By Greg Gulas
When Pat Sandella was wheeled to the front of the Eastwood Mall stage, the only thing she was hoping to get from Pittsburgh Steelers legend Jack Lambert was his autograph.
After he got out of his seat in order come down and greet the Ashtabula native, she never dreamed the Hall of Fame linebacker would take a photo with her, let alone plant a kiss on her right cheek, telling her to hang in there before returning to the stage.
Such was the case Saturday with everyone seeking autographs and photos of one of the NFL’s all-time defensive greats; an accommodating star that cares passionately about the many Steelers’ fans that were in attendance.
Members of the media, however, were kept at a distance, a directive by his representatives. Lambert did smile, though, when asked about former high school basketball teammate and YSU center Denver Belknap. He also acknowledged the late Mike Kish, former Campbell Memorial baseball coach who was one of Lambert’s teachers at Crestwood High School.
Sandella, 62, suffers from osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, fibromyalgia and heart problems, but said when her son, Kevin, told her to focus on something, the only she cared enough about was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“My son is the biggest Pittsburgh Steelers fan and I am right behind him now. Being in a wheelchair has been very trying at times, but when I heard that Jack Lambert was going to be at the Eastwood Mall today I just had to come out to meet one of my all-time favorite players,” Sandella said.
Darlene Treharn of Howland attended the signing with her mother, Arlene Bieda, who cut short a vacation to Dallas in order to get her book signed by Lambert.
“The book that I have is a pictorial history of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl years. The last autograph that I needed was Jack Lambert’s and with his signing my book today, I now have everyone’s autographs from those glory years,” Bieda said.
Treharn, who was decked out in full Steelers fashion, said their many friends do not call them when they are watching the team in action.
“Jack Lambert truly is a legend and someone that I grew up watching on Sunday afternoon. My mother has seven grandchildren and one great grandchild and each left the hospital in a Pittsburgh Steelers outfit along with a Terrible Towel,” Treharn said.
Former Campbell Memorial grid star Walt Vrabel played with Lambert at Kent State, along with current University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Missouri Tigers coach Gary Pinkel. Vrabel said Lambert was the most intense of any of his teammates.
“It took Jack several hours after a game to unwind, he was that focused. He was like that in high school, then in college and later in the pros. I got to spend some quality time with him before the show and it sure was good to play catch-up on how our families have been and what has been going on since we last got together,” Vrabel said. “The fact that my grandson, Anthony, got to take his picture with Jack made everything worthwhile.”
Eight-year old Creed Hill of Medina wore a Kent State University T-shirt and is a Cleveland Browns fan, but has admired Lambert after reading about how tough a player he was during his professional career.
“I love football so to get to meet a Hall of Fame legend, especially one as tough as Jack Lambert, is very special,” he said.
Jodi Raymer of Greenville, Pa., has been watching the Steelers since she was 3 years old. She accompanied husband, Woody, to the signing and had Lambert sign a football that said “Quarterbacks Should Wear Dresses.”
“This is the first time we’ve had a chance to meet Jack lambert, a player that we grew up idolizing since his playing days,” she said.
Logan and Michael Patellis of Canfield were accompanied by parents, Pete and Salena. Logan’s favorite Steelers player is Ben Roethlesberger while brother Michael calls Hines Ward his favorite.
“We love the Pittsburgh Steelers and have our favorite players, but no player was tougher than Jack Lambert,” Logan said.