COMMERCE – Sunday should have been a day of rest for Ray and Linda Lamb, being that son Hal had won another state championship for Calhoun and that grandson Taylor, the son of Bobby, the Mercer coach, had earned a break after quarterbacking Appalachian State to an invitation to the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile.
After all, following three teams has kept the two quite busy this season, as usual, as they have been consistently on the road since August. They have been following this routine for years, like decades.
When there’s a Lamb competing — on the field or sideline — Ray and Linda will be in attendance. They not only don’t miss a game, they don’t miss a play. Leading the cheering is Linda, the football passionate matriarch who, for example, doesn’t mind letting the officials get an earful when they, in her opinion, render a poor performance.
After a cup of coffee and conversation Linda donned her church clothes and left Ray and his friend talking football.
“Pray for me,” the coach said as Linda departed.
“For sure, you need it,” was her parting shot, accompanied by a generous smile. She was in a forgiving mood, however, knowing that Ray soon would be tending to the flighty leaves, which were accumulating in the yard.
There are 17 in the Lamb clan now, including in-laws. Ray and Linda are comforted that through the years, none of the little Lambs have gone astray. Sports have kept them too occupied for any missteps or mischief.
When you see one, you are likely to see the others. They gather under one roof at every opportunity. When the Dollar General invitation was extended, the initial thought was to rent a beach house until somebody noted that Mobile is on the bay not the Gulf.
No problem. They will just find another venue. If it happens to be a hotel, they will find a common room where this one, big, happy family can gather socialize and massage the centerpiece of their lives — football.
I happened by the Lamb homestead after meeting with the good folks at Homer United Methodist Church where Mark Savage and his friends hosted a breakfast, which drew a collection of salts-of-the-earth to hear a visitor pontificate about the sporting scene from one vantage point.
Linda had a pot of coffee peaking, and there was fruit cake and smiles of joy as Calhoun’s victory in the Mercedes-Benz broken roof palace was replayed. It is fun to talk football with Papa Lamb and Mama Lamb.
Ray, having coached most of his days on earth, can be deftly insightful, and Linda provides color as only a seasoned wife-mama-fan can do. Hal and Bobby are always reminding Linda not to take to Facebook when she is of a mind to offer her unsolicited view of things.
Last September, she was in attendance when Georgia’s Kirby Smart spoke to the Athens Touchdown Club. The Bulldogs’ coach was generous in praising Appalachian State quarterback, Taylor.
That wasn’t what Linda wanted to hear.
“Do you promise, cross your heart, that you won’t blitz this game?” she asked.
Kirby laughed. Linda didn’t.
To further illustrate how tight this family is, you only have to know about Taylor’s commitment to the GHSA Class 3A championship game with Peach County last weekend. The one-time Calhoun quarterback drove the five hours from Boone, N. C., to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to see his uncle’s team pull off a stunning 10-6 victory.
You know what the weather conditions were last weekend. It was not an easy drive, especially on the return when he took a westerly veer off I-85 at Gastonia. Snow pounded his windshield as he motored up the mountain, but the trip was worth it.
Like those who came before him, Taylor is imbued with family togetherness.
If you connect the dots on this narrative, you are, perhaps, appreciative of how football in its purest sense has so many redeeming values. It is the focal point of the Lamb family. Deeply competitive, the Lambs don’t get out of sorts when things don’t go well for them and their teams. They are, without question, a class act.
Theirs has been a good life. When football season is over, they don’t relax their schedule with all those grandkids. There’s basketball, spring sports and cheerleading. Like Willie Nelson, they can’t wait to get on the road again.
The Lambs always have given of themselves to their communities. Their priorities are faith, family and flag. They are about being good neighbors. To paraphrase Erk Russell, Ray’s good friend, “There’s nothing like being a Lamb on Friday night.”