When people think of the free safety position, they picture images of Ed Reed flying around the field laying huge hits on wide receivers and making game changing interceptions. Images of Troy Polamalu’s long hair picking and choosing his spots and coming up with huge plays immediately come to the forefront.
Lost in all of the flash of these men is the hard work and dedication that goes into playing the position, but it is not lost on Springfield College’s Sam Weiss. The junior has taken to the position as naturally as one could hope and has been one of the biggest impact players in 2012.
At Springfield, the free safety is more than just an athletic playmaker in the defensive backfield. It is the responsibility of the free safety to get the defense set up every play which makes him what is essentially the quarterback of the defense.
“Coach [Mike] DeLong said it best, I ‘have to put what is in Coach [Jack] Holik’s head on the field,’” said Weiss. “It’s almost like I study as much for coverage as I do for class.”
All of that extra studying has paid off, as Weiss has been one of the Pride’s biggest playmakers on defense. Through four games, the junior has two interceptions, two fumble recoveries — as well as two forced fumbles — and 22 total tackles.
Helping aid Weiss in settling into his position is the man who held that position for the past two years: wide receivers coach, James Kikel. A 2012 graduate, Kikel led the team in tackles with 105 total stops last season to go with two interceptions.
“Sam has definitely progressed a lot this year,” said Kikel. “He is just more familiar with the defense and has done a great job of getting everyone aligned. He already has two interceptions, and the season is still young.”
Weiss’ improvement has been steady from week-to-week, and you can see him getting more and more familiar with identifying the other team’s sets with every snap. In Saturday’s win over Rochester, Weiss led the way with seven unassisted tackles and one impressive interception.
With Rochester driving – and trailing 37-7 – Yellow Jackets quarterback Dean Kennedy tried to force one to his receiver on a fourth-and-seven, but Weiss jumped in front of the ball, closing beautifully from behind the target. The ensuing 45-yard return gave the Pride the field position they needed to punch in a dagger touchdown run by Joel Altavesta.
“The pressure on the quarterback has definitely helped the most,” said Weiss of his ability to make plays. “The turnovers have been coming off of blitzes and the D-line and linebackers getting in there. It’s been good.”
While Weiss may be quick to deflect the praise to the men in the trenches, his play has not been lost on Kikel or DeLong. While both coaches do not work specifically with the defensive backs, the impact he makes on the field is too great to ignore.
“His comfort level has definitely helped with some of our defensive backs,” said Kikel. “With [Jason Woods] injured, we have a new corner in Brian Staub, and while he’s a senior, it’s his first year playing corner for us. He has a basic understanding of the position, but with Sam having his back it definitely helps.
“The position isn’t something you can ever really perfect, but Sam has been improving every single week.”
With the season already one-third over, Weiss is on pace to have a pretty impressive statistical season. However, unlike with Reed’s big hits and Polamalu’s hair, Weiss’ biggest impact comes before the play even starts.
And that is just fine with him.
Jimmy Kelley can be reached for comment at