It was July of 2018 and forward Matt Rambo received a phone call from Wings head coach Paul Day. The Wings had just selected Rambo with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 NLL Expansion Draft.
Having grown up in Abington, Pennsylvania, two towns outside of Philadelphia city limits, Rambo would be coming home to play for his childhood team.
“I haven’t been that excited in a while,” recalled Rambo. “I was like a kid in a candy story. I was super pumped.”
The thrill for Rambo wasn’t solely getting the opportunity to play in the NLL. He had been drafted by the New England Black Wolves in the fifth round of the 2017 NLL Entry Draft, but decided to sit out the season. Instead, he traveled around the country with his lacrosse clinics, including stops in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
Rambo starred at La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, and played college lacrosse at the University of Maryland, helping the Terrapins win the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship. Philadelphia was his home. Philadelphia is his home. And the Wings were, and now are, his team.
“Playing in your hometown is everything you dream for as a little kid,” said Rambo. “I grew up watching all of my Philly sports teams and being able to watch the Wings growing up and now being on the floor is special.”
Rambo’s train of thought drifted.
“It’s actually a dream come true.”
Growing up in the Philadelphia area, Rambo played for the Abington Lacrosse Club in Abington, Pennsylvania. He and his friends would practice behind the back passes and fool around with their own creative shots in Rambo’s backyard.
“When we were younger, we’d get a boatload of tickets and take over full sections (at Wings games),” said Rambo. “I had pictures of me when I was super little with my face painted with the Wings logo.”
Rambo, in front, with his face painted with the Wings logo.
Having grown up in the mid 2000’s, Rambo missed out on the Wings five NLL titles in the early days of the franchise Still, he got to watch star players such as Tom Marechek, Dallas Eliuk and Jake Bergey.
“I remember the physicality of the game,” said Rambo. “I think when I was younger there was a lot more fighting and hits. But also the goals. …There was so much creativity to the game which got me and a lot of friends into the game.”
Rambo started this season off relatively slow. Through the Wings first eight games, he had only six goals and five assists to his name. On February 16th, Rambo scored three goals in a 14-10 Wings win over the Black Wolves at the Wells Fargo Center. Since then (including that game), Rambo has put up 12 goals and 14 assists for a total of 18 goals and 19 assists this season.
Any other season, he’d be a top contender for Rookie of The Year. But San Diego Seals forward Austin Staats is considered the front runner with his 32 goals and 29 assists.
Even if he doesn’t win Rookie of The Year, Rambo should be proud of his first season in the NLL.
Before this season, Rambo had only played field lacrosse and never played box lacrosse. And in a season with a shortened training camp due to CBA negotiations, Rambo had little time to get acclimated to the indoor game where the field is significantly smaller. He was thrown right into the fire game one and has responded exceptionally well.
“He reminded me of an indoor player the way he played outdoors (when we drafted him),” said Day. “He handles the ball great which we loved. He has a phenomenal feed. He’s a bit of a horse when he plays. He drives the net hard and is a physical presence.
“He’s a goal scorer. He plays hard and fast and he’s exciting to watch.”
Back in Philadelphia, Rambo doesn’t need to stream the local broadcasts of the Phillies, Sixers, Flyers or Eagles when he can just hop on the subway and go to the games.
And of course, as any Philadelphian will tell you, he has his favorite cheesesteak place. He likes his cheesesteaks with fresh bread and the steak not cut up.
“Steve’s Prince of Steaks is my favorite” said Rambo. “Steve’s bread is always so fresh. The steak meat gives it a little texture. Steve’s makes it perfect. And some people get whiz, some get american. I’m an american guy because they scoop it in the cheesesteak like whiz.”
So now, while playing for the Wings, Rambo can enjoy his cheesesteaks and attend Philadelphia sports games anytime he wants, whenever he wants.
Catch Rambo and the Wings this weekend when they play in Saskatchewan on Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. ET and in Vancouver Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. ET. Both games will be on streamed in the United States and Canada on B/R Live.