Tim Jambor taking game to Wesleyan

Tim Jambor had one request of Notre Dame of West Haven head football coach Tom Marcucci — to let the newly-elected team captain play only on the defensive side of the ball his senior season.

Jambor, from Milford, didn’t know if he’d ever be able to take the field again when he suffered a concussion in the preseason as a junior and missed the Green Knights’ campaign.

Marcucci fully supported the decision to have Jambor forego fullback responsibilities and concentrate on defense and long-snapping on kicking plays.

Jambor went on to lead Notre Dame with 118 tackles as an inside linebacker and the Green Knights’ advanced to the Class L championship game and finished with a 9-4 record.

Wesleyan University took notice.

“Tim is a tough kid and can compete at linebacker for us,” Wesleyan head coach Dan DiCenzo said of the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Jambor. “Also being a long and short-snapper will help him get on the field as a freshman.”

Wesleyan was the No. 1 ranked defense in Division III a year ago. DiCenzo, the architect of that defense as its coordinator the past five seasons, was named Gridiron Club of Greater Boston Division III Assistant Coach of the Year in 2014.
Wesleyan led the NESCAC in total defense in both 2013 and 2014.

The 220 yards per game allowed by the Cardinals this past season was the lowest figure in all of NCAA Division III. The Cardinals were also plus-11 in turnovers, ranking 14th nationally in that category.

“Tim is a great character kid and an outstanding young man who fits in at Wesleyan as a student and an athlete,” said DiCenzo, who is assuming head coaching reins while retaining the defensive coordinator spot.

“He’s coming from a great program like Notre Dame and is a winning, hard-working kid.”

Jambor remembers when playing football in college was a dream that he thought had gone by the wayside.

“We were scrimmaging North Haven and I was playing fullback,” he said. “It was a power run and I had to take out the linebacker. He got his pads lower than me and hit me under the helmet.

“I was seeing funny for a couple of minutes. I didn’t realize that would be the final play of my junior year.

“I thought any chances of playing ball in college had went down the tubes.

“And now to be playing football again and going to an especially great school like Wesleyan...”

Jambor had been concussed in practice his sophomore year, sat out for a while, and returned to the playing field with no side effects.

“My mom (Mary) and dad (Peter) were definitely my number one fans since I took up football in sixth grade,” Jambor said.

“But this time (the injury) was different and they were very concerned.

“I had headaches, sensitivity to light, lack of focus and concentration for eight weeks.”

Going to class was tough. He essentially missed an entire tri-mester of school.  On days he did go to class, Jambor would have to come home after a few hours due to the recurring symptoms.

After being cleared to return to school full time and begin light work outs, Jambor felt reborn.

“That was one of the hardest experiences of my life,” he said. “To have to sit out eleven games while my teammates were hard at work practicing was tough.

“I began light weight lifting and then began going five times a week.”

Jambor’s renewed vigor was not lost on his teammates, who voted him a captain.

“Tim’s leadership and drive were major contributors to an outstanding football season,” Marcucci said. “As a senior, Tim grew into his role as an on-the-field leader playing in every game and leading the team in tackles.

“He is a focused and dedicated student and athlete. Tim received All-SCC, All-Area and Class L All-State recognition.”

“I know it was probably bad luck,” he said of his injuries suffered while playing fullback. “I know at linebacker I have to keep my head on a swivel and position myself better.”

Wesleyan football dates back to 1881 as the Cardinals head into their 133rd season on Andrus Field, the oldest continuously-used college football field in the United States.

“I started an academic search and Wesleyan was at the top of the list,” said Jambor, who is considering taking up law. “I wanted something like Notre Dame — a small liberal arts school.

“I applied and spoke with Coach (Jeff) McDonald (linebacking coach and recruiting coordinator).

“I was excited to be accepted. I know defense is their top priority and I hope to fit into their scheme.

“Notre Dame has been a second home to me the last four years. Moving on to see what life has on hold is not totally unwelcome, but I will take the Notre Dame experience with me no matter where it leads.”