One of the top names in 2007 quarterback recruiting after putting up big numbers as a junior, Samson Szakacsy could have perhaps written bigger national headlines if not for a move he and his family made in September. After a sophomore season at famed Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure that put him on the map, Szakacsy prepared for a breakout at the helm of the #1 ranked team in the Golden State. But the family moved to an apartment in Camarillo (Calif.) just after the start of his junior year of high school, to be closer to his grandfather with prostate cancer.
"He's just enjoying life right now, which is the important thing," says Szakacsy.
While the caring youngster makes frequent trips to visit and tend to his ailing grandfather, Szakacsy also took care of his business on the football field under difficult circumstances. After starting the first game of the 2005 season for St. Bonaventure, the 6'5" slinger transferred to Adolfo Camarillo High School that week and days later found himself under center with a brand new team. The Scorpions had already lost their opener and tripped up the next two weeks, but Szakacsy guided them to eight straight wins that included a perfect 5-0 Pacific View League record and appearance in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs.
Throwing for 23 touchdowns and 2,000 yards was admirable enough. But the most impressive mark of Szakacsy's junior season was his 72.7% accuracy, which broke an 18-year Ventura County record.
Szakacsy with his big frame and the big ball he throws remind Camarillo observers of famed Scorpions signal caller Joe Borchard. The picture of bullet passes pounding receivers in the chest also harkens back to the "Elway X" left by another illustrious Cardinal alum...
Nancy Szakacsy on Monday dropped by Camarillo High School and ran into head coach Dennis Riedmiller. USC was expected to visit the school and possibly make a move on the quarterback recruit that day.
"I bumped into Coach Riedmiller, Samson's coach, and he said that Stanford called wanted to talk to us," she details. "I didn't know what that would be about but didn't expect anything big. We had just been to Stanford a couple weeks ago, and they explained everything. I figured this was probably more about what Samson needs to do with his classes and academics."
"So I call Coach [Tom] Freeman, and he tells me that he is standing with John Elway," the mother continues. "I was two or three years older than him, but he was at Granada Hills and I was at Chatsworth. We were rivals. My husband, Doug, told me he couldn't believe I didn't talk to John Elway, but I figured that wasn't the business at hand. Walt Harris gets on the phone and says, 'I don't want to be on the fence any longer. I want to make an official offer to Samson. It's been sent out in writing. We feel like he can get into school, and we really hope to get the phone call that he is committing.'"
"It was so special to hear that Stanford has offered," Mrs. Szakacsy excitedly says. "It was bizarre because we thought the day was really about USC, but it ended up being big-time for Stanford. It's very possible something might still happen with SC. If not, that's okay because it helps to make the decision."
The Cardinal are the fifth school to offer the 6'5" 195-pound slinger. Previously Szakacsy received offers from Illinois, Purdue, Ole Miss and Rutgers. As is the case currently for the breadth of the nation's top quarterbacks, recruiting is moving quickly.
"I understand now that everything is about the game you have to play. Sometimes you are on top of the world, and sometimes it's overwhelming," he says of the recruiting process.
"I've narrowed my list to Stanford, USC and Purdue," Szakacsy declares. "I've been to visit some colleges, and I went to Stanford two weeks ago. I met with Nate Nelson, and he took me on a tour of campus. I saw the team practice and got to talk to players. I talked with the coaches, and they told me then that they really enjoyed my film. They were really impressed. When I met them, they said they were really impressed with my attitude."
"Since I was a kid, I've wanted to go to Stanford," he adds. "It's a beautiful campus. When you graduate from the school, you are set for life."
The other component of the equation for Szakacsy and the Cardinal is the admissions process. The Camarillo High School student-athlete reports a 3.82 unweighted GPA with a curriculum of honors classes. He took the SAT a year ago and scored the equivalent of a 1090 on the old scale, which he is looking to improve.
"The thing about Stanford is that you have to get into the school. An offer does not mean I can necessarily go," Szakacsy says. "I have a lot of work to do... I took the SAT as a sophomore, and so much on the test you pick up while you are in school, so I should do better. I'm signed up for the May 6 SAT. I've been studying on collegeboard.com and learning vocabulary words. I need to take two AP classes my senior year, have to write three essays and have to get letters of recommendation."
"I have a lot of work ahead of me. The plan is to keep working hard to accomplish that," the recruit offers. "At Stanford you can play competitive Division I football and get that degree. Walt Harris is a great guy. All the coaches - Nate Nelson, Tom Freeman - seem like great guys. Stanford is definitely one of my top choices. How could it not be?"
The more geographically removed school among Szakacsy's top three is Purdue, but they have been close to his heart since he had a chance meeting as a youngster with Boilermakers great Drew Brees. Szakacsy was playing AAU basketball in San Diego and found himself at a hotel with the Chargers. The unlikely pair threw a football for two hours in the parking lot.
"He said to Samson, 'You know, you will be coming into the NFL right about when I would be finishing. Wouldn't it be something if we played on the same team together?'" Nancy Szakacsy recounts.
Another factor in favor of the Boilermakers is Ed Zaunbrecher, who coordinated recently at both Illinois and Florida.
"Coach Zaunbrecher has done big things wherever he has been, and he's their quarterbacks coach now. He's a genius," the recruit comments. "When I went to Purdue, it was beautiful."
"He loves Purdue, and we aren't afraid to let him go," his mother adds. "He wants the complete package, and there are a lot of things going for them there."
And then there are the Trojans, the 500-pound gorilla locally and nationally of college football.
"SC is kind of my hometown school," he admits. "I know one-fourth of the whole team. When it comes to football, you can't get any bigger right now."
"You're going to be a movie star if you go to USC," notes Nancy Szakacsy. "I know Samson can handle that, to tell you the honest truth."
While Szakacsy professes three leaders, he says that some other schools are not out of the picture.
"Illinois is still in the mix. Ole Miss is still in the mix. I say 'top three' but those are my top five," he maintains. "Michigan is recruiting me a lot, so I want to try to get out there. I want to try to get out to Florida; they invited me to their Friday Night Lights [camp]."
Quarterback recruiting picked up at many schools across the country this past week, with a big domino falling in the Jimmy Clausen commitment to Notre Dame. Szakacsy already this month made a whirlwind tour that took him to six schools in seven days, and he has a flurry of activity upcoming with visits and combines. He and his family will make a return visit to The Farm on Saturday for the Cardinal's Spring Game. Szakacsy plans on attending the Scout.com All-American Combine in Los Angeles in early May, followed the next weekend by the Nike Camp at Stanford. He is also scheduled to travel to Las Vegas in June for an Elite 11 workout. He plans on camping at USC, Stanford and Purdue, plus a day at Florida if possible.
All of this travel aims toward the goal of an early college commitment for the Ventura County record-holder.
"I plan on committing after the combine and camp season at the end of the summer. By then I will have a true idea," Szakacsy states. "I want to have that done and be able to focus on having a big senior season."
With the pace picking up in his recruitment, all signs point toward an early decision. With Szakacsy set this Saturday to make his second trip to The Farm this month, plus another return in mid-May, we will certainly look to stay on top of his story. The news of Stanford's offer to Samson Szakacsy on Monday was momentous and somewhat unexpected, after Walt Harris waited until he had quarterbacks at his camp at the end of June last year to extend the Cardinal's first quarterback offer. Stay tuned as this story continues to unfold.
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