By Tim Chambers
It’s been a tough year for the Johnson County football team, but not all of it has been due to the game losses. The death of Coach Randy Smith hit many of the players like a brick wall, and they never seemed to be able to overcome the loss of their beloved coach and family member.
His death was especially tough on junior linebacker Joseph Gambill who started the season as Joseph Fox but was adopted just a few weeks ago by Gary and Angie Gambill of Mountain City. He now has a big brother Chris, an older sister Brittany Dorman, and a younger twin brother and Sister Joseph and Audrey Gambill.
Losing a family member can be tough on anyone, but imagine how tough it was on a 13-year old boy.
Joseph needed a family that would love and care about him, and in return, he would love them back and make them proud. The Gambill’s were the perfect fit.
He came to Johnson County Middle School in the eighth grade from Greeneville Middle School. He never played any football there but decided to give it a try up here.
The coaches are glad he did.
Gambill has been the leading tackler for the past three games and really made his presence felt against Austin-East on Friday. He made a couple of strong tackles on Mr. Football Finalist Treyveon Foster, who was a man among boys on the field. Gambill was amazed at how he could move.
“Not only was he the best back that we’ve played against, but he was also the biggest and fastest. We knew he was good, but it’s hard to prepare for somebody who can move like that, and he’s hard to bring down.”
It’s quite remarkable that Gambill has improved his skills in such a short time. Still, he stated he needed to work harder in the weight room, especially during the season.
“I’m a bit undersized at the stack linebacker, so I need to get much stronger. I worked hard in the weight room during the offseason, but I didn’t lift that much during the
season. I’m determined
to improve on that starting now.”
Gambill’s goal was to find his way into the starting lineup. Last year his varsity play was on special teams only.
“I stayed determined and wanted to get better. You set your goal, and then you work hard to try and achieve it. I use my speed a lot to get in the opponents’ backfield because it sometimes helps me offset my size. I went out and tried to play well in the preseason scrimmages, and I believe they saw how much I had improved. I need to get a whole lot better next year. We’ve got to get football turned around and back on track.”
Gambill credits the late Coach Smith for helping him get to where he is right now.
“He believed in me and was always pointing out what I did wrong. He had a way to make you correct your mistake, and yet you felt good about yourself.”
His younger brother Joseph is now getting into the early stages of sports, and big brother is there to give him some pointers.
“I love my twin brother and sister because they are always hanging close to me, and that feels good. I have two brothers and a sister in Greeneville, but I don’t get to see or talk to them anymore. I fill the void by spending time with my family here and the football team. I hang out some with the players like Jared Kimble, Curtis Lowe, and Corie Neely. Johnson County has been a very special place for me.”
Gambill liked it when he heard PA announcer David Arnold call his name out as a starter for the final two home games.
“It shocked me at first because I wasn’t expecting it. I am used to it now, and I love how it sounds.”
Gambill said he might try to make the baseball team if given the opportunity. But his heart is set on football.
“I want to become one of the top football players in East Tennessee. I might get a shot at playing running back. Coach Don wants to try me there, and I would welcome it.”
Gambill’s dream is to play small college football or go into the Air Force after graduating. For now, he wants to be a member of the Gambill family, the football team, be active in his church, and offer up this advice.
“It’s unreal to know that a family would take me in and love me the way my new parents do. It’s the same on the football team. I lost Coach Smith, but I still have a lot of people around that love me for who I am.”
This is no Bonanza. “Little Joe” is happy to a Gambill and a Longhorn.