December 16, 2013

Q&A with Tulane safety Sam Scofield

Earlier this week, safety Sam Scofield gave a very frank interview about his time at Tulane, covering, among other things, the freak nerve injury that affected his performance last year, his feelings about his time under Bob Toledo, his high regard for DB coach Jason Rollins and the confidence the defense is playing with this season?

It's well worth your time checking this out, and these are only excerpts of the 28-minute interview.

What are your thoughts on not making it anywhere on the coaches' All-Conference USA team?

"I was pretty upset at first, but honestly I'm over it. I guess I didn't get any interceptions."

Were you close friends with ULL center Andre Huval at St. Thomas More?

"We were. We still keep in touch. Andre is probably the best offensive lineman in our high school's history, and he's had a great career at UL-L. We were good friends. He was a year older than me, but he was definitely someone to talk to. When I was a junior, he was one of the leaders of the team. Everybody respected him."

Do you still keep in contact?

"Every now and then we'll text each other, but we definitely keep up through social media. Twitter and stuff."

Did you talk during the game last year?

"Actually, when I had that interception (the first in Scofield's career) he actually tackled me, so he gave me some crap for that. We talked after the game, and Andre's a great guy. I'll enjoy playing against him in the New Orleans Bowl."

We've talked about in the past, but can you go over your shoulder problem last year? I don't think people realize how limited you were.

"I got a stinger, and it was a bad stinger because it ended up getting a nerve in my neck so that my right deltoid, this whole muscle right here, was inactive. It was just dead, and it was dead for a couple of weeks. I couldn't lift my arm. It takes a long time for the nerve to heal, so I was getting a little better, a little better and honestly it took five months for it to be completely normal. Until this day I'm still kind of week in certain movements, but it was just a long, long injury and it was just that my muscle was inactive and very weak."

Did it take a while for the team's medical staff to get it diagnosed?

"They knew. What happened was when you get a stinger it usually goes away, and it didn't go away. I woke up the morning after the Tulsa game and couldn't lift my arm. They were like, oh oh, and they started saying all these nerves, and it didn't really get much better that week, so they were like, it's going to be a really slowly progressing injury and some nerve connecting to your deltoid is what got messed up."

How did you return as quickly as you did?

"It was like four weeks before we played ULL. Whenever we went to play UL, I was I have to play, I'm playing my hometown team. I ended up playing, but the coaches took me out. I kind of had a natural I wouldn't say limp, but one shoulder was higher than the other because it was so dead, so they really thought I was hurting when I really wasn't. "

How much did it hurt every time you tried to make a tackle?

"I wouldn't say it hurt that bad, but it was just weak. I had no strength in my right shoulder. I just lied a little bit because I really wanted to play."

When did it finally get back to normal?

"It was the end of the spring when we were working out. There were certain lifts with bands that I couldn't do, and I started to feel I could do them now and my shoulder was pretty much healed. So I just had to do certain lifts and movement in the weight room."

How high was your frustration level?

"It's very frustrating because nerves take forever to heal. Early this spring I still couldn't lift the weight I wanted to. It was terribly frustrating."

When exactly did the injury happen?

"It was almost the very end of the game. They had a backup quarterback in and he was running at the 10-yard line and he ran straight into the end zone, and I hit him good, but I hit him with the ball of my shoulder, and it just felt like a stinger. I didn't realize it wasn't until the plane ride. It was hurting really bad."

How pleased are you with the way the defense has played this year?

"I'm satisfied, but I know that in some situations I could have played a lot better. Especially like early in the season, it wasn't my first time starting, but I was kind of timid and scared maybe to play, but as I saw our defense and realized how good we were and that I could make more plays and other people - if I ran a naked play, people would be there to back me up. It was just different than last year."

How confident is the defense right now, particularly after you saw what Rice did to Marshall the week after you held the Owls to a season low on the ground?

"We're feeling as confident as we've ever been. Rice was tough to watch. Even their touchdown they got, they got the ball at the 10-yard line. But UL has a really good offense. They have a really good quarterback, a really good running back. They are going to be tough, but if we just prepare well and play the way we've been playing for the last seven, eight, nine weeks, we'll do our part. We're playing than I've ever played on a defense in high school or whatever. Every position group is doing their part."

How frustrating is it to have not won the division the way the defense has played?

"It was tough because I felt like we played about as well as we could play, but at the same time there were certain plays. I could have had an interception. There were just little plays that could have even improved our performance even more and definitely would have made us win. We just have to think about it as we have to make all of the plays, not just some of them."

