Jim Lambright played and coached at the University of Washington.
Ikaika Malloe played and coached at the University of Washington.
The second sentence may not have happened without the first.
This winter, Malloe — UW’s defensive line coach, who also played outside linebacker and safety in Seattle from 1992 to 1995 — was promoted to co-defensive coordinator as well. And, in a teleconference on Friday, he spoke about the impact Lambright had on his own coaching career.
“Coach Lambright was the coach who was recruiting Hawaii (when I played), and the Polynesian families really knew about him and he welcomed our culture,” Malloe said. “So he was kind of the father figure away from Hawaii. That’s what all of the local boys (from Hawaii) would treat him as. He had that disciplinarian type of attitude, but at the same time he could love on you when needed. Because of that, his passing (last month at age 77) really hit me hard.
“The defensive guys — coach (Randy) Hart was another one, and I had coach (Phil) Elmassian — those guys did a really good job of loving on us as people. Coach Lambright, to me, he was Husky football — the tough-nosed, grind-it-out, blue-collar guy. And to this day, there’s some of my coaching that kind of patterns after him.”
A former walk-on who started 11 games in 1995, Malloe worked as a student assistant, graduate assistant and program coordinator at UW from 1997 to 2000, before officially embarking on his coaching career. He has served as UW’s defensive-line coach since 2016 — developing the likes of Vita Vea, Greg Gaines and Levi Onwuzurike.
On Thursday, UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski described Malloe as “a really good motivator who gets his guys to play hard.” And he does it by following Lambright’s example — by striking a delicate balance between discipline and compassion.
“This sport requires you to be tough,” Malloe said. “A lot of times when you deal with sports like football, it’s hard to see the soft side of someone. Coach Lambright as well as coach Hart, they had a knack for knowing when to be comforting and when to sit down and be a listener more than a teacher and a talker.
“It made me know that (Lambright) really, truly cared for me as a person, not just as a football player. And when you have those types of relationships, you’ll run into the wall for somebody at that point.”
Strength training in isolation
College campuses, public gyms and weight rooms are all closed, and will be for the foreseeable future.
So, how are the Husky players — spread remotely throughout the country — continuing to stay fit?
According to Malloe, at least, they’ve had to be creative.
“I really give credit to (head strength and conditioning coach Tim) Socha and his group in terms of getting (resistance) bands to them, and he’s been really creative in how they can keep fit as much as possible,” Malloe said. “Especially in the home, if they don’t have weights, then he has a specific workout for them. If they have weights, he has a specific workout for that as well.
“Obviously we can still get out and do some conditioning. My guys are trying to find hills and whatnot to run on, as well as trying to be diligent in social distancing. But I give a lot of credit to coach Socha. Him and his group are doing a great job keeping our guys in shape, and really competing. Those guys are still competing while they’re home.”
Still, both for UW and other programs across the country, the resources available inside an FBS weight room can’t be replicated inside someone’s home. And, without months of dedicated strength training, how might that affect games — if there are games — this fall?
“I think it will challenge everyone, all colleges, to be creative and try to maintain strength or even develop more strength,” Malloe said. “I think it will put some accountability on these players as well and (require) them taking the time or overtime, whatever it is, to make sure they can stay competitive with their size or strength as well as their speed.”
Projecting the pass rush
From his redshirt-freshman to sophomore seasons, outside linebacker Joe Tryon added 10.5 tackles for loss (from 2 to 12.5) and seven sacks (from 1 to 8). The improvement was evident.
And, according to Kwiatkowski, it was unsurprising.
“You can go back two years, to his redshirt-freshman year, and by the end of the year you could see his growth as a player. He started making more plays, playing faster,” Kwiatkowski said. “And then last year he just poured gas on it, and it all came back to how he prepares — taking notes in meetings, watching video, details. He’s deliberate with how he practices, whether it’s individual drills or in group settings.
“He’s a perfect example that when you put in the work, you put in the time, and it’s quality and it’s detailed and there’s a purpose behind what you’re trying to get done … he had these skills. He could run. He’s long and all that. But you put that with the work ethic he put into it and his development has been awesome.”
The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Tryon will continue to develop, perhaps into one of the country’s premier pass-rushers in 2020. He’ll also headline an impressive group of Husky outside linebackers. On the other side, senior Ryan Bowman piled up 9.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception last season. Sophomores Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Laiatu Latu and true freshmen Sav’ell Smalls and Jordan Lolohea will also compete for available reps.
And, speaking of the 6-4, 266-pound Latu, Kwiatkowski said the former rugby star from Sacramento could mimic Tryon’s improvement curve.
“I really expect the same type of growth from (Latu’s) freshman year to his sophomore year that Joe has shown,” Kwiatkowski said. “Because he has some unique skills for as big and agile and athletic as he is. It’s hard right now, but he needs to keep developing in the weight room and getting stronger and stay healthy. When he got hurt last year that really sort of hindered him and his ability to do some of the things that he can do athletically.
“But if he keeps putting in the work and studying, and he’s a smart kid, and you get those reps, the game is going to slow down for him. I fully expect him to make a big impact on the defense this year.”
Watch the replay of our live chat with former members of UW’s 1991 defense below, and follow us on Twitch to see more live chats like this one.
Warning: This video contains some offensive language.