This year has been dubbed the year of the running back in Florida. Derrick Henry of Yulee and Kelvin Taylor of Belle Glade Glades Day have gotten all the hype.
But there is a little-known player at Lake Mary Prep who is tearing it up this season, and the interest of college recruiters is likely starting to perk up as Jeremiah Sams keeps putting up big numbers.
Yeah, you thought I was going to say Ray Lewis III, right? While Li’l Ray is no slouch when it comes to putting up rushing numbers — he has 814 yards rushing this season — Sams has taken the Griffins to new levels and coach Buck Gurley’s team is likely headed toward an unbeaten regular season if things keep going right. (Yes, Agape, I know, they have to beat you guys.)
“I feel everything is going great. We’re not expecting anything less than to go all the way,” Sams said this weekend, coming off a big win over defending Class 2A, District 4 champion Lakeland Victory Christian on Friday night, a game in which Sams ran for 105 yards. “Me and my teammates we can make it happen.”
Friday’s game puts Sams at 1,454 yards, the 2nd-best total in the state this season, behind only Yulee’s Henry (1,954) and just ahead of Glades Day’s Taylor (1,303). That’s right, the Alabama commit Henry and the Florida commit Taylor.
“I looked that up the other day and I was surprised. ... I was like, ‘Whoa,’” Sams said. “I gotta give all the thanks to God because without him none of it would be possible. I just take it all in stride.”
Henry and Taylor sounds like an exclusive men’s clothing store. Sams Club, however, is setting up shop next door.
Sams may seem like the poor man’s version of the elite rushers, so to speak, bringing to the table his lone college offer from little ol’ Conference USA also-ran Memphis. This 6-foot, 200-pound star, however, is no blue-light special. He’s legit and some college is going to get a huge steal in the end.
“So far, the coaches are trying to get more schools looking at me, but I’ll just wait and play the season out and see what happens,” said Sams.
Sams said there hasn’t been any issues with him coming in and sort of stealing the limelight away from Lewis III, who himself has already committed to play at Miami, where his dad and current Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis II was a star.
“It feels great to play alongside Ray,” Sams said. “He’s a very good teammate and we do what we can to help each other out on the field.”
Sams was at The Swamp on Saturday on an unofficial visit, taking in the Gators' victory over LSU. He said he got a chance to talk to coaches briefly and he kind of got the impression that if the Gators somehow wound up needing a running back late in the 2013 recruiting season, and things worked out just right, it's possible that UF could reach out.
For now, however, he's not going to hold his breath. He has plenty to concentrate on with LMP vying for a district title.
Sams said he almost transferred to Lake Mary Prep for his junior season, but he got cold feet. This season, however, he decided to go ahead and make the move. He still drives in from Eustis every day, meeting teammate Josh Parker in Sorrento to carpool the rest of the way to Lake Mary.
During a preseason Sentinel photo shoot in Lake County, football players were asked to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions on the form asked, “Who is the best player in Central Florida?” Most of the Eustis players all had the same answer: Jeremiah Sams.
“It was definitely tough [to transfer] because ... you know, they’re my teammates. I was born and raised in Eustis,” said Sams, an annual 1,000-yard rusher when he was with Eustis. “But I wanted a change and I had to make a decision.
“I still talk to them every Friday night about our games to find out how everything went.”
He may get a chance to go see his old teammates this week. Eustis has its rival game at Mount Dora on Friday and Sams might be able to attend since Lake Mary Prep is idle this week.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun