In four years as a Linfield Wildcat, Simon Lamson has watched his role on the club grow with every snap.
After seeing action in seven games as a freshman in 2007, Lamson became a stabilizing force for the Wildcats a year later. The standout from Gridley, Calif., continued his development as a sophomore, ranking second among Linfield running backs with 366 yards. Lamson, whose 4.7 yards per carry was tops among players with more than 75 carries, broke onto the scene with a 116-yard performance in a 14-7 win over Southern Oregon that season.
As quickly as Lamson had established himself as the feature back, the 2009 season came crashing down in the second game of the season. With just over a minute remaining in an eventual 31-27 win over Occidental in Los Angeles, Lamson snapped his clavicle on a routine dive play.
Forced to undergo surgery, the 5-foot-10 running back was sidelined for six games. Deciding to return for a playoff run as opposed to redshirting, Lamson quickly turned a negative into a positive.
“Ultimately it was just a good learning experience,” notes Lamson, who hopes to pursue a career in coaching. “After surgery my dad and I talked a bunch about it. He’s the kind of guy who believes things happen for a reason. About five weeks into the healing process I was pretty sure I wanted to come back. And six weeks out of surgery I was back practicing. In the end, it came down to me not being able to sit out and watch my team in Wisconsin.”
The decision to come back paid off, as Lamson helped lead the Wildcats to the national semifinals.
“One-hundred percent of me knows that was the best decision,” reflects Lamson. “I kept thinking about all the players in my class. Those are the guys that I’ve bonded with. I couldn’t have imagined myself sitting in Ice Auditorium watching the game.”
Despite being one of the most dynamic running backs in the conference, Lamson has seen his playing time in the Linfield backfield divided among multiple running backs. Junior Aaron Williams split carries with Lamson during the final games of 2009, as well as the opening three games of the 2010 season. When Williams lost for the season with a knee injury, senior Taylor Avritt was given more chances to carry the football.
In a system that does not generally allow a running to receive 20 to 30 rushes per game, Lamson has matured in his understanding of the system.
“We do such a good job of creating team chemistry and knowing the history of this program. The last thing I’m thinking about is getting 20 carries,” explains Lamson. “We’ve got Taylor and I running the ball and then we had Williams and I running it. All three of us could have split up and started at other NWC schools but we are here sharing time. It’s all about winning and playing to the middle of December.”
It is a sentiment that head coach Joseph Smith shares.
“Simon has always put the team first and I respect him greatly for that,” notes Smith. “He has had to deal with the personal frustration of injuries and having to share time with other good players.”
Another aspect of Lamson’s development has been his ability to handle Linfield’s spread offense that is predicated on the zone-read handoff.
Unlike a prototypical pro-style offense in which the quarterback is handing the ball off after receiving a snap from under center, Linfield’s zone-read running scheme forces quarterbacks and running backs to master a more technical system.
“It’s about as technical as it gets,” says Lamson. “In this offense, Boehme has the ability to see how the defense is reacting. He is one of those guys that is so football savvy. We both feel really comfortable doing it.”
That comfort level with the Wildcats’ sophisticated offense has shown during Lamson’s senior season.
Since watching Williams go down with a season-ending knee injury during the third game of the season, Lamson has been forced to handle the bulk of the carries. Through seven games, Lamson has rushed for 497 yards and nine touchdowns, both team highs.
He relishes the opportunity to get more carries while still having a team-first mentality towards the two-back system.
“Aaron and I have found a mutual respect for each other,” notes Lamson “We’ve both matured, so if the other one has a big game we support one another. If you’re at Linfield and having that feeling of ‘I don’t like this’ then your not a Linfield football player. It’s something that just been instilled and has grown over the last four years.”
“The two-back system is good but we all came from high schools where we were getting all the carries. Playing time has been scattered but it’s nice to be running all four quarters now. Your feel in the zone and more focused. It’s definitely a big difference.”
While Lamson’s ability to use his lateral quickness to run between tackles is one of his greatest strengths, it is his knack for wearing down opponents that serves the Wildcats best.
“Since high school, I’ve always gotten a lot stronger as the game has gone on,” says Lamson of his best attribute as a runner. “I think it’s been showing lately, especially in the Pacific Lutheran game. I’ve always been a fourth-quarter runner. It’s something that’s built over time.”
Just weeks away from capping off their second-straight NWC championship, the Wildcats are starting to play their best football at the right time.
“This year, Coach Smith has harped to us that we needed to find out kind of team we had,” reflects Lamson. “Every Monday when we have our team meeting Coach Smith says to us ‘we are peaking and improving each week.’ Now we are clicking on all cylinders and focusing on the simple things.”
During four seasons as a Wildcat, the road hasn’t always been a smooth one for Lamson. Whether it was battling injury or handling the task of splitting carries, he has taken the adversity in stride. Along with the opportunity to graduate with the class of seniors he entered Linfield with, Lamson has an understanding of what Linfield football has given him.
“It builds character,” says Lamson. “Our senior class has slimmed down from 30 or 40 down to I think 14. It starts with the coaching staff and the respect those guys give to us. It’s something truly special.”
Working with the running backs on a daily basis, Smith has seen Lamson develop into the quintessential Linfield athlete.
“I am so proud of Simon for the teammate that he is, and the man that he has become,” notes Smith, who oversees the running backs in conjunction with his head coaching duties. “Simon embodies the work ethic of this program, as he can be counted on to give all he has in practice and in games.”
-- Eric Evenson '11
Senior's leadership vital on championship-caliber team
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128