EVERETT — In Jim Lambright’s day, Everett High School truly lived up to its nickname as a school of champions.
And on Monday, the 71-year-old Lambright explained to a new generation of Everett football players how that earlier tradition of excellence was established on individual and team traits of character, pride, perseverance and a day-to-day determination to be the best.
“The lessons that my head coach, Jim Ennis, taught me are still the best lessons that I can use to be successful in my life on a daily basis,” Lambright told the team in an Everett Memorial Stadium locker room. Among them, he went on, is the importance “of doing the little things right, doing them every day, and doing them better than everybody else.”
“Everything in life that happens to you will happen in the right way if you build the foundation of your life correctly,” he said. “Surrounding yourself with the right people, believing in the right things, and then being willing to sacrifice for your team, those are the ingredients of greatness.”
The players were listening closely, but their attention clearly went up a notch when Lambright held up his 1991 national championship ring. Lambright was the defensive coordinator at the University of Washington as the Huskies went 12-0, topped off by a Rose Bowl win over Michigan, to be named the national champions by the USA Today/CNN coaches poll.
Lambright, who also played at Washington and was the head coach from 1993-98, then passed the ring around the room. Each player took a moment to hold the ring and most studied it carefully, almost reverently.
The idea of having a prestigious Everett alum like Lambright address the team came from Seagulls head coach Will Soren. It made sense, Soren said, “because he grew up in the Everett area, he walked these streets, he’s been in that locker room, and he wore the blue and gold.
“He obviously went on to a great career, and he learned a lot of life lessons and a lot of football lessons that are great for our kids to hear. I think our kids definitely look up to him and to what he has to say, and to have someone from that level come back and talk to them about these things is a great thing,” Soren said.
This year’s Everett team is trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2012 season. Beset by injuries and a lack of depth, the Seagulls went 1-9 in the Western Conference 3A North, winning only their next-to-last game against Shorewood.
Opening the season with eight straight losses “was very challenging,” Soren said. “We were trying to get the kids’ energy levels up, to keep them excited and believing in what we’re coaching them, and to keep them believing in each other. But it was tough because we weren’t getting the results on Friday night.”
Soren expects the team to be better this season, led by a quartet of senior standouts — offensive guard/linebacker Lucas Arnestad (who missed six games in 2012 with a broken foot), tight end/linebacker Tyree Rutter, split end/defensive end Paul Larson, and quarterback/free safety Bryce Jameson.
In particular, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Arnestad “is a leader in all aspects,” Soren said. “He’s pretty much our main heartbeat out there. He’s a kid everybody looks up to and he’ll be a big part of our season.”
As for the rest of the team, “a lot of these kids are saying, ‘You know, we know what last year was like and let’s not go there again (this year). Let’s work hard so we can prevent that.’ It was tough on them, tough on the coaches and tough on the school, and now we’re doing everything in our power not to go down that road again.
“I think we have a group that believes in what we’re doing,” he added. “They’re working hard, and hopefully on Friday nights we’ll have some different outcomes.”
And certainly the inspiring words from Lambright, an Everett legend, can only help.
“Good luck and just win,” he told the team in parting. “And if you learn these lessons, you will.”