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Renzie Lamb, member of Hofstra's 'Tiny 20' football team, dies at 81

Renzie Lamb, who died Nov. 17

Renzie Lamb, who died Nov. 17 Credit: Stephanie Lamb

Renzie Lamb was a one-in-a-million coach to numerous football and lacrosse players, but it was as a Hofstra football player that he and his 1956 teammates made the spotlight.

Lamb was a two-way player for the storied Hofstra team nicknamed the “Tiny 20” by former Newsday sports editor Dick Clemente because the Dutchmen fielded a team of 20 players and still went 7-3 against teams with a full roster of 40-50 players.

“He was rugged. He loved contact. He loved football, the opposition, and the challenge. We all did,” recalled former teammate Lou DiBlasi.

Lamb, who was an offensive guard and a linebacker at Hofstra, died of natural causes Nov. 17 at Albany Medical Center. He was 81.

Di Blasi, 80, of Coram, said a demanding coach, Howdy Myers, scared away numerous players before the season, leaving the 1956 team undermanned.

“We played two positions and were expected to know a third,” Lamb told The New York Times in 2006 when DiBlasi’s book, “The Tiny Twenty: A True Story,” was published. “I use the expression all the time — Eli Whitney, interchangeable parts,” a reference to the inventor of the cotton gin.   

Born in Brooklyn on June 30, 1937, Lamb spent his childhood in Freeport. He graduated from Chaminade High School in 1955 and then moved on to Hofstra.

After Lamb graduated Hofstra in 1959, he served a three-year tour in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed in Kaneohe, Hawaii. When he returned from the Marine Corps, he coached football at Iona Prep High School in New Rochelle and coached Manhasset High School’s boys lacrosse team to the Long Island Championship in 1967.

It was as a coach that Lamb truly made his mark. When athletes signed up to play for Lamb, they got a coach for four years and a friend for life.

“Renzie became a family member to not only me, but hundreds of other families,” said Gus Nuzzolese, 60, of Port Washington, who played both football and lacrosse for Lamb. “He had so many strong, positive, distinctive characteristics. He had every positive characteristic multiplied — charisma, personality, intelligence, creativity. He had a passion for life and a passion for people. He gave you practical and philosophical advice. He was like a life coach.”

Lamb moved to Massachusetts in 1968 and coached men’s lacrosse at Williams College for 35 years, until his retirement in 2003. He was the assistant football coach for more than 30 years and coached women’s squash from 1977 to 1987.

As a coach and a friend, Lamb was never off the clock.

“He was always available,” daughter Stephanie Lamb, 57, of Delray Beach, Florida, said. “The door was always open for anyone who needed anything. Kids would come over constantly. He was always willing to listen and was always helping.”

Lamb finished his men’s lacrosse tenure with a 252-184 record and coached 30 All-Americans. He was inducted into the intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016 — the first inductee to have coached solely in Division III. Lamb also is a member of the Manhasset Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the New England Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

From his days growing up on Long Island, Lamb developed a love for fishing, golf, and going to the beach. He also was a voracious reader, absorbing any book he could get his hands on.

Lamb is survived by his wife of 27 years, Teresa M. Harron-Lamb; daughters Tracy Chipman and Stephanie Lamb, stepsons Eugene and Raymond Bernardo of Rhode Island, sisters Jane Sullivan of Syracuse and Nancy Farley of Kansas, and five grandchildren.

Lamb was buried Nov. 30 in the College Cemetery at Williams College after a service at the school’s chapel.

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