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Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Samples honored to play in UA Game

By Damon Sayles
ESPN RecruitingNation

DALLAS -- Back in November, shortly after watching teammates Thomas Johnson and Peter Jinkens put on their Under Armour All-America jerseys and hats, then-junior wide receiver Ra'Shaad Samples was overheard speaking to teammates outside the Dallas Skyline weight room.

"That's going to be me next year," Samples said. Fast forward a year  and a devastating on-the-field injury  later, and Samples sat in the seat once occupied by the Skyline standouts before him. The newly named ESPN 300 receiver was awarded his Under Armour All-America Game jersey as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour Thursday afternoon.

"It feels indescribable. I'm still kind of in shock," Samples said. "I don't think it'll really hit me until I get to the game. It's like a dream come true."

Samples will be one of several Texans competing in January's UA Game, a contest he's been a fan of since his middle school days. He grew up watching players like Julio Jones, E.J. Manuel and others make a name for themselves on the UA stage.

Ra'Shaad Samples Under Armour Presentation
Ra'Shaad Samples is the nation's 25th-ranked wide receiver and has committed to Oklahoma State.

Now, it's his turn. Of his two football goals, at least one will be achieved when Samples takes the field for the UA game. The other goal is winning a state championship.

"I've been watching since the seventh or eighth grade," Samples said. "I remember the camaraderie all the players had. They were telling jokes and having fun, but when they got on the field, they played for the love of the game."

Samples months ago wondered if he would ever play at 100 percent again after sustaining a fractured left fibula in March during the Nike Football Training Camp in Dallas. He was sidelined for roughly four months but still made the trip to Beaverton, Ore., to participate in The Opening.

Samples, who had a similar injury earlier in his career, heard all of the critics discuss how his college career was finished before it started.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound, four-star receiver, however, refused to buy into the negative discussions about him.

If anything, that's what motivated him.

"It's real easy to think he wouldn't have been able to come back," said Skyline coach Reginald Samples, who also is Ra'Shaad's father. "At the end of the day, it's all about having that will to compete. That's what it's all about. You've got to be tough, and you've got to want it. All those intangibles are there with him."

One glance at his 2012 stats supports Samples' drive to be the best is legitimate. He's caught 40 passes for 716 yards -- both team highs -- for a Skyline club that has featured nine different receivers. Of those 40 grabs, 18 have gone for touchdowns. Statistically, Samples scores almost every other catch.

His first game back in full pads was the best of his career. Against The Woodlands, Texas, Samples caught 11 balls for 169 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 victory. Since the start of district play, Samples hasn't played a full four quarters on offense because his squad has yet to see a team stay within four touchdowns of it.

After the season, Samples will prepare for life at Oklahoma State. He committed to the Cowboys in July, announcing the decision while at The Opening. Ranked No. 197 in the latest ESPN 300 released Wednesday, Samples chose Oklahoma State over offers from Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and USC. Ultimately, Oklahoma State beat out Ohio State and Texas A&M.

Samples has played for his father all four years at Skyline. He said playing for his dad -- a no-nonsense coach who doesn't mind running his son for slacking -- helped turn him into the player he is today.

It also was a reason why he was able to catch the attention of the UA game selection crew  and, when January comes, put a giant check on his high school football to-do list.

"It's one of the hardest things I've ever gone through," Samples said of playing for his dad. "He pushes me at home, he pushes me at school, he pushes me on the field. It gets frustrating at times, but I think it's helped me. He's taught me how to be a man."

Reginald Samples added: "I feel good for him. He's worked hard, and he deserves it. It's hard to describe, because there's a lot of hard work that goes into it. I'm not one who just settles for anything, and I've seen him go through the fire."