In this edition of “Blast From the Bronco Past,” I had the pleasure of talking with former Boise State running back Raphiel Lambert. Lambert was a member of some of the greatest Boise State teams in program history. Lambert was nice enough to answer some questions about his time as a Bronco.
Bronco Nation would love to know what you are up to these days. How are things going?
First I want to say thank you for reaching out! It’s always a pleasure to talk about Bronco Football, because it’s really unlike any other program in the country.
Today I’m spending my time doing a multitude of different things. I’m currently finishing up graduate school and will be receiving a masters degree in School Counseling. The inspiration to pursue the psychology field had a lot to do with Coach Pete and his background, so I’m always thankful for his impact on my life. I’m also back at my alma mater, Jesuit High School (Portland), serving as an assistant football coach in the Fall on their varsity staff (WR’s/DB’s) and as the Head Track & Field Coach in the Spring. Outside of those two, I spend the rest of my time as a program director of a gym in the Beaverton area called Grind Time Fit. We focus on educating young athletes on the importance of strength training and also the mental preparation it takes to be successful on and off the playing field. Mental health and changing the narrative/stigma around it, especially for athletes is a huge passion of mine and something I’m excited about exposing more athletes to in the coming years.
Describe the recruiting process for you. What ultimately brought you to Boise State?
The recruiting process for me was interesting. Academically, I didn’t apply myself my first two years at Jesuit High School, and this scared a lot of coaches away. I had a lot of team and individual success early on in my career, and this led to a handful of early offers. My dream schools were Cal Berkley (to play RB) and Virginia Tech (to play DB). Both are high academic schools, and I remember Cal being transparent and telling me that there was no way based on my grades they could recruit me because academically they are one of the finest institutions in the country. After that conversation, my Godparents Clarke and Leeann Leaverton, along with my Godbrother Ryan, all stepped in and helped me develop better routines for success. My grades increased dramatically over the next two years, but coaches were still hesitant and thought I wouldn’t follow through or test well on the SAT/ACT. I remember my good friend Spencer Beyrle’s dad, Steve Beyrle, and Coach Pete were very close friends. Steve made a call speaking highly of me and shortly after my Godbrother Ryan Leaverton, myself, and a few other teammates were at the Boise State football camp. I went there, worked closely with Coach Wilcox and Coach Julius Brown, and when I left I was the MVP of the entire camp, receiving an offer shortly after. I had other PAC-12 schools interested and the opportunity to play PAC-12 football was appealing but with Boise State, everything just felt right. The phone calls, interactions with my family, the faith that I would qualify academically, them caring more about me as a young man and not just a football player all factored into my decision. When I committed, I knew that I had made the right decision for not only my playing career but my life after football as well.
You were part of arguably the greatest running back rotation in Boise State history. Describe what it was like in that room. Do you keep in touch with any of those guys today?
Man! When you’re in a room with Ian Johnson, Jeremy Avery, DJ Harper, Doug Martin, Jarvis Hodge, Drew Wright, Malcom Johnson, and Jay Ajayi, you have your work cut out for you. Many wondered why I stayed, and I always tell them because in that room aside from our desire to play and be competitive, it was a family. I attribute that to the culture and expectation Coach Bhonapha created each day. It was tough because you all want to play and at the time it was discouraging but again, we were a family and no one ever let anyone feel like they didn’t have a role or that they weren’t valued. I love those guys! Every so often I talk with DJ, Jay and Drew via social media or text. I talked with Hodge awhile ago and caught up. Now that you have me thinking, I need to connect with those guys more!
Many former players talk about the impact Coach Pete had on them. How did he impact your life? Were you surprised to hear that he was walking away from coaching?
Coach Pete changed my life from the day he offered me a scholarship! More than anything, he helped change my perspective on what it meant to be a great team player and how that didn’t always mean scoring touchdowns and making interceptions. It could mean mentoring a new guy, bringing the energy for the group, making sure guys off the field were making the right decisions, etc. I wasn’t as shocked as most to hear that he was stepping down because knowing Coach Pete I view him as a purist in many ways. The guy loves football, but I know he cares more about developing great young men that end up being great fathers and husbands, as well as valuable and contributing members of society. So for him to step down, I think it was him re-evaluating where he currently was and where he wanted to be going forward
Do you still follow the football team? If so, what are your expectations for the upcoming season, and who are some players to keep an eye on?
Oh yea!!! Being a Bronco around a bunch of Duck and Beaver fans is always fun, haha. I turn the game on every week at my house, and I always remind my Duck and Beaver fans about my Broncos being the better program. As an alumni, I’m hoping we come out this next season and put together another great year. I really think this year we are capable of making a New Year’s Eve Bowl game. Of course I’m excited to see the running back group with Mahone, Holani and Van Buren. I love watching Shakir play as well, extremely competitive and has great play making ability. I’m biased because I coached him and love the kid, but I’m excited to see Happle take the next step this season, and I like Pierce and his leadership/playmaking ability as well. I look for Earl, Bradford and Clark to all come in and maybe make an immediate impact as well.
I see you have entered the world of coaching. As a fellow coach, I know how rewarding those experiences can be. How did your time at Boise State prepare you for coaching?
I think that Boise State prepared me to be a leader of young men and women. I learned so much about team culture, accountability, strategy, and how to sustain success in my time at Boise State. I’m excited about the opportunities ahead of me because I know my foundation was laid many years ago as I learned from what I feel was the best coaching staff in the nation.
Any parting words for Bronco Nation?
I would say that I hope as a community you guys continue to support the football program, as well as other athletic programs on campus. Are we afforded a lot of opportunities and allowed access to experiences that other students on campus may not have, yes. Despite that, we work hard and try our best each and every day to make sure that when we go out on Saturday, we put on a show for our supporters. You all mean a lot to us and together we can continue to put Boise State on the map nationally. I think our best seasons are ahead of us, and I look forward to the day WE all travel and play in a college football playoff game and position ourselves to win a national championship the right way, no self proclaimed championships over here! I’d love to connect with more of you as well. Follow me in social media: Ralph_Lam21 (Twitter) and Dream_Chasing38 or Ralph_Grindtimefit (Instagram)
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a quote from the great Helen Keller that I think we should all remember, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” I Love you, BRONCO NATION!!!!