On Mar. 29, legendary Husky football coach Jim Lambright passed away at the age of 77. Lambright was an integral part of some of the most successful Washington football teams to this day. Past players and coaches have since spoken of the amount of respect he had as a coach both on and off the field.
Lambright was born in Everett, Washington where he eventually graduated from Everett High School in 1960. His performance on the football field earned him a scholarship to the University of Washington, where he lettered as a senior and was named to the all-conference team. During his time with the Huskies, the team would reach two Rose Bowls including a win over Minnesota in 1960.
After his playing career, Lambright jumped right into coaching where he began as an assistant coach for one season at Fife High School in 1965. Shortly thereafter, following three seasons at Shoreline Community College as an assistant, his former head coach at UW, Jim Owens, brought Lambright onto his staff at the university as a defensive assistant and was kept on staff when Don James took over the reins.
Lambright was eventually given the position of defensive coordinator where he led some of the most dominant Husky defenses in history — including a span of three straight Rose Bowl appearances from 1990 to 1992.
1991 was the peak of the Huskies career, during this era they completed an undefeated 12–0 season with a 34–14 win over Michigan and gave the program their first national championship since 1960. The defense was predominantly led by Lambright where they allowed under 10 points to opponents on seven separate occasions. Five players from the defensive line were drafted in the following NFL Draft and included the first overall pick of Steve Emtman.
Following the resignation of Don James in 1993 after sanctions were made by the NCAA against the program for recruiting violations that included a two-year bowl ban, Lambright took over the duties of head coach.
Lambright was put in a tough situation as sanctions brought both the bowl ban as well as a loss of scholarships. However, he was still able to lead the Huskies to five straight winning seasons including four bowl appearances. But this was not up to the standards of fans and administration that Don James brought to the program and thus led to Lambright being relieved of his duties in 1998.
After years passed, Lambright is not only remembered for his times as a head coach, but his 30 plus seasons as both a player and coach at the UW where he impacted the lives of the people around him.
Former UW linebacker Mike Rohrbach — who was a part of the 1991 national championship team — discussed the importance of Lambright to that team and also mentioned getting “chills” whenever the defense is brought up.
“He was the architect and builder of those defenses,” Rohrbach said in an interview with the Seattle Times. “That was him. He was surrounded by other great coaches, but that was Lambright, man. He lived that. He taught that. He definitely set the tone with all of that.”
Current and newly appointed Husky head coach Jimmy Lake has also paid tribute to Lambright and recognized the impact he had on the program.
“I would always run up and shake his hand anytime I saw him at practice. I’ve had so much admiration for what he did here as the defensive coordinator under Don James,” Lake said to the Seattle Times. “He would just shake my hand, we’d look at each other and I’d say, ‘Hey coach, I appreciate everything you’ve done here.’ He’d say, ‘Thanks Jimmy. Go Dawgs.”
It is always important to recognize the greats and Lambright is one of them. He will go down as one of the greatest coaches to step on the field at Husky Stadium and his legacy will be remembered forever.