NFL Combine Notebook: A Kicker Named Lambo, Not Lambeau

Plus more on an offensive lineman from Toledo and new Packers assistant coach Mike Solari.

Texas A&M kicker Josh Lambo—Brian Carriveau, CheeseheadTV.com.

Texas A&M kicker Josh Lambo—Brian Carriveau, CheeseheadTV.com.

INDIANAPOLIS—With a last name like Lambo, you'd think the Texas A&M kicker with ties to Wisconsin would be destined to wear green and gold in the NFL.

Granted, it's not spelled the same as the legendary Green Bay Packers founder, player and coach Curly Lambeau. And truthfully, Josh Lambo grew up a Chicago Bears fan.

So maybe it's not destiny after all. But it does make for a good story.

Lambo sets the scene: "So I grew up in this town called Crystal Lake, northwest suburb of Chicago. My family moved to Middleton, Wis., summer of 2005. We had just moved there, just got into the house. We ordered a pizza with the last name Lambo. And so growing up in Chicago, we were all Bears fans. They write 'Lambeau' and they spell it 'e-a-u.' My brother called, furious, ‘How dare you do that? We’re Bears fans.’ That was a fun story and my introduction to Wisconsin."

Coincidentally, Lambo didn't stay in Middleton for long. Mere months after arriving to Wisconsin, he moved away from home at age 14 to join U.S. Soccer's U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla. as a goalie in training.

By 2008, he was attending Major League Soccer's version of the Combine and played professionally, suiting up for F.C. Dallas of the MLS, although never appearing in a game.

While playing soccer, Lambo got a two-year degree from an online university, wanted to continue his education and saw kicking as a way to potentially gain acceptance to a university with a little more prestige.

Lambo was pretty good at kicking a football once upon a time too, actually winning the Punt, Pass and Kick national championship at age 10.

It was when Lambo was looking to get back into American football that his path brought him back to Wisconsin.

Josh's brother Zach played soccer at the University of Wisconsin. And so while visiting family for the holidays in 2010, Josh met Zach's friend, Taylor Melhaff, the former Badgers and New Orleans Saints kicker (recently hired back at his alma mater on the staff of Paul Chryst).

"I worked with him for a weekend," said Lambo. "He made a couple of slight tweaks to my soccer swing, and it worked pretty well, pretty quickly. So we made some good tape and sent it out to a bunch of schools. A&M liked what they saw, and they responded."

The rest, as they say, is history. Lambo finished his senior season with the Aggies in 2014 connecting on 13 of 15 field goals and scoring 98 points. He was named second-team All-SEC by the Associated Press.

Now Lambo is participating in the NFL's Combine, looking to become a rare athlete that played two sports professionally.

As for playing in an environment like Lambeau Field, Lambo isn't used to the cold. But he's not deterred either.

"At the end of the day, kicking is kicking," said Lambo. "Kicking for me personally whether you’re in a dome, outdoors, in the cold, … it’s still the same snap, the same hold, the same ball, the uprights are still the same size. You’ve just got to deal with it."

 

A Packers Connection from Toledo

Even though Toledo center Greg Mancz was raised in Ohio, he was a Brett Favre fan growing up.

Now, years later, he has another connection to the Packers through his former teammate.

Packers linebacker Jayrone Elliott made it to the NFL from a small-school program like Toledo last season, and now Mancz is looking to do the same while at the Combine this week.

Interestingly enough, Mancz and Elliott weren't always buddy-buddy.

"Jayrone and I go way back to our first summer together," said Mancz. "There were times where he didn't like me very much, because I was the same sort of person that I was the whole five years where you do it the right way and that's it. Me and Jayrone butted heads a little bit early, but I talk to him regularly. He trained in Cincinnati right by me. I texted him that I was coming here."

Now Mancz considers Elliott a good friend and was glad to have another rooting interest on the Packers roster this past season.

It's perhaps no surprise with two NFL-caliber talents at Toledo like Elliott and Mancz, among others, Toledo had a winning record in each of the past five seasons.

"I think it's just the team trying to reach where it wants to go, because my four years, I can talk about good years and bowl wins and 9-4s," said Mancz.

During his five years at Toledo, Mancz went to four bowl games, including his redshirt season, and played in three.

Mancz met with the Packers while at the East-West Shrine Game. He's rated as the seventh-best center in this year's draft class by NFLDraftScout.com.

 

A Change of Scenery

Despite being let go when Jim Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers to become the coach at the University of Michigan, new Packers assistant offensive line coach Mike Solari got a good recommendation from his former employer.

"A heck-of-a football coach," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke on Wednesday. "He's an awfully good football coach. Great technician, great relationship with the players, works hard, enthusiastic. I can't say enough positive things about coach Solari."

With more than 20 years of coaching in the NFL, Solari is taking a step back from being the primary offensive line coach in San Francisco to being James Campen's assistant in Green Bay.

Solari and Packers head coach McCarthy are reuniting after coaching together on the staff of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997 and 1998 when Solari was in charge of the offensive line while McCarthy tutored the quarterbacks.

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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