Lamm uses grandmother's battle with breast cancer as inspiration on and off the field
Sunday night’s game versus the Dallas Cowboys is a huge deal for Houston Texans tackle Kendall Lamm.
Is it because he gets a chance to put Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence’s face into the rubber flecks of artificial turf at NRG Stadium? Is it because his squad has a chance to improve to 2-3 after a bleak 0-3 start?
Possibly, but Sunday night is Houston’s annual Pink Ribbon Day Game. To raise awareness for breast cancer, the Texans will have the mothers of safety Kareem Jackson and quarterback Deshaun Watson, breast cancer survivors, as honorary captains at the coin toss. Nicole Hurst, a background singer for Justin Timberlake, Houston native, and breast cancer survivor will sing the national anthem.
Sunday night just means more for Lamm. His grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer three months ago. As the undrafted tackle from Appalachian State was preparing to go to training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., and battle to retain a spot on the Texans roster, his grandmother, who was a year into retirement at age 71 after having worked her whole life to provide for Kendall’s mother and later Kendall himself, got the worst news imaginable.
“I’m telling you,” said Lamm. “Some of the things in life you see and you’re like, ‘Man, that’s very unfortunate,’ but it didn’t impact me directly.”
Now that cancer has hit home with Lamm and his family, just as he protects quarterback Deshaun Watson on Sundays, he is protecting the hope and courage of as many patients and survivors that he comes in contact with. For this reason, Lamm took part in a breast cancer survivor’s fashion show at NRG Stadium two days after Houston edged the Indianapolis Colts 37-34 in overtime.
Said Lamm: “I’ll always lend a willing hand, and, like I said, you’ll see me at whatever events they need me at when it pertains to this or anything else.”
For his grandmother, she lives in Charlotte, N.C. Since training camp in late July, it has been impossible for Lamm to find time to visit his grandmother. However, he knows that when he gets his chance to play, as he did when he started at right tackle in place of Julién Davenport at Indianapolis, his performance brings a smile to his grandmother’s face.
“She said [after the Colts game], ‘Just seeing you out there in your element doing what you love to do, it really brought tears to my eyes,'” Lamm recalled. “And that’s what I can do.”
Of course, Lamm’s grandmother also has a few pointers and criticisms of his play.
“As soon as I got done, came back to the locker room, my phone was flooded,” Lamm laughed.
“‘Baby, you got to do this.’ Blah, blah, blah. You look forward to that. And then I call her on the phone, me and her, we had an emotional moment because, of course, like I said, she’s going through things.”
Lamm vouches his grandmother is a genuine Superwoman, and the courage she exudes in her fight against breast cancer is the same gusto Lamm summons each practice, each game to give his best on the gridiron and find new ways to elevate his game.
“For me to have this opportunity in general, I always pull from the struggle back home from day one. I always get refocused talking to my grandmother and my mother. I know this — look at this where we’re standing. We’re within this beautiful stadium. I dreamed about days like this, being in situations like this, and being in situations like last Sunday, and situations that’s going to come this Sunday.
“It’s put up or shut up, and I didn’t put in all this time and effort for 26 years of my life and not perform. So, I know I got the opportunity last year, but last year is last year. I’ve put in a lot of time in so when this time came again, which I knew it will because of the way I work, I’ll take full advantage of it, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Even if Lamm were a first-round draft selection and didn’t have to battle every year for a spot on the Texans’ roster, he would still be appreciative of his pro football career. Of course, Lamm endeavors to use it as a means to provide for his family, but he also uses it as a mission to bring happiness and escape for folks battling the travails of life.
“Anything I could ever do to pick my grandmother’s spirits up or my family’s spirits up or anybody else’s spirits through football, that’s the greatest gift, in my opinion, that what we do with this game of football,” Lamm explained. “So many people turn the TV on that might be going through some things, but they can sit there and watch their hometown team play, more than likely hopefully get the win, and then it brightens everything. So, it’s a beautiful thing.”
By the time the Cowboys and Texans finish playing, it will be pushing midnight in Charlotte, but no doubt Lamm’s Superwoman will still be awake to critique his play, just as Lamm will always use his platform to fight breast cancer and inspire hope.