Sampson becomes hero, rides off into sunset

In one of the most exciting spring games in recent BYU memory, when Cougar fans would expect all the big-name players to make all the big plays, it was a relatively unheralded freshman tight end that stole the show.

Throughout the spring game, tight end Bryan Sampson quietly went about his business. He caught the first pass of the third series, a series led by quarterback Riley Nelson, and then was blasted by defensive end Matt Putnam. However, that didn't stop him. Sampson continued to work throughout the spring game.

Once the game went into overtime, the blue team got the ball first and took the lead after J.J. Di Luigi rushed into the end zone. It was then the white team's turn.

Facing fourth down, Nelson hit tight end Mathew Edwards, who stretched out just enough to get the first down.

"I helped to get [Edwards] open for that play, because of how the tight ends work together in that specific play," Sampson said. "So it was great that he got that big first down for us to keep the overtime drive alive."

After Nelson scampered into the end zone to get the white team within one point, the coaches opted to go for two and the win.

"Well, I asked Riley what he wanted, and for him to be moving in the pocket, I don't think they thought we were going to run it," Coach Doman said. "But we got enough pull there with the downhill runner and the play-action fake that we had there. With Riley running, and you've got the flat runner and an over route – with Riley running – and that's three pretty good options. He chose to throw the football to the over route."

With the snap of the ball, Nelson rolled out to his left. As the defense came crashing down around him, he released the ball. It sailed over defenders and into Sampson's outstretched hands. He fell to the ground while securing the ball, and the defender frantically tried to strip it away from him.

"It was awesome!" Sampson shouted with a smile as wide as Happy Valley. "I was good, man! I'm just glad I held on to it. At the end there, the DB kind of had one hand on it and I was laying in the end zone. Being here for a year and being in the program and doing all those hard workouts, it's good to end on this final note. It was an awesome way to end it!"

"Riley gave Bryan Sampson a chance to make the play and he did," Coach Doman said with a smile.

"It was a team effort," Sampson said. "Riley is an awesome guy and we've hooked up a few times over spring camp. It was just a great way to finish the game that way."

But before Sampson was ever in a position to make such a heroic catch to officially end the 36th annual Blue and White Game, Sampson spent his redshirt year on the scout team learning the Cougar offense and tight end position under Coach Anae.

"It was tough that redshirt year, you know," said Sampson. "Then Coach Reynolds took us and taught us so much in such a short amount of time. I mean, I learned so much and he's just an awesome guy. I know he was kind of mad at me all spring because I wouldn't run the play right because I'm still new. I knew what I had to do on that last play!"

After Sampson's game-winning two-point conversion, players picked up Coach Tidwell – coach of the white team – and placed him on their shoulders and began to carry him off the field.

"It was kind of cool to see a defensive-minded coach being carried off the field because of that last play," said Sampson

Meanwhile, Sampson's teammates ran over from the sidelines and mobbed him in a big pile at the corner of the end zone. For some reason, the cold weather didn't seem to matter any more.

"Oh, it's a good way to end my first spring game, man!" said an excited Sampson. "It's good because it will give coaches something to remember me by at least, but yeah, it was good!"

To remember him by? Well, this was the last game Sampson will play in for a couple years. He will be hanging up his helmet and cleats so that he can serve a mission. He's currently waiting for his mission call and will be riding off into the sunset after changing his football uniform for a white shirt and tie.

But he will have that one last play to remember as he spends two years sharing the gospel.

"It was really interesting because [Mathew] Edwards looked at me and said, 'This is the last play before your mission, and you'll be gone for two years,'" Sampson recalled. "I was like 'Oh man, this is it!'"

Yes, that was it, and he did it. Sampson ended a two-year spring game drought by hauling in the last catch for the win in stunning fashion. Now, go have a bountiful harvest as a missionary, Bryan Sampson.

"Oh I will," he said. "I will, I just don't know where I'm going yet, but I'll do my best."


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