He was born in the Central American nation of Belize and spent the first five years of his young life in less than ideal conditions.
"I don't remember much about it," said Navy sophomore fullback Raheem Lambert. "I went back at Christmas in 1993 and found North Belize to be industrialized and South Belize to be third world, outhouses and all.
"I was born in the South. But I do remember the beautiful seas."
The seas have since calmed for Lambert, who moved to Riverside, Calif., and developed into a high school All-American as a running back at Norte Vista High School. He was one of the most highly recruited players on the Navy roster with Stanford, California, Northwestern and Washington State all losing the pursuit.
Last week -- with fellow sophomore Marlon Terrell hampered by a hamstring injury -- Lambert rushed for 92 yards on 13 carries against No. 10 Georgia Tech, the most yardage by a Navy player in his first game since Chris McCoy rolled for an NCAA-record 273 against SMU in 1995.
"Raheem has a chance to be a fine football player," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "He's got good speed, but he has to learn to be a more total player -- how to block better and be more physical."
Lambert was steered to Navy by his mother, Jovita, who was sold on the school's academics and the life after the classroom.
"Navy extended their hands the most," Lambert said. "Mom really pumped this place up, the future in the Navy. I like it, too. They were 7-4 the year before I came and I believed Navy had a chance to be a top 25 program. That's why I came."
Lambert, also a sprinter in track who was recruited by smaller California schools for the sport, got off to an inauspicious start in football. He played little on the junior varsity last season, but made a good impression in spring practice and that carried over into pre-season drills.
He will have to work to maintain his newly gained No. 1 status because Terrell and Pat Haines, another sophomore, are right behind him.
"I want to prove I can run up to 20 times a game," said Lambert, who measures 5 feet 10, 199 pounds. "I think we're on the right track running. It's a matter of getting things done and executing."
He said he doesn't feel any differently after his elevation from a shared role to top back.
"It feels about the same. I did a couple of good things," he said. "It's still football."
An economics major who is unsure about what he wishes to specialize in after graduation, Lambert does not expect to be catching the ball any time soon.
"The fullback's job is to block and run the ball. We have one screen pass, but we don't use it too often," he said. "Our offense is built on [quarterback Brian] Broadwater and the rest of us running the ball."
If he stays free of injury, Lambert has a chance for a solid opening season because Navy's offensive line, anchored by All-America candidate Terrence Anderson at center and tackle Kostas Hatzidakis, is big, strong, smart (3.0 cumulative grade-point average) and experienced.
"The linemen did a good job, particularly in the second half, against Georgia Tech," said Lambert. "We were able to move on the ground. But overall, I'm willing to admit we didn't play that well. I believe we'll be fine."
NOTES: The major receiving threat so far has been senior Matt O'Donnell (Glenelg), who equaled his career total with four catches last week. Anderson graded out at 93 percent against Georgia Tech, recorded 11 knockdowns and did not allow a sack. Wide receiver Travis Williams has been selected to play in the Hula Bowl, marking the fourth straight season a Navy player has been chosen.
Pub Date: 9/10/99