When you are linemates with the highly touted and potential early-round draft pick Patrick Johnson, you have to do a tremendous amount to stand out. In Tulane’s opener against South Alabama, senior Cam Sample made it clear that he has what it takes to be an alpha on just about any defensive unit in the country.
Sample, a Snellville, GA native, along with Johnson single-handedly kept the Wave in the ballgame against South Alabama while the offense struggled to move the ball until the later part of the second half. In that game, Sample recorded seven tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble.
Sample attributes his stand out play this year to trying to, “Get into the best shape possible,” over the offseason. Sample, who played his junior year in 2019 a little above 280 pounds, has slimmed down to a playing weight of a little over 270 pounds this year.
When I spoke with Sample, he said, “I feel like this is the best I’ve been conditioned, (over the offseason) I got a little bigger and stronger....I feel like my body is in a really good spot right now.” Sample’s hard work has obviously paid off as he has already eclipsed his 2019 sack number only three games into the year, recording three sacks so far in 2020.
Anyone who speaks with Sample comes away with the impression of a college student who has the maturity level of someone at least ten years his senior. Sample comes off as convivial, humble, and extremely knowledgeable.
Cam credits his level-headedness to the strong support unit that he has around him. “I think my parents did a great job,” the Tulane senior said, “ I’ve also had some great coaches along the way...I still keep close with my high school coach Ryan Andrews...I am blessed that I have a pretty good support system so any time I need to bounce ideas off of someone I can.”
Those who have watched the Wave this year have been sure to notice how in sync the defensive line has been. The defensive unit as a whole has picked up 11 sacks, Sample accounting for over a quarter of them, and two forced fumbles over the first three games. When asked about why the defensive line looks well put together this year, Sample pointed to what a tight-knit group these guys are.
“Currently I am roommates with (defensive end) Davon Wright. I’ve been roommates with (defensive end) Patrick Johnson in the past. Some of the younger guys are roommates with each other,” Sample said, “...we are always talking, laughing, and hanging out with each other. We are close on and off the field.”
Looking ahead to Wave’s upcoming game against Houston, Sample noted, “Houston is a well coached team...this is their first game of the year so they will want to come out and prove a point. We just look at is as we got to come out and do what we have to do. Whether it is the first game, third game, or last game of the year, we have to play our brand of football.”
For Sample and his teammates on defense that will mean applying pressure on a fresh and well rested Houston backfield that has experienced an unprecedented five cancellations, Washington, Rice, Baylor, North Texas, and Memphis, over the month of September. Because of these cancellations, Tulane defensive coordinator Jack Curtis has not had much recent game film to help prep the Wave for their Thursday night matchup on ESPN.
“When we played them (in September 2019) they had D’Eriq King...so we have been prepping by watching some of their later games from the year when they had similar personnel to what will be on the field this year,” Sample said, “...but they have had all offseason to get better, bigger, and stronger. We will just come out and play ball and adjust to do what we need to do.”
Sample emphasized that in order for the Wave to put together a full season the team has to make sure it is in the right headspace, “Our mentality is that we are just taking it one game at a time.” Reflecting on the 2018 and 2019 campaigns where the Wave shined at times but disappeared at other critical junctures Cam said, “In the past we looked ahead on what we could’ve become instead of trying to stay in the moment, stay humble, and keep doing what we are doing.”
When pressed on the teams goals for the year, Sample didn’t hold back, “We want a conference championship. We feel like we have the talent here...this conference is up for grabs...as long as we handle our business, play each week like we should and how we are capable of, we should have no problem reaching the conference championship.”
If Sample is able to keep up his current level of play throughout the season, Tulane’s standout senior will have more to look forward to beyond playing for a conference championship - playing on Sundays next fall.