When asked what he'll look forward to most Friday when he plays in his first game of the 2019 high school football season, Antoine Sampah smiled first. And then he answered.
“I’m ready to hit to somebody and make a point,” the Woodbridge senior linebacker and LSU commit said Thursday as the Vikings prepared for a Cardinal District game at Potomac. “I’m tired of not being on the field.”
Sampah, rated the No. 1 recruit in Virginia by Rivals for the class of 2020 and the nation’s 27 overall recruit, missed the Vikings (2-2) first four games as he recovered from ACL surgery Jan. 17 on his right knee.
In the Vikings’ eighth regular-season game of 2018, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Sampah hurt himself while carrying the ball in the third quarter Oct. 19 against Colgan. After being tackled, his right leg got stuck behind him as he fell to the ground.
Sampah hoped for an earlier return, but wasn’t ready yet. There was no purpose in rushing him back, but Sampah battled the urge to push himself prematurely.
This week he began practicing in pads and participating in full-contact drills.
“I understood why,” Sampah said about the decision to hold him out until this week. “But I felt like I was 100 percent.”
Woodbridge head coach Gary Wortham said Sampah’s return to practice lifted the team’s spirits.
“It’s been different all week,” Wortham said. “There’s an energy among the kids and an urgency.”
Wortham said he praised Sampah’s patience.
“Getting him back to this point has been very structured,” Wortham said. “He’s in the best shape of his life.”