Shelton Sampson: The Flash

Four days into fall camp, <b><a href=http://scout.TheInsiders.com/a.z?s=147&p=8&c=1&nid=305649&yr=2002>Shelton Sampson</a></b> remains right where he wants to be - in the backfield. His raw speed makes him a candidate for several positions, but if the 5-11, 185-pound greyhound had it his way, he'd stick at tailback.

It was a short summer from the Clover Park High grad. He took two weeks off after graduating from the Lakewood, Wash. school, then it was time to go to work. Hearing that much of the team was on campus working out together this summer, Sampson contacted receiver Reggie Williams to get the scoop. It didn't take long to work his way into the inner circle. He began coming up to Seattle to work out with his new teammates, and was the only freshman to join the team for the seven-on-seven workouts that were held over the course of the summer.

He recently cut his hair, removing the blonde-colored tips that he'd had since his high school days. "I was thinking of new beginnings," he said. "It's time to start something new. I've had that hair for a while, and I was thinking that now it's time to kind of grow up and start doing things the right way as a Husky."

With camp underway, Sampson says he's glad to have the rest of the incoming freshmen in the mix. "It's cool to have all the freshmen come in and actually be able to work with them - grow with them and learn the whole experience."

So far, Sampson appears to be the perfect counterpart to fellow freshman tailback, Kenny James, in the backfield. While James uses his vision to avoid would-be tacklers, Sampson goes with the catch-me-if-you-can approach to carrying the football. While James pounds, Sampson jukes. While James plows, Sampson darts.

"I think we complement each other pretty well," Sampson said. "I think we are both about the same in stature, but I think that if every runningback on your team does the same thing then your program is not going to be as good as you want it to be so it's good to have different kinds of runners."

Though Sampson possesses tremendous athletic talent, he admits that he's never played any position other than tailback in all his years of football. He could become a cornerback but he's not familiar with the back-pedal yet. He is certainly fast enough to play wide receiver but he doesn't have experienced at catching passes, and it shows.

"My main focus is runningback, but if I have to move so be it," said the freshman. "Right now, though, I have to focus on runningback."

Despite his lack of versatility on the football field, it's impossible to avoid noticing his athletic abilities. One thing is for sure, nobody seemed to have that problem last winter during the recruiting season. He had most of the Pacific-10 Conference schools chasing him down during, and also got serious looks from college powerhouses in Notre Dame and Nebraska.

At one point, Sampson committed to UCLA after taking an official visit to the bright lights and quick life-style of Westwood, Calif. But after taking a visit to the University of Washington and seeing a family atmosphere that no other school could match, the speedster changed his mind.

"I was committed to UCLA for a time, but there were a couple of miscommunications with me and (Bob Toledo) so it just didn't work out," said Sampson. "Not only that, I just saw something in the (UW) program and the way that the Huskies did everything and the way that they played on the field."

"When I came on my visit here, both me and my family really liked was the unity and all the people who supported the program. It was real key for me to pick this school. I didn't want to come to school to just play football, I wanted a good education and also someone to inspire me in some kind of way. I saw that in Coach Neuheisel and the other coaches."

Once he had changed his mind, the task then became breaking the news to UCLA Head Coach Bob Toledo. Surprisingly, the freshman says that wasn't too difficult.

"Once I figured out where I wanted to go, I knew within my heart that I needed to go ahead and tell him," he said. "I knew that this was the place for me. It wasn't hard to let him know, I just told him that I was sorry for the miscommunication, and that I found my heart here as a Husky so I might as well stay home and do the Dawg thing."

With Sampson's unparalleled speed and endless potential, Husky fans everywhere are glad he did.

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