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WASHINGTON — Johnathan Lamb would be the first to tell you he's not a vocal leader.
So when the University of Toledo defensive tackle was named one of four senior captains for the Rockets' matchup against Air Force in the Military Bowl on Wednesday at RFK Stadium, he was stunned.
"I really wasn't expecting it," Lamb said. "It shows I'm respected by my peers, and it's an honor."
The Rockets named their captains on a game-by-game basis this season, as they have done the previous two seasons, to reward hard work and dedication in practice, with every player on the team eligible to be distinguished.
As a tribute to its outgoing players, UT named four seniors as captains for the bowl game.
Joining Lamb as captains are running back Adonis Thomas, cornerback Desmond Marrow, and left tackle Mike VanDerMeulen.
"You couldn't have picked four better guys to be captains for this football team," UT coach Matt Campbell said.
While Thomas, Marrow, and VanDerMeulen were household names for the Rockets entering 2011, Lamb was still a bit of an unknown.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound native of Southfield, Mich., had made just one start prior to this season but ended up playing all year like a seasoned veteran.
"John Lamb has been a steady force on our defense the entire year," Campbell said. "At the beginning of the year we didn't know what to expect from him, but all of a sudden he's exploded onto the scene."
In 12 starts this season, Lamb registered 34 tackles, including five stops for a loss, and three sacks. He also had one interception, two quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
After each game, every player is rated by the coaching staff on his individual performance, and Lamb "graded out" — i.e. received satisfactory marks — in 11 of 12 games this season.
"This was my first year seeing consistent action, and I couldn't wait to get out here and prove what I have to offer," Lamb said. "I had a real hunger built up from my freshman year. Ever since I've been here, I'm been waiting to get out there and show what I have.
"When I finally got my opportunity, it was no problem being consistent."
His teammates also have taken notice of Lamb's development and inspired play.
"I think the best captain of the group is John Lamb," Marrow said. "He's a guy kind of like me. He's had a long career here and didn't really play too much. But I think this year he's one of our best players."
Although Lamb isn't apt to raise his voice very often, his performance in practice and in games is usually enough to do his talking for him.
"Everybody knows I'm not really a vocal leader," Lamb said. "I just try to help feed the team's energy and set a good example for all of the underclassmen. I'm more of a leader by example."
Contact Zach Silka at: email@example.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.