Lambert's rise up the depth chart didn't happen as quickly as many had hoped, but Irish fans forget that Lambert still has three years of eligibility remaining at Notre Dame. Lambert red-shirting his freshmen season could be one of the best things to happen to Irish football in quite some time considering the Irish will likely lose three out of four starters in the secondary after this season.
But the talented junior admits it hasn't come easy for him to put himself in the position he's in right now.
"It was a really big learning experience the last two years, but at the same time, it's kind of the same cycle you go through when you're a freshman coming into high school," he said. "A lot of cases you were the star player on your Pop Warner team, then you go to high school where you're amongst a new group of people and you have to re-establish yourself. I think I'm at that turning point right now."
Lambert started to get to that turning point late in the season in 2005 and during this past spring when you started to see the Oxnard, Calif. native inserted into the defense as the fifth or nickel back.
The former St. Bonaventure high school star played a number of positions in high school including running back, linebacker, safety and corner, and he said that experience actually helped him adjust to his new fulltime position at corner.
"I think it was somewhat hard, but at the same time, not as hard as it would be for somebody else, because I had the opportunity to play a little bit of corner and other positions in high school," Lambert said when asked if not playing corner solely in high school has made it difficult to make the transition to playing the position in college.
"I guess playing different positions allowed me to learn how to adjust to different schemes. In high school, at any given moment I could be rushing off the edge at defensive end because that's what was needed. The next game, the other team could have a really great receiver and the coach would want me pressing (coverage) all night and I'd end up playing corner all night. It was hard, but I'd been in the position where my position changes and my responsibilities change. It probably wasn't as hard for me in that respect."
Two things have also helped Lambert in getting ready for the field—Irish defensive backs coach Bill Lewis and the Notre Dame receiving corps.
"I think I've really become focused with the details and the mechanics of my position more than I ever have because he puts a big emphasis on that," Lambert said of Lewis. "I think the biggest thing I've learned at my position is what you do does not come natural. You're running backwards. Your body is not made for that so you've always got to train constantly and just work at it so it can become second nature to you and you feel like it's natural. He's been really good in that regard in helping me learn the details of my position and just being able to really focus and being meticulous."
"They've contributed a lot to helping me," Lambert said of the Irish receivers. "Playing against big-time receivers like that, it makes you grow. You know if you shut them down, they're supposed to be some of the best receivers in the country. That means that I could be one the best (defensive backs) in the country—at least you're thinking that in your mind to make you work that much harder."
Before Lambert can be one of the best in the country, he knows he'll have to be one of the best on the team and being just the starting nickel back isn't his goal for this season.
"You always want to avoid complacency," Lambert said. "Nobody would be satisfied until they start otherwise you wouldn't be here. Nickel is good, but it's never going to be enough, and that's for everybody."
At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, and considered one of the fastest men on the team, No. 20 has a golden opportunity this year to establish himself as a front-line player in the Irish defense this fall, and he says he's had a goal all off-season to do just that.
"It really helps coming into camp knowing exactly what I need to know and knowing how to do it," the film major said. "That was my goal this past spring, to get comfortable within the system and to get comfortable and into a position where I could really contribute to this defense. I can say that after this spring, I've gotten closer to goal. That's what I'm trying to do in this camp. I'm trying to get even closer to that goal."
But as a former below average defensive back, I had to ask Terrail if he felt today's officials let wide receivers get away with too much on Saturdays.
"I guess at times, but then again, I get away with a lot, too," he said with a big laugh.
Like I said, he's ready to play.
It seems like forever and a day ago since junior cornerback Terrail Lambert excited all Irish fans with his announcement to attend the University of Notre Dame. It had been some time since the Irish had signed such a highly-rated corner prospect, and many expected Lambert to jump right into the mix during his first season.
Lambert Ready to Play
Junior defensive back cashing in on opportunities
Aug 8, 2006