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"I’m going to tell you one thing about Sam," Roedel said. "He did not do victim."
Sam barely knew his father, a man who was in and out of jail and gave him just one birthday present in his 15 years, and Merry said that added to his longing.
He started to find comfort in football.
"He liked feeling like he belonged," Merry said, "being a part of something, feeling like he had a brotherhood in a sense. Because he never really knew his father that well, it was a chance for him to be able to really be in camaraderie with the boys. It meant a lot to him because he was looking for that acceptance."
If Sam had been overlooked previously he wasn’t going to let it happen this season, and as weight training and practices progressed, he became nearly impossible to ignore.
There were a couple of reasons for this:
No. 1 — Sam wore neon shirts. Orange or green and hanging a foot longer than his jersey, the shirts made his teammates delight and Sam easy to spot.
No. 2 — Sam was in the weight room earlier than almost everyone else, and he stayed later working on technique than almost anyone else.
He was only a sophomore, but he wanted to compete against the best. He challenged senior Edgar Gomez, an all-state guard and nose tackle, in drills. He walked up to lineman David Bentley and told the senior he planned to be stronger than him in two years time.
"I told him I was going to make sure he was," Bentley said.
Sam was one of the weakest players on the team a season earlier.
Now he wanted to work.
"He wasn’t the fastest guy, but he never walked," quarterback Jacob Francis said.
Sam spent hours lifting, inching toward the moment he would see his name on the board where the coaches displayed the names of the three strongest players from each class.
By August, he dead lifted 325 pounds and bench pressed 155.
On the day his name was scrawled on the white board with marker, he snapped a picture of it to show his mother.
On the last night the team’s summer camp, players stood up one at a time, expressing their hopes and fears. Sam stood up three times, telling his teammates how much he cared for them, how much he felt like he belonged.Next Page >
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