There was a time not too long ago when Keenan Lambert went out of his way to avoid comparisons to his older brother.
Early in his career at Norfolk State University, plenty of Lambert's teammates didn't even know that his half-brother was Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor—the two have the same mother, Karen Lambert—and when people did learn that connection and refer to Lambert as "Little Kam," he quickly rejected the nickname.
A few year later, however, Lambert is much more open to embracing comparisons to his famous older brother, so much so that he picked the Seattle Seahawks over several teams as a rookie free agent after going undrafted. But Lambert is also eager to prove he belongs in the NFL not because of a family connection, but because he has the talent to be here.
"I never downgraded the fact that he was my brother, it was more the fact that I wanted my own name," Lambert said. "But then I started to realize, that's a blessing, so why avoid it? And the fact that I model my game after him, I began understanding why they called me 'Little Kam.' So now I embrace it. You call me 'Little Kam' now, I don't have a problem with it."
Chancellor, meanwhile, is excited to have his brother as a teammate, but he didn't push Lambert into that decision, and he also is proud that his little brother avoided playing the "my brother is an NFL Pro Bowler" card while in college. Chancellor wants to be a supportive brother, but he also wants Lambert to make a name for himself on his own.
"He's always been his own player, his own person," Chancellor said. "He never wanted to be known as Kam's little brother; he always wanted to take his own route, so I let it be up to him… I don't want to be seen as a crutch for him. I'm always there when he needs me, but I don't want to be seen as a crutch for him, because I want him to grow into a man himself. I don't want to just baby him. By him going at it himself, it just shows maybe he matured a lot faster than me in college. You can see it now, because when you watch him out there, he just looks like he belongs. He looks like he belongs here."
Lambert signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in part because it meant a chance to be teammates with his older brother, but it's not accurate to say he got a shot with Seattle because of Chancellor's success. As is the case every year after the draft, teams scramble to sign the best undrafted free agents, and Lambert, a physical strong safety who, yes, resembles his brother a bit on the field, had roughly a dozen suitors. He knew that signing with Seattle might come with accusations of nepotism, but Lambert also realized that Seattle is known as a place where undrafted free agents get a real shot at making the team, and that the Seahawks have a track record for developing defensive backs, and that Jeron Johnson—an undrafted free agent himself—left in free agency, leaving a vacancy for a backup safety.
"I'm sure there's a lot of people who think, 'Oh, he's only with the Seahawks because of Kam,' but that's nothing I pay attention to," Lambert said. "I ignore it, because it was my film that helped me get where I'm at.
"The biggest thing was basically learning from my brother, playing with my brother. Then there's the fact that the Seahawks secondary has been great throughout the years, so I figured why not go to where I can learn from my brother? I could have gone somewhere else and probably ran into a vet that didn't want to teach a rookie. You've got the best safeties here, you've got the best corner, why not get that knowledge?"
Even with some LOB knowledge coming his way and those famous bloodlines, Lambert knows he has his work cut out for him to make what is arguably the deepest roster in the NFL. Chancellor is helping his brother with some of the fundamentals like footwork and eye discipline that are so important at the next level, and Lambert is well aware of the fact that his best chance to earn playing time is not as a safety, but on special teams. Even Chancellor, now considered one of the best safeties in the league, was a backup who first had to make his mark on special teams as a rookie.
Chancellor has reminded his brother of this, telling Lambert, "As a rookie and as an undrafted rookie, focus on making the team by getting on special teams and making an impact there. Show them you can be a physical guy, that you're smart, that you can handle the one-on-one situations, that you can be counted on. Once you do those things and earn that trust, that's when you start making strides."
Adds Lambert: "I always value special teams, because that could change the game just like an offensive play or a defensive play. So I feel like special teams is very important, very valuable."
Through organized team activities and Seattle's rookie and veteran minicamps, Lambert made enough plays to stand out at times and look like a player with some potential. He may or may not have what it takes to have a long, successful NFL career like his brother has enjoyed through five seasons, but Lambert is certainly showing he is more than just "Little Kam," even if time has taught him that there are much worse things than being known as "Little Kam."
"Oh yeah, he's been working," Chancellor said. "He's been working really hard in college, this offseason. He's been training with my trainer and I've been watching him work. I actually got the chance to train with him for three-four weeks, and just watching him move around, he kind of has all my movements. It's like he's been watching me for a long time and not telling me, because he has told my coach and my brother that he has been watching for a while and that he idolizes his big brother so that's one thing that keeps me on the straight track. But he definitely deserves to be out here. He earned the right to be out here. He just wants to work his butt off out here because that's all we know. We just know how to work."
The Seahawks enjoyed a day outside for the final day of minicamp.