A comical YouTube video posted in 2006 provided a foreshadowing scene for Stanford freshman walk-on WR Sam Knapp. While warming up for a pickup basketball game with some friends, Knapp can be seen donning a retro Cardinal jumpsuit.
“I think that was my dad’s,” Sam Knapp said. “I never knew it would be a sign of things to come.”
At that time, Knapp was a sophomore at Menlo-Atherton (Calif.) High School. He and his friends would get together for some fun times on the hardwood and even goofier times dressing for the occasion. As the jumpsuit comes off, Knapp’s mid-70’s collection of Daisy Dukes, knee-high socks, wristbands and a headband is unveiled.
Now three years later, Knapp has his own Stanford athletics attire, putting on a Cardinal football jersey as a walk-on wide receiver.
Knapp’s father, Ted, was an All-American swimmer at Stanford from 1978-81. He has served as the Associate Head Coach for the men’s swim team for six years. Knapp’s father was an exceptional athlete literally submerged in sports, but never pressed his son into being something he didn’t want to be.
“My dad actually didn’t push anything at all,” Knapp said. “Swimming was his whole life so he didn’t want to force me into that just because he did it. He let me do whatever I wanted. I swam when I was young, but I gave that up… which wasn’t too hard to do.”
While Knapp’s parents didn’t suffocate him in sports, his father’s and mother’s [Laurie, also a Stanford graduate] affiliation to the area and University provided an influence on where their son would ultimately continue his education.
“Being local I’ve grown up a Stanford fan and have always gone to all of the games,” Knapp said. “I have always dreamed of going here so once the recruiting began I was thrilled that Stanford was interested. I was definitely happy to take the pre-walk-on offer.”
Knapp was a three-sport athlete at Menlo-Atherton, earning varsity letters in football, baseball and basketball. He compiled 95 receptions, 1,863 yards and 19 touchdowns during his three years as a receiver. Knapp also played safety and recorded four interceptions during his senior season. During his tenure at M.A., Knapp was a two-time First Team Peninsula Athletic League selection and helped the Bears capture back-to-back PAL Bay Division championships in 2007 and 2008.
Scout.com ranked Knapp as one of the top-40 wide receivers in California his senior season and he was listed in the same tier as Brian Owusu – the younger brother of Cardinal sophomore wideout Chris Owusu. Knapp said the transition from high school to college football has been filled with learning curves.
“It’s been a lot different than high school obviously – everyone is bigger, faster and stronger,” he said. “It’s been an adjustment, but the coaches are trying to tell us what we need to do to get better and it has been helpful.”
There are a few technical areas Knapp is focusing on in hopes of getting on the playing field as soon as he can.
“I would like to improve my routes, make them more precise,” he stated. “I also want to improve my speed so I know I have to get into the weight room.”
Like most true freshmen on a BCS football team, Knapp’s expectations of playing this season are in check. He admits that he could see limited to zero action on the field this year, but has a solid game plan to expedite the process.
“I think all freshmen have to realize that playing time isn’t going to be like it was in high school,” said Knapp. “You’re going to have to work really hard to crack the special teams unit. Everyone has to have the attitude that if they work hard and try to make themselves better, good things will come out of it.”
While Knapp hasn’t broken out any of his old-school basketball wears for his new teammates yet, he said he may get the opportunity at some point down the road.
“I know the team has a lot of pickup basketball games going on throughout the year, so that’s definitely going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “There are a couple of guys who also play on the baseball team, so hopefully I can throw the ball around with them sometime.
“It’s a great group of guys. They are really receptive and welcoming to everyone. Once you are here, you are part of the team. There’s no rite of passage you have to go through. They see you are putting in the time, so they respect that.”
One can only hope there won’t be any unfavorable foul calls during the pickup games. As evidenced by the final frames of Knapp’s one minute of YouTube fame (2,865 hits and counting), he doesn’t take bad calls very well.
“We didn’t have any referees so we would call our own fouls and I obviously disagreed with something they called. I didn’t know they were filming that video.”
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