You made the wrong decision for what you felt like was the right reason on UTSA's long pass play that set up its game-winning field goal, taking the guy running inside as the guy running to the outside broke free. Is that your biggest regret of the season?

"I definitely regret that play. It just happened so quick, and I felt like the guy I went to was the bigger threat because they had never run two verticals like that all game. I wanted to protect the seams. I definitely regret that. I wish I would just played 40 yards deep and played in the middle of both receivers so they wouldn't have had anything, but yeah, I still can't believe we lost that game."

What do you consider your best strength?

"I'd say it's just kind of knowing what the team is going to do. That just comes from practice and watching film. If they get in a certain formation, I'm the down safety. I know that their either going to have this, that or a pass. I feel like I have a bead on what a team is going to do before it happens. I don't know if that's the reason why I got 18 tackles against Tulsa. Really understanding an offense and what they do in certain situations is I'd say my strength. It's definitely my speed or strength. I'd say it's a little more my head."

Your grandfather played at Tulane, but what was the primary reason you picked Tulane?

"He played like one or two years but he had an injury. I came to Tulane because the main thing was Tulane was a lot better school than some of the other offers I had -all the in-state schools and Rice was actually recruiting me really hard, but I had committed to Tulane so they backed off. My ultimate decision, I would have been Tulane or Rice if Rice had offered. I like this city, and I liked coach (Bob) Toledo honestly. I never expected him to get fired. I'd say I came here because of the proximity to home, it was a good school and I really liked the coaches at the time, especially coach (Jason) Rollins, who's still here."

What was your reaction to Toledo getting fired?

"After the first couple of games, I was like it needs to happen. It was horrible. I've never felt that way in my life. I don't know about the offensive side of the ball but the defensive side of the ball, there was a lot of finger pointing and we weren't too fond of our defensive coordinator at the time."

Was it that bad?

"It was bad. Toward the couple games in, coaches started to act differently because they knew they were about to be fired. Offensively, I don't' know what was going on. It was just really bad on both sides of the ball."

So when they did get fired, was there almost a sense of relief?

"It was, but at the same time it was like a reality shock, we don't have a coach. I still remember that day when everybody got fired. It was crazy. I felt like we didn't get a coach for two months. It took forever."

How long did it take to get comfortable with the new staff?

"I think during spring practice, workouts, they were all screaming at us, trying to get us in shape but by spring practice, I really got to know all the coaches and I don't have a problem with any of them. I think they are great coaches."

You said you really liked coach Rollins. What is about him that makes players enjoy playing for him?

"He's probably the best coach I've ever had in my life. He's a player's coach. He's always going to take our side to a degree , he's someone who talks to us off the field whether it's advice or just to talk to, he's just a great guy. He's like one of us. Everybody hangs out in his office, all positions. It just shows he's really social, he's a really good guy."

How special is this year after all the losing you experienced in the first two years?

"The first two years were virtually the same-just horrible. This year, it's kind of a shock just because it's so different. But It's really special because I hadn't had a losing record my whole life in football and then I cometo Tulane and it's almost like you forgot how to win and now we're starting to realize (how to win)."

Is the hardest step remembering how to win?

"Exactly. Remembering and being confident, whether it's late in a game or we're up by a touchdown. I think we've done really well this year at winning close games."

When did you know that the upbeat preseason predictions we hear every year would actually bear out this season?

"I'm not going to lie…When we lost to South Alabama, I was scared. I was like Oh my God. It was bad.. It was horrible on defense. That's probably the last time we played really bad on defense. But after that game, I was pretty worried."

When did you start feeling better?

"I would say probably UL Monroe (was when things turned) because we lost to Syracuse, we were 2-2 and this was the make-or-break point to stay above .500. We came out and I know on defense we played an outstanding game. We should have had a shutout. It was probably that game because we knew how good UL Monroe was last year and they killed us last year so after that game is probably when I realized we can definitely go to a bowl game. It was a pretty frightening beginning stretch of the season. When we beat UL Monroe I was like, we can do this."

How many people do you know on the ULL team?

Really good friends? I'd say two or three. I know of about 15 because we played on different high school teams in the area. But I know so many kids who go there, I know so many coaches. I know almost all their fans."

Is this the Sam Scofield Bowl?

"Oh yeah. It's really weird especially since the last two years I've gone to the New Orleans Bowl and I've been with and cheered for UL, I was with my friends but now we're like playing against each other."

Can you compare coach Hudspeth to CJ?

"Both are great coaches, I just think Coach Hud is more intense. I can see him leading the workouts but CJ is more different. … CJ is a lot less intense but CJ is also very knowledgeable. He has tons of experience so we just listen to him and follow him whatever he tells us to do."

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