Although the offense is obviously more complex, Lorne Sam's role in the Texas-El Paso attack is somewhat like playing neighborhood football in that he isn't pigeon-holed into one position.
Sometimes he gets to play running back. Sometimes he's the quarterback. The rest of the time he's at wide receiver.
He's all over the place, just like he was as a kid playing unorganized games. Only he's doing it at the highest level of college football for UTEP.
"It's kind of like a childhood dream, to play so many different positions," Sam said. "It changes things up and keeps you active playing so many different spots. Kids dream of playing so many different roles on the college level."
Sam is living that dream as a UTEP senior, churning out yards in a number of ways for an explosive offense.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Buford grad was strictly a wide receiver at Florida State in 2003 and 2004, tallying 10 catches for 173 yards in two seasons. But he wanted to play quarterback, so he transferred to UTEP and sat out the 2005 season.
He split time between quarterback and receiver last season, but has truly flourished this year as a major part of the 4-3 Miners' offense.
"My favorite position is probably quarterback because it's the position with the most control," said Sam, whose older brother P.K. is a wide receiver on the Oakland Raiders' practice squad. "But it's also nice to play wide receiver and running back because you don't have the pressure of being the leader. You can celebrate and have fun with it. At quarterback you have to keep your composure."
Through seven games, Sam has 28 catches for 447 yards and a touchdown and has completed 10 of 15 passes for 115 yards and another score. He also has rushed 45 times for 299 yards and three TDs.
That's 861 all-purpose yards.
"My individual goal is to hit 1,500, maybe 2,000 all-purpose yards," Sam said. "But really it's more team goals for me. Our main goal is to win the conference championship and get to a bowl game."
The football season has been a nice diversion for Sam after a tough offseason. His father was diagnosed with cancer last November, and the disease was so advanced it was terminal.
Philip Sam lived only a month longer, passing away last December.
"In a way, I think it was something that helped me and my brother grow up and become more mature," Sam said of his father's death. "We always had (our father) to lean back on and that made us grow into maturity, to take care of my mom and my sister."
Sam's mother, Letta, and his sister Autumn, a Norcross grad, now both live near him in El Paso. But the youngest Sam may have to travel in the future if an NFL career pans out, as it has for his older brother.
He has a good backup plan - he already has graduated and is working on a master's degree in educational leadership - but he hopes to give pro football a shot.
"To get a chance to play at the next level would be great," Sam said. "My brother's already there. (Fellow Buford grad) Darius Walker is already there. Hopefully I'll get a chance to join them."
Johnson has huge game for Butler
Central Gwinnett grad Beau Johnson was virtually unstoppable last weekend as his Butler Community College team defeated Hutchinson 34-26.
Johnson rushed for 291 yards on 29 carries with three TDs as second-ranked Butler (8-0) won its seventh straight Jayhawk Conference title. He scored two times in the second half, including a fourth-quarter score to put Butler up 34-23.
The sophomore is one of the nation's top junior college recruits, sporting more than 20 scholarship offers from top Division I-A programs.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 770-339-8081.