ST. GEORGE — Jesse Lambert looks every bit the all-American kid.
With sandy blond hair and a quick smile, Lambert could easily be placed in a Boy Scouts ad or on a Wheaties box. His clear voice and clear face would also make him perfect as the poster child for the Dixie Flyers.
But then, who uses a defensive lineman as their poster child? Lambert, the senior anchor for a Dixie team hoping to capture its seventh football state championship in school history, doesn't look like a defensive lineman. He's got no missing teeth or scars and he rarely snarls. But he has played his way into the most valuable defensive player the Flyers have.
"He's just a beast, an animal on defense," DHS teammate Taylor Berry says. "He's everywhere. Jesse is so great. He's an impact player."
Berry should know. As an impact player at linebacker for Dixie, he has a front row seat to Lambert's mayhem.
"I wish he was with us on the linebacking crew," Berry said. "He really gets after it."
The thing is, Lambert was a linebacker last year. With some trepidation, he accepted his coaches' decision to move him to defensive line.
"With Jesse anchoring the line, we are so much better of a defense," coordinator Rick Berry said. "He just disrupts everything the other offense is trying to do."
Stunningly, Lambert has 109 tackles this season, an inordinately high tally for a defensive lineman, who are often called on just to take up space so the linebackers can make a play.
"Sometimes I do need to do that, but as a defensive lineman, you mostly just play off of instinct and reaction," Lambert said. "I am fortunate enough to be quicker and faster than most of the guys trying to block me."
Though he often lines up over the center, it's a common sight to see the 6-foot, 220-pound senior roaming to either sideline to make a tackle.
"The little guys are quicker and, quite frankly, work harder than the big guys on the line," he said. "I love playing against the big guys."
Lambert started at defensive end his sophomore year and in his first game at the varsity level, he had four sacks and intercepted a screen pass and returned it for a 31-yard touchdown.
"I was so scared for that first varsity game," he said. "But after it was over, I was like, "Oh yeah, it's on.' " He's been starting ever since, moving from the line in 2010, to linebacker in 2011 and then back to the D-line this season.
Where ever he starts the play, he always seems to end it on or near the ball carrier.2 comments on this story
"Jesse has been a real key to our defense," Rick Berry said. "He and Taylor have provided a lot of leadership, both vocally and with their play."
Lambert admits he enjoyed his time at linebacker the most, with one caveat.
"Linebacker was more fun because you do a lot of reading of the offense and then reacting," he said. "But winning is what's really fun and where we are this year, all the experiences we've had, make this the most fun of all."
Andy Griffin is the sports editor of STGnews.com, covering Region 9 sports.