Sports Spotlight: New Bern’s Sampson shows hard work pays off, Florida State commit is primed for big senior year

KJ to 100% after breaking wrist bone junior season
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 8:27 PM EDT
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NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - New Bern football picked to win the Big Carolina Conference on Monday. They have one of the top players in the country ready to star for them again on defense, K.J. Sampson. We feature him in this week’s Pepsi Sports Spotlight.

“My grandad played a big part of me getting into football. He was a big football guy,” says New Bern senior K.J. Sampson, “He just told me whatever I do, just do it to the best of my abilities.”

Keith Sampson Junior, or KJ to most, took that advice and ran with it. He’s transformed into one of the top defense linemen in the nation.

“Big, happy kid. Really don’t have to many bad things to say about K.J. he just works his butt off all the time. He just tries to be a great leader for our guys. He works out all the time so our guys want to work out with him,” says New Bern head coach Torrey Nowell, “High academic kid too. He could probably go to some Ivy League schools too if he wanted to. Because he just works that hard in the classroom.”

The work made him on of the top recruits in the nation getting offers from major football schools like Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson.

“The recruitment process, I enjoyed it but sometimes it got stressful,” says Sampson, “Making sure you stay on top of football, stay on top of classes, and stay in contact with all the coaches. Make sure you take your visits. It is like a lot of for a 15,16, 17 year old kid.”

K.J. relied on his family (he is one of five siblings). He sorted out what is best for him and before senior year starts he committed to Florida State.

“It just felt like home,” says K.J., “As soon as I got on campus the second day, March 5, the 2nd day I was like this is the place to be and that’s when I made my decision.”

Sampson led the Bears last year with seven sacks and 25 quarterback hurries but junior season did not live up to expectations.

“I fractured my scaphoid bone in my wrist. I ended up got a hard cast that same week and ended up playing. That week after I went and had surgery. I was out for two weeks,” says Sampson, “I got a hard cast back on and went back to playing. Then went back and had therapy after the season.”

Better now, it’s senior year and his focus is on two things... getting after quarterbacks and getting the Bears to the state finals

“Make sure our defense is on point with everything. Make sure that our guys are ready at all times,” says K.J., “We don’t have any drop downs for anybody.”

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