For all of the changes the Rutgers University football program has endured over the last week since head coach Greg Schiano left to take the coaching job with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one thing remained the same.
Quanzell Lambert is bringing his hard-hitting mentality to New Brunswick.
Lambert stayed true to his verbal commitment and signed a letter of intent to attend Rutgers University this fall on a full football scholarship on Thursday, joining seven other Timber Creek Regional High School Chargers who made their college intentions public during a National Signing Day ceremony at the Erial school.
Lambert declared he would be joining Rutgers last month, but took some time to re-think the decision after Schiano left the school to become head coach of the Buccaneers last Thursday. Advice came at Lambert from all directions, but the 6-2, 245-pound linebacker knew to only listen to those he knew and trusted most.
“I got a lot of advice from everyone,” Lambert said. “I prayed and took the advice of my coaches, teammates and my family. I just listened to them and not what the media and everybody else wants to say.”
Faith is very important in Lambert's life and he said that faith helped guide him through his decision making.
"There have been a little highs and lows, but just knowing God’s up top watching over me, it wasn’t too stressful,” Lambert said. “I knew everything would fall in place, and it did.”
Despite missing almost three full games, Lambert amassed 102 tackles (95 solo), four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, three sacks and an interception last season. He was the centerpiece of a defense that led the Chargers to a 12-0 record and a Group 3 title.
Scout.com has Lambert ranked as the No. 12 middle linebacker in the national Class of 2012. The scouting service has Lambert ranked as the top-rated middle linebacker from New Jersey. Maxpreps.com also lists Lambert as the No. 108 overall prospect in the country.
The Chargers’ standout certainly had plenty of suitors interested in his services this fall. Lambert also drew interest from Oklahoma, Alabama and Northwestern while narrowing his final three choices down to Iowa, Nebraska, and Rutgers.
In the end, Rutgers won out due to its academics, location and practice schedule. Rutgers was the lone football program among his final choices that holds its practices in the morning instead of the afternoon. Lambert felt that having morning practices would suit him best in terms of his ability to attend afternoon classes and earn his degree.
New Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood, who was an assistant to Schiano for the past seven seasons, the last four as the assistant head coach, said he plans to keep the practice schedule the same. Even if that changes, Lambert said it will not deter him from his ultimate mission.
“(Rutgers) was one out of 20 schools that had morning practices, so if (that changes to afternoon practices), I will still get my degree,” Lambert said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
According to USA Today, Rutgers ranks 34th in the nation with 17 recruits committed to signing with the team. Timber Creek football coach Rob Hinson believes Lambert is one of the best of the bunch.
“They’re getting, in my opinion, the top linebacker in the country,” Timber Creek head coach Rob Hinson said after Lambert’s announcement last month. “The kid is physically impressive. Takes on blocks. Can run around blocks. Can chase people down. Can run sideline to sideline. Can defend the pass. Plays hard. Plays smart.”
Lambert said he can’t wait to get out there and start his collegiate football career. He also made it clear there is still business to take care of here at home.
“High school’s still what’s most important to me right now, keeping my grades up,” Lambert said.