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SoCon Legend Leading New Program

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Few coaches have ever started a program from the beginning. Even fewer have done it twice.

When we were at Furman, we were in a really good situation and football was established there. Then I went to Mercer and it was just totally new.
~Bobby Lamb

Bobby Lamb has just about done it all. Now, starting football at Anderson University a near-decade after bringing Mercer back for the first time in over 70 years, he is doing it all again.

Already, Lamb has an impressive 108 total wins as a head coach. The Southern Conference legend, who led Furman from 2002-2010 and the Bears from 2013-2019, was just recently introduced as the head coach of the Trojans. Anderson will begin play as a member of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Conference in 2024. Lamb, once more, is ready to build success from scratch. Though starting a program is quite the challenge, he has been part of winning teams for over a generation. The future, for Lamb, is often about his past. 

In high school, Lamb led Commerce to a AA Georgia championship as an all-state quarterback. As a star player at Furman, earning SoCon Player of the Year honors as a senior, he helped the Paladins to a league title and, with 12 wins in 1985, the 1-AA final. Winning a national championship as an assistant at Furman, Lamb would go on to claim a SoCon crown in 2004 and advance to the FCS playoffs four times. He later set an NCAA record for wins in a debut season with ten at Mercer in 2013.

Lamb has both won games and laid the foundation to win games for years to come. The process continues.

"Well, most people think I'm crazy, including my wife," he laughed. "I really enjoy the building part of it, the process you have to go through to get to that first game. You got your thumbprint on everything, from picking out the kind of carpets in the building to picking out lockers to scheduling games to picking out equipment. You got a lot of work to do between now and then and I really enjoy that. I enjoy the football part of it as well. I enjoy the building and the process you have to do to get there."

After Lamb's historic run at his alma mater Furman, winning SoCon Coach of the Year honors in 2004, he helped bring Mercer football back for the first time since 1941. The Bears, in 2013, promptly won their first four games as part of a record-setting 10-2 season. Lamb then helped guide Mercer into the SoCon the very next year. It was a remarkable stretch for the Bears, with Lamb, even as a veteran coach, gaining valuable experience.    

"I think I got this job because of that. I have the blueprint to do that," Lamb nodded. "What I'm going to be able to do is be able to take the things that we did well at Mercer and continue them here and then the things we didn't do so well, we can correct. It's like building a house. If you build a house and you don't like the square footage of it or you don't like the size of this room, the next time you build a house you make it bigger. And we're going to try to do that here at Anderson."

So much of what Lamb accomplished at Mercer will guide him now at Anderson.  The idea of implementing a multi-year plan is a development Lamb is already very much familiar with. Ahead of an official start for the Trojans in 2024, the near future will be about creating the infrastructure that every football program has to have. Lamb knows what it takes to win and what it takes to get to the point where you can. His resume is filled with roadwork, with the direction always being forward. 

Few coaches have ever started a program from the beginning. Even fewer have done it twice.

"It's just something I enjoy. I've always enjoyed just building something. When we were at Furman, we were in a really good situation and football was established there. Then I went to Mercer and it was just totally new. I enjoy seeing the sense of excitement within the community," Lamb explained. "We had our press conference here at Anderson and there were so many people there I was overwhelmed."

The milestones in front of Lamb are many. He is set to hire some assistant coaches in January of 2022 and have his staff completed by January of 2023. Anderson's first recruiting class will be signed in February of 2023. After two practice years, a span where Lamb says the program will be creative with what it does, the Trojans will play their first-ever game on September 7th of 2024. It's a long term plan with plenty of short-term priorities.   

As Lamb looks ahead, he will also focus nearby. Part of his plan has and will continue to be creating local excitement and establishing grassroots support for his new program. That opportunity is an important one that Lamb is excited about making the most of. 

"I'm going to take this first six months and it's going to be me, myself and I. I'm going to go out and build relationships on the campus, build relationships within the community," he shared. "Obviously, the number one goal is to go out and continue to raise money for this program. I'll make myself visible on Friday nights here in the Upstate of South Carolina, watching high school football, start the recruiting process."

What Lamb is pitching isn't just the chance to make plays, but the chance to make history as well.

"Here's the deal with the '23 class. Your selling point is this: 'hey, come in here and create your own legacy'. If you sign with us in 2023, you're going to be the first one in line at your position and guess what, the line ain't very long 'cuz there ain't nobody behind you," he explained. "Your redshirt year will be your practice year and then you will have four more years to start college football and have a great college experience."

Lamb, who spent last season as an analyst at Louisiana, has already been a head coach for 16 seasons. He will add to that impressive resume with, in the coming years, creativity before competition. Beyond just forming the framework for Anderson's football future, Lamb will get to develop his first few teams with a unique schedule and start. What is next for the Trojans is what Lamb has done before. His first priority is people.   

Throughout Lamb's coaching career, his impact has gone well beyond the box score. 

"I'm gonna be able to touch the lives of 125 guys as they come rotate through our program and that's what it's all about," he nodded. "I know we get caught up with the wins and losses and ultimately that's the most important thing that you do, but, when your building a program people give you time and you take your time, you get to enjoy the fruits of the labor so to say."

There is an energy to Lamb, who is eager to develop bonds both on the field and off. He believes college football is all about building relationships, another process he values and enjoys. Lamb's tenure at Mercer was often about directly introducing the new program to the community and surrounding areas. That work, for Lamb, was rewarding. That same approach is now underway in the Upstate of South Carolina.   

At Anderson, Lamb is just over 30 miles from where he helped quarterback and coach Furman to championship success. Lamb is also roughly 60 miles from where he won a prep title in northeast Georgia. He knows these parts well; Lamb brings that sense of direction to his new position.

A college football great, Lamb is thrilled to share his perspective with and create more opportunities for student-athletes today.

"Ultimately, that's what we're trying to do, create a college experience for these young men, both on and off the field, that they can enjoy, hopefully win championships along the way and graduate with a great degree," he added. "I think we've got a good plan going forward."

Bobby Lamb is back; back home, back building, back doing what he does best.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports