by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
Watching offensive players who don’t score touchdowns might not make for a great highlight reel, but linemen can make an impression by showing up week after week, year after year. No one did a better job of that than Sam Young.
The 6-foot-8, 315-pound tackle started every single game of his Notre Dame career, setting a school record with 50 straight. Below, he discusses his longevity and the benefits of playing under Coach Charlie Weis.
Well, where are you now, and what are you doing?
Oh, literally, I just got out of class. I’m up in South Bend. I’ve got one credit to finish up. You know, I’m just working out and taking that class.
What has it been like to be exposed to so much… over the last couple months with football, and then having to go back to class and kind of settle down on campus?
I mean, the whole experience for me has been great as far as doing – whether it’s the combine, Senior Bowl, pro day – has been great. You know, the nice thing about being on campus is you have a couple guys there in the same boat as myself. So you have those guys around, and some of us will work out together and whatnot. But, I mean, it hasn’t been that big of a change. Probably the biggest change was, I was training in Miami. Going from Miami to South Bend, the weather’s a little bit different. Other than that, you know, it’s been pretty relaxed.
Were you down with the Dolphins?
Oh, no, I was down training at Bommarito Performance Systems.
And you’re from Florida originally, right?
And did you grow up a Dolphins fan?
Dolphins and Steelers.
I’m sorry: Dolphins what?
Dolphins and Steelers. You know, growing up in Florida, and then my whole family’s from Pittsburgh, so they kind of threw that on me.
Well, those are both relatively terrible.
(Laughs.) Yeah, absolutely.
(Laughs.) In terms of team meetings, what are the types of things that scouts are looking for? Because it’s not like you’re a receiver who has a bunch of statistics to show off.
Well, I mean, the one thing about me… is that you see a lot of me on film. Whether it’s starting every game for four years at Notre Dame, or, you know, I was at the Senior Bowl, participated in everything. I was at the combine and participated in everything. I, again, worked out at the pro day up at Notre Dame. So there’s been a lot of visuals on me. And I think that, as a lineman, you’re right: there’s not catches, there’s not dropped balls, yards after catch, whatever. But I think some of the things they look at are your toughness, your intelligence factor. Do you know your Xs and Os? Are you flexible? Can you move? What type of demeanor do you play the game with? Are you tough, nasty, you want to get after someone, or do you kind of just let the guy drop off the hook? You know, I think that’s why, with linemen – I’m not a coach, I’m not a scout, so I don’t know – but I think that having all that film helps me. It’s all out there, so they’ve been doing it and they’ve been evaluating.
In terms of this past season, what’s one film that you would really want scouts to see, and what’s one you think they should forget?
Oh, probably – it’s kind of a toss-up for me. I know I had a great game to finish out my season at Stanford. I had a great game against Boston College, and also against Michigan, Michigan State. Really, it’s not so much a game, but a half, or even a quarter – it was kind of just the first quarter – against USC. You know, for whatever reason, it just took me a series or two to get settled, and from that point on it was lights out. But the beginning of that game is something that I’m not necessarily proud of. I didn’t play my best game, but on the other hand, I was able to quickly correct it and get back into my normal ways later in the game.
In terms of quickly correcting it, what do you think was the difficult there in that first quarter?
I guess – I think it was just settling. It was a big game; it was hyped up. Anytime we play SC, it’s always a big game, for us and for them. But, like I said, it just took me a couple series to settle. Once that blew over, it was over and done with, and I played great the rest of the game.
If more people took statistics for linemen, what do you think would be good ones to keep? What do you think would show an offensive lineman’s abilities?
Well, I mean, there’s not a lot of statistics out in the public arena to kind of – I don’t want to say grade, but, see how a lineman does. But we have meetings, and different coaches keep different statistics. You have your knockdowns, and that can be either a pancake block or just getting a guy on the ground, whether it’s a chop block or anything else. That’s a big statistic, I think. Also, the amount of plays you’re in, it kind of shows how durable you are as a lineman, because everyone knows that a great line is a cohesive line. It’s a line that’s been playing together. Pressures on the quarterback, how many times you gave up a pressure, how many sacks you gave up. I mean, I think those are probably the most quantifiable things you can do, and it really does kind of tell a tale.
