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"I reminded him of what he said when he was a rookie, that he'd play for nothing," his mother says. "He said, 'This is different.' "
The '78 and '79 Steeler teams won two more Super Bowls. Lambert was still a young player, but by now he'd picked up an old-pro image, hard-bitten, no time for chitchat. In '77 Houston had beaten Cincinnati to allow the Steelers to back into the playoffs, and a day before Pittsburgh's first-round game Joe Greene announced that in appreciation the Steelers were sending each Oiler player an attach� case. Lambert threw his helmet into his locker in disgust.
"This is a bunch of junk," he said. "We're all professionals. We get paid to win."
The week before the Super Bowl in Pasadena in 1980 was a downer. Winter rains had turned the practice field heavy and soggy, deadening the legs. The team had an air of defeat about it. One day after practice Lambert and a couple of teammates were having a beer in the Main Brace, the bar in their hotel in Newport Beach. A bunch of teeny-boppers spotted them.
"There's Jack Lambert," one of them said. "Hey, Jack, do you believe in astrology?"
"What's your sign, Jack? You know, astrology."
"Feces," he said.
The kids in Pittsburgh saw another side of him, though. So did the people who'd get him to make one of his rare banquet appearances—always unpaid.
"In the old days players would go into a place, tell a couple of locker-room stories, talk about the team, take the money and run," he said. "I decided I wasn't going to cheat people."