DaVonte Lambert began to take on a leadership role for his Georgia Military College team a year ago, so the highly regarded four-star defensive lineman had no problem in stepping into a greater exemplary role this year.
Especially as the Bulldogs prepare for their appearance Saturday in the NJCAA national championship game.
"My emotions are very high. Everything that we've wanted to do is right in front of us," said the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Lambert. "Knowing I got one more game till I'm at UT, I've just been trying to grind real hard with my teammates. We're very focused coming into this game. Knowing there's only one game left, we have to go hard. We're going to make this game a very good game.
"Since Day 1, I knew we had a chance to come in and impress this juco league with our talent. I had to step in as leader as a freshman, so I know what to say to guys and we've had this in our thoughts since summer. It's my job to make sure all the guys are focused."
Top-ranked GMC, which faces No. 2 East Mississippi Community College in the Mississippi Bowl, has seen Lambert turn in a very good season. After committing to the Vols just before pre-season camp opened, Lambert responded with a nine-sack, 39-tackle season from his end position despite many teams steering game plans away from him.
Lambert said he worked with a focus to improve his edge rush this year and also became a better student of the game.
"It's been a big focus to me knowing that at the next school I'll be playing in a five technique and getting to the QB is a big task," Lambert said. "(Tennessee's coaches') message to me is to make sure things are handled at GMC first so you can take care of business up here at UT."
Lambert, who told VolQuest.com in August about his grandmother's relationship with Vols coach Butch Jones being a factor in his decision, has continued to play to honor her this season.
"My grandmother is very proud of me and she always tells me before I step on the field, pray first," said Lambert, who will have several family members in Mississippi for the NJCAA title bout.
Having seen his future school, Tennessee, add another big-time talent this week with the commitment of five-star wideout Josh Malone, Lambert said it's exciting to see the class the Vols are assembling.
"I'm very excited because knowing you're around talent only makes yourself better, and then the team will be at its peak," Lambert said. "And then, no one will stop us."