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ASU Football: The mental game for Stanley Lambert

It’s more about the inside of the freshman’s head

Andrew Palla/House of Sparky

In a game filled with bashing and brawling, being the biggest, strongest and fastest is critical on the gridiron. Those attributes however, don’t concern the 215-pound, 6-foot-4-inch Stanley Lambert. For the freshman linebacker, it’s what is above the shoulders he knows he needs to strengthen.

“I’m going to grow a lot mentally and physically,” Lambert said. “Right now, I’m strong enough physically. But mentally sometimes whenever I start to mess up, I breakdown a little bit. I’m just learning how to brush that off.”

Every practice this far in the fall, the group of linebackers used for the first and second team have constantly rotated. Lambert knows this and is doing everything possible in attempt to earn that playing time.

“I think that he’s asserting himself the right way,” linebackers coach Antonio Pierce said. “Taking initiative going out here early. Working on his craft. Asking questions. Getting into the film room early. All those little things add up. Again, here’s a guy that’s only into his fifth practice in the college atmosphere and I think he’s okay.”

Another thing you’ll see out of Lambert in practice is at the very beginning of the day, on the far side field of the Bill Kajikawa practice fields, is him shadowing another linebacker. Pierce and defensive line coach Shaun Nua work with the front six of the 3-3-5 defense every day, going over different shifts and formations.

And each time you’ll see number 17 in a white jersey behind fellow freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson, senior Jay Jay Wilson or redshirt freshman Kyle Soelle at the outside linebacker position. The early walkthroughs may not seem that big, but for Lambert they are.

“It’s usually plays I didn’t get when I was here in the spring. But now that I’m shadowing, it’s coming a lot more to me now,” he said. “I’m starting to get most of my plays right. That’s going to help me when I get my playing time, which I will get this year. I’ll be ready for it.”

Pierce is also happy with the young man shadowing his peers.

“That’s what you need to do. You’re not going to get a lot of reps; mental reps are the most important thing,” he said. “There’s only so many reps on the script and most of the time the threes aren’t included in it. For him that’s smart. That’s what I tell all my backers, there’s only so much time in the day and so many reps a day you can get. The more you can get mentally and hope to translate it out there physically.”

On top of football, he played basketball and track at John Marshall High School. Being that three-sport athlete back in San Antonio, Texas showcases the athletic ability Lambert possesses. That skill is why he has gotten a handful of reps with the first and second team during 11-on-11s over the past week.

Plays such as forcing a fumble toward the goal line against running back Eno Benjamin is one example of the potential Pierce and coaches see. Lambert’s current forte isn’t run stuffing or dropping into coverage though. His best strength right now is his speed off the edge. Once he turns the corner on an offensive tackle, the special bend you’ll see from elite pass rushers such as Denver Broncos’ Von Miller appears. From that, is why Pierce describes Lambert’s natural talent as an item you can’t coach into someone.

When asked what he wanted the most out of fall camp, Lambert didn’t say more time with the first or the second team. He didn’t say more outstanding plays. He just went back to the mind.

“More mental reps. I want to get ready – I’m not ready in my freshman year, I know as a freshman we’re going to be learning stuff. But I know I’m going to play. I just need more mental reps, so I know I’ll be ready for my sophomore year and have a blowout year. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”

Keeping a clear head hasn’t just been a learning process on the football field. With any college freshman moving into a different state, Lambert, the momma’s boy he described himself as, has struggled with missing his mom. However, a quick phone call to hear her voice brightens up his day. Which helps him with his thought process on the field.

Pierce and his teammate Soelle have been a big help to the non-physical part of the game as well. Soelle watches film with Lambert to point out corrections he needs to make. While Pierce is just honest to him about what is going on.

“Coach Pierce he’s a crazy dude, but he tells you what’s up. And that’s what I really like about him,” Lambert said. “He’s going to be blunt with you, tell you straight up if you’re messing up or did good. He’s just a real coach and that’s what I like.”

With the tools he already has Lambert will contribute here and there for the Sun Devils. Along with the help of a coaching staff and valuable teammate insight he knows he can be more than just a part-time contributor. He knows if he can gain more control of the most complex organ of the human body, all of his capabilities can be unlocked. For Stanley Lambert to become the best football player he can be, it’s simply mind over matter.