Hawai'i receiver sets own course
|Warriors' Chang focuses on winning, not setting records|
|Warriors feel impact of housing shortage|
|Ferd Lewis: Hype, hope awaiting incoming recruits|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Every holiday season, Ian Sample appreciates his father's wonderful life.
"The older I get," said Ian, a wide receiver on the University of Hawai'i football team, "the more I appreciate my father's accomplishments. Making it to the major leagues was a big thing."
In turn, Billy Sample is a supporter of his middle child's football career and career decisions.
Two years ago, Ian quit the Delaware football team, relinquishing a full scholarship. After attending a community college for a year, he joined the Warriors as a non-scholarship player.
"I wanted to play receiver," said Ian, who was a defensive back at Delaware and for his New Jersey high school, "and I wanted nice weather. It was between here and Arizona State, and I picked here."
He redshirted last season, then emerged as a promising receiver during spring practice in April.
"He really had an excellent spring," UH coach June Jones said of the 5-foot-10, 186-pound junior. "He's got a chance to be a starter."
Ian said his passion for the game came from his father. "My dad's favorite sport is football," he said. "He likes it the most and I like it the most. Football is in our blood."
Billy Sample was a standout receiver, and his high school team advanced to the Virginia state championship game against TC Williams High, a program documented in the movie, "Remember the Titans."
"In real life, that team beat us handily," recalled Billy, noting the outcome had to be changed to create a climactic Hollywood ending. "I had caught eight passes in the semifinals, but I was shut out in the final game. Hopefully, Ian will be more clutch."
Billy, who announces baseball games for mlb.com, was blessed with athletic and people skills, traits he has tried to pass to his three children. Billy's friendly nature is evident in his warm memories of two of baseball's most demanding owners, Ted Turner of the Atlanta Braves and George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees.
"Ted is as unpretentious as a person with that type of status can be," Billy said. "He'll come down and talk to you about fishing. He's very engaging."
As for The Boss, Billy said, "George Steinbrenner was very nice. When I was traded to the Yankees, he came over and welcomed me to the club. I wasn't a marquee player, like Winfield or (Rickey) Henderson, so I thought that was very nice."
Billy and Ian often work out together. "He could beat me in a race up until my senior year in high school," Ian said. "He's pretty quick for his age."
The football workouts featured Billy imploring Ian to use only his hands to catch passes. That technique, the UH coaches say, puts Ian in a better position to run after making a catch.
Ian has made an easy adjustment to Hawai'i. He lives with a friend and receives financial help from his parents. He does not mind the Warriors' unsupervised workouts in the humid afternoons.
"I'm sick of the Jersey cold winters," he said. "I enjoy being out here. I'm grateful for the opportunity to play for this team."
The Samples have long ties to Hawai'i. The family has vacationed here. Billy played in Aloha Stadium as a minor leaguer in the 1970s. He also attended the union meeting of player representatives on Maui.
"We really fell in love with Hawai'i," said Ian's mother, Debi. "I know Hawai'i is where Ian wants to be. With his love of football and Hawai'i, it seemed like a natural progression of things for him to go there."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com or 525-8051.