Looking at Notre Dame with a critical eye – and this might not be an easy question to answer – what do you think happened over the course of the last few years with Notre Dame football?
Well, honestly, I’ve been on a rollercoaster from the day I got here. Whether that’s stepping in from day one and having that opportunity to play, or going from going to the Sugar Bowl to not playing in two bowl games. And in-between, winning the first bowl game at Notre Dame in 10, 12 years, whatever it was. So, I mean, it’s been quite the rollercoaster ride. You know, I don’t know exactly what the problem was. I think if anyone did know, you wouldn’t have seen the up-and-downs. However, I wouldn’t have traded my experience here for anything. I had great coaches, whether it’s Coach Weis or my two line coaches – I had Coach (John) Latina and Coach (Frank) Verducci. It was a great experience. I learned a heck of a lot, but now it’s kind of time to move forward and see what else is out there, because football’s a game I have a passion for, and I want to continue playing it.
Coming from a New England perspective, we thought, you know, Coach Weis was going to be there forever. Did you see any changes, or perceive any differences in his methods of coaching in the time you were there?
Yeah, a little bit. You know, when I first got there, I believe that was his second year. He was much more, I guess you could say – it’s going to be difficult for me to explain this, but he was kind of more a professional coach. It was pretty cut and dry. He was just very professional about things. And, as time wore on, he became more of a college coach, I guess you could say, whether that’s having guys over to his house for dinner, or more interaction on a personal level with the players. You know, I know everyone’s different, but that’s kind of the biggest thing I saw involving him. Not to say he was never a personable guy. I was always very personable with him, but just as a mentality, that kind of shifted. I mean, as far as play-calling and Xs and Os, that was never really different. And practices were always tough, and he was always working us good. But that was just the biggest thing I could put my finger on.
Moving on to the pros and some of your meetings with them, what are the types of questions that you get asked?
(Laughs.) Everything and anything. It’s kind of surprising, some of the questions you’ll get. You’ll get something like you were asking: what was your best game, what was your worst game, why, why was that your best game, why was that your worst game? What’s your favorite drink? Do you prefer cats or dogs? I’m just trying to think of some. I mean, there’s a lot of football questions. You’ll be asked to chalk talk on paper, on a board. I had one particular coach teach me a play, and then present it on a completely different defense and ask me to draw it up again for that. You know, really what it boils down to is they’re just trying to pick your brain, see where you’re at, as much as possible. Because it really has been a 12-month job interview process. It started last spring, and it’s going to end in a couple weeks, here. I’m sure they want to get all their money’s worth, so they’re really digging deep and trying to see what everyone’s made of.
Do you get the sense that they appreciate that you’ve had a former professional coach for the past few years?
Oh, that’s for them to decide. You know, it’s interesting… having Coach Weis was a great asset for me because I got to watch a lot of Patriots film from when he was there. Further than that, I would take it upon myself, and I’d get cut-ups of Matt Light or Jake Long or Joe Thomas, some of the premiere tackles, and try to learn from them. But in doing these chalk talks and talking, even in the Senior Bowl, there’s a lot of carry-over from the pro-style offense we ran with Coach Weis and some of these other pro-style offenses that the various teams run. So I feel like that’s going to help me out. I assume that it’s going to be a lot more in-depth than what we ran here, but I think I have a good leg up on that.
Do you have any meetings scheduled up until the draft?
I’m going to Miami to work out on Friday. Other than that, just kind of sitting and waiting for the phone to ring.
All right. Well, Sam, I wish you a lot of luck.
Thank you so much.
Thanks a lot for your time today.
All right. No problem.
Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org