By Daniel Hill
As a fifth-year senior, Baylor receiver Lanear Sampson has witnessed the transformation of Baylor football first-hand. From the 2008 season when the Bears went 4-8 in head coach Art Briles’ first season to winning 10 games and being Alamo Bowl champs, Sampson has helped usher in a new era of Baylor football.
Under Baylor’s historic offense, Sampson has 136 receptions for 1,570 yards.
“We’re still working,” Sampson said. “We haven’t accomplished our main goal as far as a Big 12 championship. That’s what we’re working on this year. I tried to come here and do big things, and I feel like we have. I hope we keep improving.”
With Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese, Sampson helps form one of the best receiving corps in the nation. In fact, this might be Baylor’s best receiving corps ever with four career 1,000 yard receivers in Williams, Reese, Sampson and Darryl Stonum.
“That’s tough, especially with the receiving corps we had two years ago with Josh (Gordon) and Kendall (Wright) and all those receivers we’ve had over the years here,” Sampson said. “I feel like over the years we’ve had some great receivers here.”
As a senior, he has taken a strong position as a mentor to the younger players.
“I feel like I’ve always been working hard and putting in the work since I’ve been here,” Sampson said. “I try to lead the best way I can, especially being a senior. The young guys kind of look up to the seniors as far as the receiving group goes. It’s just about setting a good example for the young ones.”
With Baylor’s high-octane aerial attack, it’s easy to see why Briles has had success recruiting talented receivers to play in his spread offense.
“It’s definitely a recruiting thing,” Sampson said. “It’s a wide-open offense, and you know Coach Briles sets up playmakers to make plays. He’s doing very well at recruiting as far as receivers go, so it’s been good.”
This season, Briles is looking to get Sampson more involved in the offense, and it shows. Last season, Sampson had 42 catches, this season he already has 23 and is on pace for 69 receptions.
“A lot of our coaching philosophy toward him might have contained him a little bit in the past, and that’s something we don’t feel like we need to do now,” Briles said. “Now what we’ve done is we’ve set him free. I want him playing fearless, I want him walking on the edge, I want him erring on the side of a mistake in order to make the great play.”
If any two words could be used to describe Sampson’s Baylor career, it would be dependable and consistent.
“I’m a very team-oriented person,” Sampson said. “I’ll do whatever for the team to win. I try to be consistent during the weight room sessions, workouts in spring football, summer workouts and watching film. Doing the little things is what makes you good. I’m just trying to be consistent in all I do.”
Aside from football, Sampson treasures his faith in God and his family.
“Faith and family is real big for me,” Sampson said. “I feel like you can do anything when you have God on your side. I feel like that’s always been a big plus in my life. As far as having God in my life and whatever I do, I make sure I give him the glory. As far as when I do something good or bad on the football field or even when things are not going well, I still give him the glory because he put me in this position.”
Sampson doesn’t just profess his faith through words; he also lives it out through his actions. He has gone to Africa twice with Baylor Sports Ministry to witness and share his faith with others.
“I feel like every student-athlete that has the opportunity to come to Baylor should go to Africa,” Sampson said. “It really kind of turned my life around. I didn’t really expect to go out of the country in college, but at the same time I had to do it. It’s so much different over there. You learn not to take certain things for granted. You realize how materialistic we are over here. As far as how picky we are, we want this or we want that, but over there, they don’t get the opportunity for all of that. For them, it’s ‘we have to eat this.’ I feel like they depend on God for everything and over here we kind of, like I said, there’s so much going on over here that we don’t depend on God as much as we should. That really caught my eye when I went to Africa.”
After spending five years at Baylor as a redshirt senior, Sampson has learned many life lessons and is grateful to his teammates, family and friends for having a positive impact on his life.
“I feel like my mom has probably been the biggest influence on my life,” Sampson said. “She always keeps me humble. That’s my mom, and I’m a momma’s boy. I feel like she’s really kept me on the right track. Since I’ve been here, when Terrance Ganaway came over, he’s kind of been a big influence on my life too. He influenced me to be the guy that I am today, and he’s really been through a lot of adversity. He’s kind of always been there for me.”
Sampson has experienced every spectrum of emotion while at Baylor, but he thinks the best is yet to come.
“I really want to thank the Baylor fans and Baylor nation for the support you guys have been showing us through the years, and I hope we can keep it up,” Sampson said. “I hope we can do big things this year.”