July 22, 2010
By: Lindsay Petersen, MU Media Relations Student Assistant
Andrew Gachkar and Luke Lambert are two of Missouri's best linebackers, close friends and roommates. Both athletes have had their share of obstacles in the past, but they remain strong for the upcoming season.
Last October against Texas, Lambert suffered a shoulder injury that required him to undergo surgery. This brought Lambert's season to a sudden halt, but he was already showing signs of improvement by the Spring Black & Gold Game. Now, he is even more prepared for the upcoming season.
"I feel very anxious to get the season started after missing quite a few games last year from injury," Lambert said. "My injuries are healed up and I feel like I am in the best shape that I have ever been in."
Lambert spent the last six games of the season on the sidelines watching as his "little brother" Will Ebner took his place on the field. Ebner did very well as a starting linebacker and continues to hold this position. However, now that Lambert is back in action, the competition between the two skilled linebackers has only encouraged Lambert to strive to be the best at what he does. The two will be battling for the starting spot this season.
"I think anytime there is competition between teammates both players will have the chance to excel and get better," said Lambert. "I definitely think that is the case. We both have taken strides in getting better in all facets of our game."
Gachkar has also struggled through his own injuries during his time at Mizzou. Before the 2008 season began, Gachkar underwent intense surgery to have a rib removed because of a blood clot in his arm and upper body. This was a procedure that could have ended Gachkar's football career, but instead he put forth more effort to recover and get back on the field.
"That is definitely one thing that has molded me into the person I am today," said Gachkar. "Anytime you have life-altering surgery, you definitely see life differently. You don't let the little things bother you as much."
Gachkar is now the top returning tackler with an impressive total of 80 tackles and 51 solo tackles last year. However, with such a great year behind him, the pressure to perform only increases.
"There's always more pressure the more years you've been here," said the top tackler. "It's a good thing, though; if you don't invite the pressure then you probably shouldn't be playing football."
He will now be taking the place of former All American and current NFL player, Sean Weatherspoon. But no one ever said that would be easy.
"I don't think it's possible [to fill Weatherspoon's shoes]," said the Gachkar. "The best I can do is just be me. I have had three years to watch him, so hopefully I can translate some of what I have learned from him to the field."
When Gachkar and Lambert reflect on how their summer workouts have progressed, they both have a positive outlook for the team and it's upcoming season.
"Football has been great this summer," said Lambert. "The team has put in a lot of hard work day in and day out. For me, it has been about focusing on getting healthy and getting the strength and conditioning back to where I was at before my injuries."
"Football's been good," said Gachkar who also worked on staying healthy this summer. "I've been doing this so long that part of it now is just keeping your body healthy and ready to go for season."
Because the summer workouts keep the linebackers busy in Columbia, the two athletes spend a lot of the week with friends and teammates nearby. The weekends give the guys time to go home and visit with family and friends or make small trips.
"I haven't really done anything too exciting this summer," said Lambert. "I have been trying to focus solely on football. But I have been to a few Cardinals games, and I've also gone home on a couple of weekends. When I go home I like to relax, but I also spend time shooting trap and enjoying the outdoors on our farm."
Gachkar also shares Lambert's strong focus on football.
"I have been doing school, lifting, and honestly not much," said Gachkar. "There aren't too many people left around here so we eat, sleep and breathe football."
Both linebackers still share a strong bond with former Mizzou linebackers and recently went to their former mentor and recruiting host, Brock Christopher's wedding. Many past and present players attended the wedding, which shows how close the team really is.
"This was the first time we really got away and had a great time with our old teammates," said Gachkar.
Gachkar and Lambert have spent several years as roommates and get along great even after the large amount of time they spend together at football. The relationship they have built is similar among many of the teammates, and the team has developed a close family atmosphere.
"We are the same in a lot of ways," said Gachkar "It helps to have a roommate like that. Plus, since we have football, we are always on the same schedule."
"Gach is a great roommate", Lambert agreed, using Gachkar's common nickname on the team. "I think that living with a teammate helps to build relationships and brings more of a family atmosphere to the team. The reflection of living with teammates who may not share the same background is a large part in building that. Take for instance Gach and me, he grew up in Overland Park, Kan. and went to a school with thousands of kids. I went to Brookfield, Mo. where my graduating class was 80. But after bonding with each other, it doesn't matter where we came from; it's a friendship."
Since both of these linebackers are coming to the end of their college careers, they must begin to think about what is next for them. Possibly more schooling, a career from their major, or the NFL?
"Well number one, everyone hopes for the same thing; the NFL," said Gachkar. "I want to give my shot at playing at the next level. Otherwise, I need to finish my schooling, and I hope to have a civil engineering degree. Then I will find a job wherever I can."
"My plans for after graduation are to train for future aspirations in football," said Lambert, "but I will also be graduating in December with an Agribusiness Management degree and after my football career is up, I am considering coming back to school for a Masters."
The team remains strong, but both linebackers would like to meet their short-term goals such as winning each game, keeping focus, remaining honest, and bringing the same intensity everyday. The team has a mental conditioning class every week with Coach Ivey and Dr. Rick McGuire, a Sports Psychologist, to help them train their focus and control their emotions.
The two linebackers have learned a lot from the Mizzou football program and have become much better athletes because of it.
The biggest thing I have learned", said Lambert, "is that at this level everybody has the ability to be great, but it's the little things that help you to continually make strides. The things that you eat and drink affect the way your body will perform, and one of the most important things as a Division I athlete is that we train really hard, and what we do to recover from our strenuous workouts helps us perform."
"Everything I know, I learned here," said Gachkar as he agreed with Lambert. "Coach [Dave] Steckel and the other coaches have given me way more knowledge then I ever had before I came here."
Both athletes are anxious to start the upcoming season.
"Our goals are to play our best game every week," said Lambert, "and take one game at a time. We are a very experienced team and have a lot of confidence going into two-a-days."
The team is confident and ready to see what the season has in store for them.