Folks, please let me wax poetic a bit about Rick Gamboa. Yes, I’ve been advocating for more Nate Landman snaps, which is likely coming from Gamboa’s bottom line. Yes, I was cursing his name when I watched Jake Butt outrun him over and over. But none of that matters right now.
What matters is how solid Gamboa has been in his career. He currently has just under 300 tackles, which puts him at 19th all-time for CU and within striking distance for 400. If he can reach that ridiculous number, he will be just under Ted Johnson (who sits at 406) at 7th in Buff history. If he can reach that number, which is reasonable given his production, he will be the most under-appreciated linebacker in CU history. He has started on and off since 2015, has done nothing but produced and played smart football, but his glaring deficiency (speed) leads to some interesting opinions from CU fans, myself included. But his strengths completely outweigh anything else that might come from his game. Gamboa is wicked smaht. Rick is in position to make a play before the offense even calls the play and lays a pretty solid hit when he does. There is no better representation of this then this winning play in 2015 (starts at 8:50 if your browser isn’t behaving):
Gamboa, then a wide-eyed redshirt freshman, diagnosed the screen immediately, popped the RB behind the line of scrimmage to avoid the penalty, and caused a turnover. All because he sniffed the play out before anyone else. In the two years following, his football knowledge has only grown, and I would venture to say that no linebacker is better at killing screen plays in the country. Gamboa is such an asset to have on defense, as he will align every player to where they need to be.
The only reason the defensive captain isn’t higher is because of the depth around him. The recently profiled Drew Lewis plays right next to him, Nate Landman can step in at any time, and Akil Jones has flahsed in practice. You can’t replace his smarts, but there is a step up in athleticism no matter who you choose. Gamboa has had little trouble with durability in his career (knock on wood), so I would expect him to play a lot of snaps this year.
If you are a CU fan that condemns Gamboa every time he can’t quite to a speedy RB in the flat or a TE on a drag route, I understand. Those plays can continue drives and ruin a lot of good work. But I implore you to consider everything that makes him great. Gamboa is so consistently in the right position, and most importantly, he gets others in the right position. Rick Gamboa is going to prepare his way to the pantheon of CU tacklers, and he deserves every bit of recognition he gets.