Panther roars on the plains

Published 11:13 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Matthew Sample has been able to make the transition from high school football to Southeastern Conference football because of the coaching he received from Brad Abbott and his staff at Jemison.

Sample, a walk-on redshirt sophomore at Auburn who was the Tigers’ leading tackler in the team’s A-Day game on April 18, is returning the favor by returning to Jemison to help the coaching staff during spring training.

“It’s very different from high school, but coach Abbott and the other coaches helped a lot,” Sample said about the level of play at Auburn.

Sample’s A-Day performance may have opened the eyes of new Auburn coach Gene Chizik and his staff. Sample, a safety, said his position coach, Tommy Thigpen, mentioned his efforts in a post-spring meeting.

“They said they were impressed with how I played because I didn’t have a lot of reps in the spring,” Sample said.

Sample’s success is the result of hard work. Beside the rigors involved with playing college football for an SEC program, Sample was enrolled in 18 hours of courses in the spring and worked part-time with the Auburn grounds crew, managing the fields used by the school’s football, baseball, softball, soccer and track and field teams.

Sample is majoring in turfgrass management.

“I’m one of those that I can’t just sit around with nothing to do,” he said.

Sample said Chizik has brought a no-nonsense attitude to the Plains.

“He’s really involved in practice, real hands-on,” Sample said. “The whole aspect of spring was being more physical.

“He said, ‘I want ya’ll to play like ya’ll have 13 guys out there.’”