Sample and Pratt Meet Again

Zac Taylor with his second- and third-rounders.
Zac Taylor with his second- and third-rounders.

Now we know why new Bengals tight end Drew Sample has those "unbelievable feet,' that club radio analyst Dave Lapham has been raving about during his relentless video watch in this draft.

Sample was a hockey player for ten years before making football his top priority. He was a center and right winger, but says he learned more off the ice than on it during his first four years in the sport playing for a former pro.

"Looking back on it I learned a lot. Learned professionalism," Sample said after Saturday's media gathering at Paul Brown Stadium. "At (ages) 10 and 12. Little things. I look back and say, 'Wow, that's pretty cool.' Wearing a tie to games. We used travel to games, so you learned how to act in public. How to eat before games, hydrating."

Fans of Lapham know he's big on feet.

"Any athletic endeavor starts with the feet and ends with the hands," he reiterated Saturday. "He's got good finish. I can see why they thought he was the best blocking tight end in the draft. You have to set the edge and this kid sets the edge."

TEAMMATES: Sample and third-round pick Germaine Pratt go way back. Before they trained together at a San Diego facility, Pratt, the North Carolina State linebacker, swears they matched up in a coverage drill when they played on the same team at the Senior Bowl.

"All I know is he's a good player," said Sample, who's not so sure. "It's cool. I was glad he was coming here."

Here's another guy that's happy that he's on Pratt's team again. N.C. State QB Ryan Finley, the Bengals' first pick in the fourth round. It's believed to be the first time since two picks in the 2007 seventh round that the Bengals went back-to-back with players from the same school: Notre Dame guard Dan Santucci and safety Chinedum Ndukwe.

"One thing people don't know about Pratt is that he's extremely intelligent," Finley said. "He watches more film than any player I've ever been around, and it's not even close. It's really not even close. It'd be so frustrating in practice because he'd be calling out our plays before we even ran them. He already knew what was coming. He's very intelligent, athletic, fast, and he's just aggressive. In my opinion, he's exactly what you'd want in a linebacker. On top of that, he's very smart."

NO TEARS: Pratt not only looks like a linebacker, but he acts like one. Even though his mother and grandmother wept when the call came, he didn't. He says he doesn't cry.

"My mama cried a lot," Pratt said when the call came from the Bengals.

Pratt's not a machine, though. He said the last time he cried was last year when his other grandmother died. He wears a praying hands chain around his neck that reminds him how she raised him in the church. He says he was raised by women in High Point, N.C., and his mother, Shameka Blair, works two jobs, at a Waffle House and as an aide for the disabled.

He always knew he was going to be a linebacker even though he went to Raleigh as a safety. He enrolled early and after a semester he started spring ball at 230 pounds.

"I didn't eat three meals a day at home," Pratt said. "Not like that with all those carbs and protein."

SIGNIFICANT NUMBER; One of the more remarkable careers in Bengals history appeared to end Saturday when Pratt surfaced at the news conference with No. 57. For the previous nine seasons that's the number that belonged to Vincent Rey, a college free agent from Duke that became a special teams staple while playing the fifth most games by a Bengals linebacker with 128, 50 of them starts. He also played five post-season games and started two. No. 57 was bequeathed to him by his mentor Dhani Jones. No. 57 was also worn by the most prolific Bengals linebacker of all time and a member of the First 50 players. Reggie Williams played 14 seasons and started both Super Bowls.

FAMILY MATTERS: Sample is not only a gamer, so is his wife, Angelique. They both red-eyed it from Seattle once the pick was in and they arrived at 5:50 a.m. Saturday. Their first baby, Olivia Rose, is arriving Sept. 20, two days before the game in Buffalo. What's nice is that his first NFL game is in Seattle two weeks earlier. Since he grew up in Bellevue, Wash., 17 minutes from Seattle on I-90, Angelique says she knows no one is giving up any tickets.

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