Lorne Sam built his high school reputation by throwing the football. Sam now hopes to build his collegiate reputation by catching it.
Sam, the younger brother of current Florida State receiver P.K. Sam, has made a favorable first impression on the Seminole coaching staff following two days of practice for incoming freshmen. The slender but athletic Sam has displayed quick feet, soft hands and a nice leaping ability during drills.
Not bad for a player who completed 61 of 115 passes for 1,439 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior last season at Bufurd High School in Georgia.
"I played quarterback in high school, so I am not used to the balls coming at me hard," Sam said and grinned. "I was the one giving them like that. It's a big difference but I am getting used to it day by day. The first couple of days were real rough when I first got down here, but I am getting used to it."
Of course, Sam has a good teacher in P.K. Sam, who made the most of his opportunities as a freshman last season following season-ending knee injuries to veterans Robert Morgan and Anquan Boldin. Sam teamed with fellow freshman Craphonso Thorpe to give the Seminoles added punch on the edges. The pair combined for 26 receptions for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
Lorne Sam is the lone freshman receiver in camp. Fellow recruit Chris Davis is out for the year following knee surgery – he was injured while running pass routes at home in St. Petersburg in preparation for his arrival at FSU – and Dishon Platt did not qualify academically. Junior-college transfer Chauncey Stovall has watched the past two days of practice and hopes to be cleared Friday.
FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden likes what he sees in Sam – even if he thinks he's seeing double.
"He looks a lot like his brother," Bowden said. "He timed a lot faster than P.K. but they seem identical. It's funny out here working with him. He reminds me of P.K. all over. Everything. His mannerisms. His ability just looks the same."
Sam, who doesn't turn 18 years old until December, has been studying plenty of video in an effort to learn his new position. He also has picked the brain of his roommate/brother.
"The biggest thing to me is getting off the ball," said Sam, who earned all-state honors after leading Buford to a 15-0 record and the state title last year. "In college you have somebody that's as strong or stronger than you in front of you, so you really have to learn how to use your fundamentals to get off the ball to get to your route. That has been the hardest thing."
Sam also worked on punt returns Thursday. And – you guessed it – he has never returned punts, either. "My high school coach wouldn't let me – he was afraid I might get hurt since I was the starting quarterback," Sam said and laughed. "I kind of like it, though. It's different." While Sam hasn't given up the idea of playing quarterback one day at FSU, he's happy at his new position.
‘Hopefully, that (quarterback) is only on hold temporarily," Sam said. "I am not going to say I am going to switch back or not because if I start doing well here (receiver) I am not going to go back and hurt myself. Right now I just want to learn the plays, learn my steps and who knows, I might get on the field a couple of times this year."
Jeff Bowden has given the incoming freshmen a thumbs up for effort. But a smiling Bowden also pointed out that the newcomers have no idea what's in store for them when the varsity reports for its first practice. While the freshmen have practiced at a leisurely pace, some – like defensive lineman Broderick Bunkley and running back Torrance Washington -- have struggled with the heat.
"This is what this is for these guys. It's all fundamentals. Just teaching basics," Bowden said. "A lot of walk and talk. You can't run them into the ground because it's just one guy going with one coach. It's the last four practices of his life that we are all smiles and everything is okay. After the varsity comes in they got to perform. It's really good. We get to know each other really well, teaching the terminology and just the basic stuff."
Bowden also likes what he sees in his skilled players, specifically quarterback Wyatt Sexton, whose throwing ability has been impressive.
"Well, I am really impressed with the way Wyatt throws the ball," Bowden sad. "I like these young backs. They all look like they can run and catch the football. You can see little differences in each of them. They all have different styles. I like this group. They are eager to try to learn and do what we ask them to do."