Recent University of Virginia football commit Sam Brady boasts an impressive combination of size and athletic ability. The 6’4”, 200-pound rising senior shined in Charlotte this April, when he posted 40-yard dash times of 4.62 and 4.68 seconds, agility drill times of 4.26 and 4.35 seconds, and vertical leaps of 37.4 and 37.4 inches at The Opening Combine and The Opening Regional events.
Sam Brady – 119.25 pic.twitter.com/6RinG4tMxW
— The Opening (@TheOpening) April 28, 2019
Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall knows exactly where he wants to utilize the North Lincoln (Lincolnton, N.C.) rising senior’s talents, and it’s at outside linebacker. Spearheading Brady’s recruitment is Cavalier Co-Defensive Coordinator and Outside Linebackers Coach Kelly Poppinga, whose consistent interest is part of the reason why the Tar Heel State standout decided to commit to the Hoos shortly after the June 17 one-day camp in Charlottesville.
“It feels really good,” Brady said of being a Virginia Cavalier.
“I’ve been talking to Coach Poppinga for a long time. They offered me a month before camp, a while before, and so I got to talk to my family a lot about it. My parents really liked it a lot. I had [Virginia] up there as a top choice. Checking out the campus and seeing how the staff was … I liked the campus a lot, I liked the coaching staff a lot. After camp, I talked to Coach Mendenhall. After we talked, I made my decision.”
During the post-camp conversation, Coach Mendenhall let Brady know that he was high on Virginia’s 2020 wish list.
“He said he wanted me there because out of all the people I was one of his top choices,” Brady said. “Hearing that from him, I felt welcome and special. I didn’t get that any other place.”
Brady says he and Coach Poppinga speak with each other on a weekly basis.
“I really enjoyed talking to him,” Brady said. “He was the only one to keep in contact and communicate with me like that.”
Brady’s scholarship offer was not contingent upon a quality camp performance, although he did participate in UVA’s June 17 camp at the request of the coaches, who wanted to work him out at outside linebacker. The Cavalier coaches liked what they saw.
“Coach Mendenhall said he liked how I could play all over,” Brady said. “I’m athletic enough to be able to rush the passer since I play strong safety. There at the camp, I got to do it all.”
Brady started at wide receiver and strong safety his junior season. He played some inside linebacker his freshman year and has some linebacker-type responsibilities as a strong safety. Still, he admittedly has little experience at linebacker, so when he arrives on Grounds he’ll be learning a brand new position. He’s excited about his future, though.
“I really like it,” Brady said of outside linebacker. “I got to watch some film with Coach Poppinga before camp. He showed me a lot of how they use the outside linebackers, how the defense is sort of formed around them. It’s interesting because I usually play safety, so I don’t rush the quarterback a lot in high school.”
Poppinga wanted to see Brady rush the passer at camp. Without much pass rushing technique to fall back on, the standout athlete utilized his physical skills to get by offensive linemen. Brady feels he did well and said Coach Poppinga thought his pass-rushing performance was “amazing.”
A 3-sport athlete at North Lincoln, Brady was part of the track and varsity baseball state championship-winning teams this past year. Football, though, is his favorite sport as well as the sport in which he drew college interest. Since stepping onto the gridiron for the first time his freshman year, Brady has loved football.
“It has been a dream of mine since I started playing football in high school,” Brady said of playing major college football. “My mom didn’t want me exposed to the hard hitting until I got to high school, so I didn’t play until then. When I finally did play, I loved it, and she started to like it, too.”
Brady received interest from other high-major schools such as Duke, NC State, South Carolina and Wake Forest. The Blue Devils and Wolfpack expressed heavy interest in Brady as a potential tight end. Virginia, however, was the only one to come through with a scholarship offer at the time of his commitment. Most importantly, it was also his clear top choice.
“Virginia, I had them as the top one and was always thinking about them,” said Brady, who also considered scholarship offers from U-Mass, Furman, Wofford and William & Mary. “I really liked the camps at Duke and South Carolina, but Virginia was still on top.”
“I one-hundred percent want to go to Virginia,” Brady continued.
The opportunity to get a Virginia education appealed to Brady, who is an excellent student who carries a 4.35 GPA, as well as his parents.
“My parents really liked the academics there,” Brady said. “Virginia is known for its academics. It’s in the top three public schools every year. If I can go get one of the best educations in the country and play football, that’s great. The coaches said if anything ever happens, like an injury, I still have the education to fall back on.”
Brady is interested in mechanical engineering and was able to speak to professors while he was in Charlottesville.