If your favorite NFL team is looking for an under-the-radar pass rusher who could be one of this year’s best bargains at a premium position, Tulane’s Cameron Sample should be high on their list of targets.
A well-rounded prospect who has proven himself against top competition, Sample recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experience at the Senior Bowl, how he handles the “small school” criticism, and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.
JM: You capped off an impressive career at Tulane with another strong season in 2020. How do you look back on your time there?
CS: My time at Tulane taught me a lot. Coming in, the goal for our recruiting class was to eventually change the program for the better. That 2017 class that I was a part of was a big one for us. We had a lot of ups and downs. I got some playing time as a freshman. I played with a great group of guys all the way until the end. We left that program in better shape than we found it in.
JM: You didn’t have many scholarship offers coming out of high school, but look at the position you’re in now.
CS: My high school coach gave me this motto to live by. Control what you can control. I ran with that. It stuck with me. I wasn’t getting all of the big Power Five offers that I wanted. I thought I should have gotten those offers, but I didn’t. I made the most of my opportunity at Tulane. I continued to work hard.
JM: And you got better every single year. There’s no denying that. The numbers got better, and so did the tape. You had five sacks in 2020. What do you credit that steady improvement to?
CS: I was very blessed. All praises to my Lord and Savior. Other than that, I give the credit to my coaches and teammates. The coaches have worked really hard to create a great culture at Tulane. They got us to that next level. We all bought in and worked hard. It was a group effort.
JM: Tell me a little about the scheme that you’re most familiar with, and which position you’re most comfortable playing at the next level.
CS: I played in a 3-4 during my first three years. This past season, we spent more time in a 4-3 look. We had more of an attacking mindset. I think that position would translate well for me. I see myself being a base defensive end in the NFL. I can kick inside in a subpackage and rush from the 3-technique or as a wide 4i.
JM: I love that. When I turn the tape on, I see a powerful guy that plays the game with terrific leverage. How did you develop those aspects of your game?
CS: Our coaching staff is incredibly technical at Tulane. They preach technique. Everything from hand placement to the timing of your strike, we put a lot of emphasis on those things. I’ve had a lot of positive experiences with repetition over the past four seasons. I’m a technical player. Technique is the base of all good things. It translated for me.
JM: What can you tell me about your pass-rush arsenal?
CS: I’m far from a finished product. I’m still working on improving my arsenal. I have a variety of moves. I think I convert speed to power well. I can hit you with a long-arm. I have a good counter inside move if the tackle oversets. I also have a double-swipe move. I have a dip-and-rip. I think I have a lot of moves in my arsenal.
JM: What do you think is one strength of your game that doesn’t get talked about enough?
CS: I would point to my athleticism. I’m more athletic than people think I am. I’m a bigger guy at 270-275 pounds, so people don’t always expect me to move as well as I do. I plan to put on a show during my Pro Day on March 30th [editor’s note: Interview was completed on March 13th]. Stay tuned for that.
JM: You were at the Senior Bowl back in January. What do you think is the impression you left on the teams in Mobile?
CS: I think I answered a bunch of questions and checked a bunch of boxes. It was a big opportunity for me, especially because I didn’t play at a Power Five school. I needed to prove that I could hold my own at that level. That’s exactly what I did. I showcased my versatility as well. I moved all over the D-line and played a variety of positions. I think I had a really good week. I showed that my game will translate well to the next level.
JM: You had a great week there. You also met with every team in person at the Senior Bowl. You’ve been meeting with teams virtually since then. How is that process going for you?
CS: The process is going well. A handful of teams have reached out to me again since the Senior Bowl. I’ve been in constant communication with several NFL teams. I’m meeting with coaches and scouts. In some cases, the GM has been in the meeting as well. It’s a great process. I’m thankful to be in this position.
JM: That’s great to hear. You had a great week at the Senior Bowl and you proved yourself against the best of the best. Somebody is still going to call you a “small school” prospect at some point throughout this process. How do you typically respond to that?
CS: It goes back to what my high school coach taught me. I control what I can control. Whatever somebody else thinks of me is out of my control. I’m just gonna keep working hard. I think I answered that question at the Senior Bowl. That’s how I approach that.
JM: That’s the perfect way to handle that question. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what kind of impact is Cameron Sample gonna make at the next level?
CS: I’m gonna be a guy that comes in and gets along with everybody in the locker room. I’m going to develop that chemistry with my teammates. The organization is going to be proud of me.
I wanna win a Super Bowl. Whichever team drafts me, we’re gonna work together to reach a Super Bowl. That’s what you’re getting from me.