Hand of Fate Points Sample to UW

BELLEVUE - Drew Sample figured everything out early; his plan was complete. For the 6-foot-4.5, 245-pound tight end from Newport High School, hard work and a generous helping of native ability had landed him scholarship offers to play football on both coasts, and at plenty of colleges in-between. His immediate future was secure, his plan rock-solid.

But life has a way of turning plans inside-out and upside-down. In Sample's case, it happened on December 9th, the day Chris Petersen was officially brought in to replace Steve Sarkisian at the University of Washington.

Up to that point, Sample was all about the blue and orange of Boise State. Petersen had offered Sample a scholarship nearly a year ago at Boise State's football camp, and it took all of about 48 hours for Sample to jump on the opportunity.

By making an early verbal commitment, Sample could enjoy the rest of his summer and then get ready to lead the Newport Knights as far as they could go his senior season. Recruiting was done, it was finished. Sample was a man of his word; there was no need for schools to come back at him to gauge interest or take his temperature.

It was all over. At least it was until that fateful Monday in December when his world caved in.

"I was shocked," Sample said recently, thinking back to the time when he found out about Petersen's departure from BSU. "Being at Boise for a while you couldn't imagine him being anywhere else."

There were coaches still at Boise he knew, but at that point no one had a gauge on what the future held - for them or for anyone else. BSU started their own coaching search, eventually landing on former offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. It may have been a week from when Petersen's name leaked out as UW's next coach to when Harsin was brought back to Boise, but for Sample it was a minor eternity. He had no idea what was going to happen next.

"It took Boise a little bit to figure out a coach, so I was just kind of in limbo," said Sample. "There was a definitely a few weeks of uncertainty. It was tough, but it worked out for me in the end. I'm happy about it."

A couple days after Petersen took the Washington job, Sample tried to reach out on the phone, leaving a message. "He got back to me and we were in contact for a week, week-and-a-half," Sample said. "He was telling me to be patient, he had to figure stuff out. I was trying to be good about it. Coming to a new school he had a lot on his plate so I didn't want to be like it was all about me. But I was definitely a little nervous."

Then, the Sunday after the initial conversation between Petersen and Sample came the news that Drew wanted to hear; Petersen would offer an opportunity to play at Washington.

The offer never had to be repeated. As quickly as Sample jumped on Petersen's BSU offer in June, he was even faster to the trigger this time around. It was the school he always wanted to go to, the program and city he always wanted to be a part of. "We were pretty familiar with U-Dub anyway - its academics and prestige," he said. "It was pretty much a no-brainer for me."

Fate often works out for those on a mission to fulfill a dream, and it did for Drew Sample. "(Petersen) is a great coach and I'm super-excited he's going to be up here and glad he decided to take me up there with him," Sample said, matter-of-factly.

Once Sample switched to the purple and gold, it's been full-steam ahead. In fact, he's been on a one-man crusade to recruit Newport teammate Calvin Throckmorton to join him at Montlake. "I'm definitely in his ear!" Sample said when asked about the 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior offensive tackle. "He's been getting a lot of offers and taking a lot of visits and I keep chirping in his ear - hey U-Dub! He's an academic guy, so hopefully…I know he's taking a lot of trips but I think he does like U-Dub and Coach Pete, so hopefully he'll come around in the end. I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes regardless. He's going to be a phenomenal player."

Sample's quest toward Division-1 football may have taken a couple unexpected detours, but Drew is still working as hard as ever. The difference nowadays is that he's sharing the experience with some unlikely characters - unlikely in the sense that they've only become recent allies.

Newport and Bellevue have always been uneasy neighbors when it's come to prep football. The Wolverines have ruled the Class 3A roost for the better part of a decade, while the Knights have toiled in Bellevue's shadow despite being in a larger classification.

Now that his high school career is over, Sample has aligned himself with some future Huskies that also are Wolverines - and so far the results have been exceptional. "We've been working with Tracy (Ford), a guy who works with Budda (Baker) and Shane (Bowman) and some guys - he's been doing a lot of the same stuff that (Washington Strength and Conditioning) coach (Tim) Socha is doing up there," Sample said. "They've been in contact with each other too.

"It used to be about Newport and Bellevue and we never played them but we were both in Bellevue, but now we're all going to be teammates. Even the guys that are going to be going to other places we're taking that next step together and are really pushing each other to get better."

In talking with the UW coaches, their message to Sample is clear; get to fall camp in the best shape of your life. "They didn't want me to worry about that," he said when asked if the coaches asked him to come to camp at a specific weight. "They just want me to get stronger. They wanted me to come in in great condition; that was one of the things they wanted from me. I'll put on weight or take away weight as they see fit when I get up there, so they didn't want me to worry about that.

"(Tight Ends) Coach (Jordan) Paopao just wants me to come in ready to compete. He doesn't me to be thinking that because I'm a true freshman I'm going to come in and automatically redshirt. He wants me to come in ready to compete with the guys and compete for spot, so that's motivating for me."

Ford, who is also Bellevue's Strength and Conditioning Coach, has worked with Sample to the point where he should be able to anticipate even the unexpected come UW's fall camp. Socha's workout is geared more toward conditioning, muscle endurance. "Sets of 12, sets of 10, not a lot of 3's or 5's," Sample said. "It's definitely endurance and conditioning and stuff like that."

Sample's work with Ford has not been confined to the gym. Drew has been working on his route sharpness and coming in and out of breaks. "I feel like I need to work on that, so we've been focused on that," he said. "In the weight room I'm focused on getting stronger. You can always get stronger. It always translates to the football field, so it's been good.

"I want to come in and put my best foot forward and do what I can to help the team, do whatever it takes to get a starting job."

Baker is another incoming freshmen that shares similar thoughts. The two joined forces this past weekend as part of an alumni 7-on-7 team that participated in the Barton Football Annual 7-On Tournament.

"We played last year and played against the alumni team…it was kind of surreal at the time, playing Myles Jack and guys like that, but this year it's going to be those (younger) guys out here competing. It's been fun for sure," Sample said. "After last summer was over, football season just flew by and it's been surreal - it's been going by so fast. I'm looking forward to going to college; it's going to be fun."

Drew's plans prior to Washington now are simple; continue to work out, finish his obligations to graduate June 16th from Newport, and then spend time with friends and family before heading to Seattle. It's just a trip across I-90 to the big city, but Sample is enjoying the freedom that the Emerald City represents as he moves on to the next chapter in his life.

"Me personally, I've never really been up around Seattle a lot. Obviously I go there, but the east side is where I've been and where I do my stuff. Seattle is kind of a different beast for me, so there will be new things to experience. It's close, but there are things that will separate itself.

"I'm just looking forward to being an independent person, working on football, and getting to college."

And that helping hand of fate? "It worked out all right," Sample said, simply.

"It was good."

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