What's in a name?

There are 6-foot-6 guys nicknamed "Shorty" and there are 300-pounders nicknamed "Slim." Some nicknames, though, are exquisitely accurate.

There is no better example than Sam Sledge, a rising junior fullback/middle linebacker from Central High School of Chattanooga. Known among teammates as "Sledge Hammer," he lives up to the moniker with a rugged physique and an aggressive nature that serve him exceptionally well on the football field.

Sledge, who packs 196 powerful pounds on a compact 5-foot-5 frame, proved that good things come in small packages during the recent InsideTennessee combine at Knoxville's D-1 training center. Despite his diminutive stature, the dynamic young man posted one of the top marks in the 185-pound bench press (26 repetitions) and one of the better marks in the vertical jump (36.5 inches). He also clocked a respectable 4.75 in the 40-yard dash and a 4.83 in the 20-yard shuttle.

Sledge Hammer's physical nature was evident at the combine but it is even more evident on the field, where he is a collision waiting to happen.

"I like the contact," he said. "I like to hit, to run people over. I love it. I've been playing since I was a kid."

Sledge's short stature serves him well at fullback. As a lead blocker, he is able to consistently get leverage against taller defenders. And, as a rusher, his low center of gravity makes him incredibly difficult to knock off his feet.

"I like fullback because I get to carry the ball," he said. "I averaged 10 yards a carry last year."

Like former Tennessee player Nick Reveiz, Sledge's stumpy frame also makes him difficult to block at his linebacker spot.

"I like the contact at linebacker," Sledge said, flashing an evil grin as he added: "I'm going to knock some helmets off this year."

Given his aggressive nature, Sledge's knack for making behind-the-line stops is not surprising.

"I like to shoot into the hole and get the ball carrier," he said, literally beaming.

With two years of high school football still to play, Sledge has not given much thought to his college career. Asked what school he'd like to attend someday, he replied: "Wherever God takes me."

Although he has no idea what schools he'll consider, he knows precisely what he's looking for in a school.

"Commitment," he said. "Somewhere I can play. I don't want to be on the bench."

No wonder. "Sledge Hammer" is a name that needs to be bellowed over the public-address system, not whispered along the sidelines.


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