Prep Signing: Catawba recruits South Rowan star Lambert as quarterback
LANDIS — Catawba-bound Nathan Lambert’s head cheerleader as he recovers from a broken ankle is his grandfather, Rudy Wise.
Wise, former mayor of Landis and former football standout, is no stranger to misfortune. Three decades ago, he went through a rather challenging stretch in which his plane crashed, his car was stolen and his kitchen caught on fire — but you learn to stay positive after you crawl away from a plane crash.
Wise has reminded his grandson, South Rowan’s record-setting quarterback, that a broken ankle is only a temporary hurdle.
“It was a tough time after the injury,” Lambert said. “But everyone around me stayed strong and stayed positive and that really helped. My grandfather pushed me more than anyone. He told me it’s not about getting hurt — it’s about how you come back from getting hurt. He’s always kind of inspired me.”
Lambert’s injury was a bad one. He was scrambling against North Iredell in late September when he took a hit. X-rays revealed a break that ended his football season and also cost him his final basketball season. He would’ve been a starter for South and one of the county’s top rebounders.
Lambert (6-2, 195) would have been recruited more heavily if he’d stayed healthy. His tapes are impressive — plenty of on-the-money deep balls to Josh Medlin with daring, 60-yard scrambles mixed in — but his setback discouraged schools. He was running 4.6s before the injury. He’s still working his way back to that speed.
“I’m sure the injury changed the recruiting process a lot, but I did get to work out for Catawba,” Lambert said. “I already knew the coaches, and that helped. I knew Coach (Curtis) Walker from when I visited Western Carolina and I met Coach (Kevin) Brown when I was at Coastal Carolina.”
Lambert leaves South with three major school records — career passing yards (3,014), passing yards in a season (1,792) and total offense in a season (1,965). He set those marks while playing part-time QB as a sophomore, 10 games as a junior and seven as a senior. That’s remarkable.
QB guru Bobby Myers has tutored Lambert for three years.
“He has a lot of physical ability,” Myers said. “Nathan has that good first step. He sees the field, and he’s smart about where he throws the football. When you go into college ball, you start over, but he understands that and he has the right work ethic.”
Lambert was recruited as a quarterback by Catawba, which makes sense. He’s been to so many camps and put in so many hours, his first shot should come there.
But he isn’t limited to barking signals. South’s coaches swear he can catch anything. He has the ideal frame to grow into a tight end/H-back type and he may prove to be enough of an athlete to be a wideout.
“Nathan was an all-conference linebacker when he was a sophomore,” South coach Jason Rollins said. “People forget what kind of athlete he is. Yes, he can really zing a football, but he’s got a lot of skills and he can play a lot of positions.”
Lambert has a ready answer for position questions.
“I like quarterback but what I really love is football,” Lambert said. “I just want to be on the football field.”
His return to baseball this spring as a pitcher has helped South — and Lambert. It’s given him a chance to compete while he works his way back to 100 percent.
On a recent visit to Catawba, Lambert saw Carson’s massive C.J. Cain, a future Catawba lineman. He’ll have extra-large guys like Cain blocking for him for the first time, so while some things will get tougher — others may get easier.
“Nathan’s had to overcome so many obstacles,” Rollins said. “I’m proud of him because he never gave up. He’s still fighting to play football.”