Rare. Unthinkable. Extraordinary.
Pick a word. They all mean the same. And they all describe what cornerback Ray Lamb accomplished on the football field during Temple’s first win of the season last weekend.
His six tackles and a fumble recovery were impressive.
But being able to race into the huddle for his first play in his first game of the season was remarkable.
That’s because Lamb had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during last April’s Cherry & White spring game. It was an injury that was to supposed to shelve one of Temple’s marquee defensive backs for all of this season and part of the 2005 preseason.
It has been exactly three months and 29 days since Lamb had surgery -he’s a fast healer.
And during his rehabilitation and time spent on the sideline in Temple’s first two games, which were two losses, Lamb saw the game from a view he had never been accustomed to.
But he thinks it will prove beneficial.
“It helped me out a lot more cerebrally,” said Lamb, a junior and Pre-Medicine major. “It made me smarter. I was feeling sadness because I wanted to be out there so bad. It was hunger. But the main thing I wanted was for the team to succeed.”
The Owls sit at 1-2 with Toledo on the road this weekend. Lamb’s arrival couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.
The Owls have surrendered 715 yards and three touchdowns in the air this season.
Lamb, a junior college transfer from New Mexico Military Institute, made six starts in the 12 games he appeared in last season. He finished the year with 49 tackles, and got off to an encouraging start last Saturday.
After Lamb got that first sliver of live action, pads slamming against pads, his adrenaline was pumping till the clock ran out. He hadn’t hit someone in nearly four months, and his right knee was never an issue.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was just happy to be out there,” Lamb said. “I just couldn’t stop smiling – it went from not being able to play a whole year, to this. I couldn’t believe it.”
The torn ACL was the first major injury of Lamb’s career. It came when he went airborne in attempt to deflect a pass during Temple’s annual Cherry & White game on April 20.
His left leg landed safely. His right leg didn’t. After the diagnosis Lamb underwent surgery on May 20, and started a rehab program that lasted throughout the summer.
Then the unthinkable occurred.
By the end of his first month of rehab with a physical therapist at NovaCare on Race and Broad Streets, Lamb was able to jog.
Another month passed and he could backpedal on the field.
But Lamb wasn’t satisfied. While he visited the physical therapist five days a week, he spent the other two days swimming or doing other types of exercise on his own.
Lamb has worked hard to get where he’s at – a junior college transfer trying to build from his first season in Division I – and he wasn’t going to let an injury get in the way of him making even the smallest bit of progress.
“From there I didn’t have the mindset that I was coming back,” he said. “I just had the mindset to work and put everything I have into it every day.
“From there, if I didn’t make it to where I am today, at least I knew I did everything I possibly could and not feel bad about it.”
And in his season-debut last weekend, Lamb said he was only scheduled to be on the field for about 20 plays, but he ended up playing close to 50. Lamb is hoping he’ll build more confidence during contact drills in practice this week.
“I’m not going to let my knee be an excuse for anything,” he said. “I’m not going to allow that to hold me back. I’m going to do everything I can and then some.
“I’m not out there for glorification,” he said. “I’m out there to give the team some help.”
Chris Silva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.