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Player Interview: Offensive Lineman Sam Hahn

Sam Hahn Sam Swartz via Flickr

NFL

Sam Hahn, Offensive Lineman, University of Nebraska Cornhuskers

TSJ Sports had the opportunity to talk with offensive lineman Sam Hahn from the University of Nebraska, as he prepares for the 2017 NFL Draft. The Cornhuskers play in the NCAA Division I’s Big Ten Conference. Big Ten is the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the nation.

Sam was a four-year starter at Tri-County High School under Coach John McGary. He helped lead the team to four straight playoff appearances. After earning honorable-mention in his junior year, he was named first-team Class C-2 all-state as a senior.

University of Nebraska

An agronomy major, Hahn earned his bachelor’s degree in December 2016. He has earned numerous academic honors, including Academic All-Big Ten, Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award, and was named to the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll six times.

As a walk-on to the Cornhuskers football team in 2013, Hahn did not see game action. Over his next two seasons, he saw very limited action, appearing in only four games combined. In 2015, Hahn played on the punt and kicking units against both Purdue and Northwestern.

His senior year gave him the chance to play in all 13 games while making nine starts at guard. With Hahn’s help, Nebraska’s offensive line ranked among national leaders in protecting the passer. Only 15 sacks were allowed on the season. Athletically, he earned several accolades, including 2016 Walk-On of the Year, Brook Berringer Citizenship Team, and Tom Osborne Citizenship Team.

Q & A With Sam Hahn

Who did you look up to when you were growing up and how have they helped shape you into who you are now?

“When I was in grade school I looked up to a football player in high school at the time whose name is Randall Jantzen. He played at UNO and that is one of the reasons I started to really like football. Other than that I would say I look up to my dad the most. He has taught and shown me how to work hard and not let the bad times get the best of you.”

When did you begin playing football and why?

“In 5th grade my school started a midget football program, but I could not play because I was too big. So I just practiced in 5th and 6th grade. I started playing in junior high then. I played because I liked football, no other reason besides that.”

Are there any particular NFL players, past or present, that have influenced the way you play or that you aspire to perform like at the next level?

“There are many different NFL guys that you can take and learn something from. I choose to look at guys from Nebraska who played during my time there to look up to. Drafted guys like Spencer Long and Alex Lewis who have had success early in their careers. Then other guys like Brent Qvale, Jeremiah Sirles, and Zach Sterup who came from similar situations like me. Not getting drafted and earning their way in. There are also Matt Slauson who has been doing it a long time. All these guys except Alex come back to Lincoln to train in the offseason and I have learned a great deal already from them.”

Head Coach Mike Riley called you the “ultimate team player” when you moved from tackle to guard. How did that make you feel?

“When Coach Riley called me the “ultimate team player” I didn’t feel anything too much because that is what I try to be. In football it takes the whole team and no person is more important than the team. So you have to do whatever is necessary in order to help the team.”

Can you walk us through your journey from a walk-on to becoming the starter?

“I transferred from NDSU after my first semester of college because I was homesick and wanted to play for Nebraska. The following year I was ineligible and played exclusively on scout team. My third year I went to fall camp, but did not get the opportunities I was hoping for. I ended up playing scout team that year as well as traveling to about half the games. Saw some mop up duty time. After that year, we had a coaching change where things changed. I was on travel roster my junior year and played in 4 games on the field goal unit. Coming into my senior year I had some chances to compete for playing time at right tackle, but none that I thought were that great. We ended up having some injuries in fall camp and I was asked to play guard. The rest is kind of history after that.”

What, if anything, was the deciding point or event that led you to your transfer from North Dakota State to the University of Nebraska?

“Well I kind of answered that in my last question. But really it comes down to me being a 19-year-old kid who was not ready to be away from home. That and I always dreamed of playing for Nebraska along with being closer to the family farm.”

