"I'm just happy to be back," Sampson said. "I really am. I couldn't wait to get back on the field and starting hitting again and now it's finally here."
Sampson's primary position is free safety, but there were some switching up going on.
"I'm playing free safety and I'm still going to play the nickel," Sampson said. "Coach Howell said he might let me and Daniel [Sorensen] play left and right sometimes."
At times during practice, Sorensen switched over to play free safety, a position Travis Uale played last year. Sampson and Mike Hague rotated in and played the strong safety position.
"[Howell] said he's going to have the bet two safeties out on the field whether it's me at free safety or Kat or [Sorensen] at free safety or Kat," said Sampson. "Whichever way it goes, we're both willing to play whatever, and so right now we're just trying to figure things out to see what two best players fits what position."
When Sorensen was playing the strong safety position, Sampson was lined up next to him at the free safety position, with Hague rotating in with the first-team defense.
"I mostly play the free safety position, but things change here and there," Sampson mentioned. "I have to know now all the calls this year and I'm ready."
At the field side cornerback, Jordan Johnson saw a lot of action in the team scrimmage.
"On the field side today it was Jordan Johnson but it will be Preston Hadley [who was held out]," said Sampson. "We also had Cameron [Comer] and Robbie [Buckner] out there and DeQuan [Everett] on the boundary side."
Last year, Sampson began the season at cornerback but was later switched to safety. Much like Andrew Rich and Travis Uale before him, he's been given the task of learning the entire defense in order to make the right defensive coverage calls.
"Besides being in the best shape of my life, I pretty much know everything there is to learn about this defense," Sampson said. "I have to know this defense inside and out and that's something that I've really focused on over this past year. I would say that's one of the biggest differences in my game this year than last. If I had to put a number on it, I would say I'm about a nine out of 10 as far as knowing this defense."
Playing safety isn't anything new to Sampson. It's a position he's played both in high school and at times in junior college. But, becoming comfortable with the nuances of the 3-4 defense is where the challenge is.
"Yes, that's the biggest thing is knowing who does what when," Sampson said. "It's about having the comfort level within your own self that you know what's going on and know exactly what everybody else is doing."
Chippy and feisty, the first day of practice saw a lot of emotion out on the field. It was one of the more heated and aggressive first days of camp seen in a long time.
"Just judging by how things went that first practice, we're all into it," Sampson said. "We're putting our all into it and we're very physical. We all want to be out there and we're all anxious to play. Spring season is just starting and if we keep up this level of intensity and emotion by the time fall comes around, we'll be good."
Physicality, effort and emotions ran high on the field on Monday.
"I think the defense was great for the first day of spring ball," said Sampson. "We were just trying to dominate and it got emotional out there on the field. That's always fun for me and I don't really know why it was so emotional out there. I was just going with the flow, but it was one of the best days of practice I've ever been to. It was fun."