you in the butt.”

The past year was especially difficult because as he redshirted, he lived the life of a kicker but could not play in games, which was a long time to go without competing, something he’s been doing since middle school.

He began, as so many kids do today – even in Texas – kicking a soccer ball around.

“I was in middle school and my P.E. told me I should try out for football,” he said.

He did.

“So here I am,” he said.

He has worked with Rocky Willingham, a noted Texas kicking guru who has worked any number of NFL kickers and punters including the Steelers’ Daniel Sepulveda and who Texas coach Mack Brown calls the best kicking coach in the country.

Lambert says he approaches his craft calmly.

“My first high school game I was a little nervous, but I calmed down after that. It’s possible I’ll be nervous with my first kick here in front of a lot of people, a lot of eyes on me, a lot of weight on my shoulders,” he said.

But he is certain after the first kick he’ll settle down.

And as for any rust from sitting out last year?

He believes that will only make him better.

“Not playing kept me hungry, playing mind games, wanting to be back out on the field,” he said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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