When you told your coaches that you would “do whatever the team needs” because you stated that it was “about the team, not about me”, did you think that it would mean completely changing the position that you played?

“I wouldn’t say that moving from tackle to guard is a complete change because it is still playing offensive line. Things are a little bit different, but the transition went alright. Also, when I told the coaches I would do whatever I was hoping they would move me to LG so that I would have a chance to play.”

Do you remain in touch with Landon Lechler today?

“Yes, Landon and I talk every week or every other week. Mostly through text or Snapchat. We have had fun talking about our games throughout the seasons, our farms, and the whole draft process. Landon and I became close in my short time at NDSU. Any team that picks him up will not be sorry.”

How much of a role does your background working on your family’s farm, your “pitch-in attitude”, play in your attitude and performance with your team?

“If you ask anyone who really knows me, they will tell you that my farming and rural Nebraska background is what shapes who I am. I believe in helping others and earning everything you get. Life on the farm can humble you quick just like football. I’ve tried to take the humble, hard-working mindset learned on the farm and bring it with me to my football career.”

You are considered to be a very reliable and stable player that is well-respected within the program. Has that had any direct impact on you personally or in how you handle situations on the field or in the locker room?

“I believe anytime you are relied upon it gives you an extra sense of self-worth, so you feel good about yourself. With all of that comes an added responsibility. It is important to use that position for the better by making others around you better. I believe I had the respect of my teammates even before I was thrust into a playing role. With that respect I believed it helped me hold others more accountable.”

You had stated that your family tried to get you to stick it out at North Dakota State, but they were happy that you were closer when you did go ahead with the transfer. How do they feel about you taking your game to the next level?

“I do not believe that the gap between FCS and FBS is as big as most people think it is. I knew if I could play at a program like NDSU I could likely play for a FBS team. The biggest thing for me would be finally getting reach my childhood dream of playing for Nebraska.”

Off the field, what has your preparation for the upcoming draft been?

“Since Pro Day, I have been working out 4 times a week. Mostly lifting and getting stronger, then throwing in some OL drills. Other than that, I’ve been trying to have a pretty good diet to lean up and keep weight on. After I work out in the mornings, I come home to the farm where there is all kinds of stuff going on. Lately it has been getting ready for planting and it is also calving season.”

What role have your coaches over the years played in you choosing to go to the next level?

“As you get older and move on from coach to coach I think you take something away from each coach you have. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some coaches I enjoyed a lot. My high school football coach, John McGary, taught us all a lot about a no excuse, old school, hard-nosed, and tough attitude that I have tried and stick to throughout my career. My coaches at Nebraska made me into a more refined football player and gave me the opportunity to play and a chance at the next level.”

If you were analyzing yourself as a player, what would you say your strengths are? Weaknesses?

“I would say my strengths are my versatility to play multiple positions, my coachability, and my willingness to learn and get better. My weaknesses are my strength, pad level, and hand carriage.”

You were an all-state player in high school and have received several accolades as a Husker; Academic All-Big Ten, Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award, 2016 Nebraska Walk-On of the Year, Brook Berringer Citizenship Team, Tom Osborne Citizenship Team. Do those honors put more pressure on you as a player or as a role model for kids and young players?

“I don’t feel pressure either way from those awards. They are things I have worked for in my life and I have been lucky enough to achieve them. Nobody will have higher expectations of me than myself on the field. As for the role model part, I just try to live the best way I know how and to my fullest ability.”

Do you see yourself as a role model to younger players?

“I have never viewed myself as a very big deal, so I do not see that as much. Some people say that I am, and I am fine either way. If kids want to look up to me and ask any questions, I am more than happy to take the time to help.”

If you could speak to the 32 NFL organizations, what message would you give them about what you would bring to an NFL team if selected?

“I would just say to them that they will get everything I have. I’m not the most talented or gifted guy, but I do things the right way. I show up, get my work done, and get better. I stay coachable and it is about the betterment of the team for me.”