No Texas Longhorn commits had a game as dramatic last week as their future team’s win over Iowa State. Not a single one of the team’s 17 commits who played last weekend took part in a game that was decided by less than ten points.
There should be some better matchups on tap for this week, and for the first time since very early in the season, nobody has a bye this weekend. A number of in-state commits are one win away from clinching a playoff spot, and three weeks remain in the state’s regular season. One out-of-state commit has already concluded his regular season and will play in his team’s state semifinal round playoff game on Saturday.
Among last week’s highlights for UT commits was Tre Wisner having his best game of the season, and his teammate Johntay Cook having an absolute monster game with over 200 yards receiving and a handful of touchdowns.
Only four commits are still undefeated in 2022, but some of the ones who lost games early in the season now seem poised for long playoff runs. Jamel Johnson, Hunter Moddon, Ryan Niblett, and Connor Stroh in particular are members of teams for whom a loss this week would greatly hurt their playoff chances.
This column has the lowdown on where each commit and their team stands as the regular season goes into its final three weeks, and what teams each of them will be playing against this week. As always, the start times listed for each game are according to their local time zone.
After you’ve read this week’s update on UT’s current commits, stay for a history lesson on a notable Longhorn tight end who preceded Ja’Tavion Sanders in Austin by over 40 years, one who was hailed in his time as the best tight end ever to play for the school, but is today unfairly forgotten by much of the 40-and-under crowd of Texas fans.
2023 QB Arch Manning — New Orleans (Louisiana) Isidore Newman
Last week: Bye
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, vs. Metairie Park (Louisiana) Country Day
Arch Manning took advantage of his team’s bye week to make the trip to Austin for last Saturday’s win over Iowa State. He was joined by a few teammates, including fellow Texas commit Will Randle.
Isidore Newman is 5-1 overall with three games remaining on its regular season schedule, all of which are district games. The Newman Greenies are the top-ranked team in this week’s LHSAA power ratings for Select Divsion III schools. On Friday they will host a Metairie Park Country Day team that is 4-3 overall for the season and rated 8th in Select Division III.
Louisiana’s taxonomy of regular season classifications (1A to 5A) and playoff divisions (Non-Select and Select Divisions I-IV) is a bit confusing, but Isidore Newman and the other three private schools in District 10-2A are all currently rated among the top ten out of the 34 teams in Select Division III.
2023 RB Cedric Baxter Jr. — Orlando (Florida) Edgewater
Last week: Did not play in a 23-13 win over Ocoee.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, vs. Winter Garden (Florida) Horizon
Cedric Baxter did not play in last week’s 23-13 win over Ocoee, as he had suffered what was later reported as a pulled hamstring in his team’s previous game, and it’s likely he won’t be suiting up again until the playoffs begin.
Edgewater is 8-0 for the season, and according to the power ratings on the website for the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) it is rated second overall in the state of Florida, and first out of the schools in the new 3M classification.
The Edgewater Eagles are 2-0 against district opponents and will play their final district game on Friday when they host the Horizon Hawks, who are 6-1 for the year but rated 21st out of the 64 teams in 3M.
2023 RB Tre Wisner — DeSoto
2023 WR Johntay Cook II — DeSoto
Last week: Tre Wisner had 14 carries for 134 yards and 1 TD, and 3 receptions for 36 yards; and Johntay Cook had 10 catches for 230 yards and 5 TDs in a 86-26 win over Mansfield Lake Ridge.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, vs. Cedar Hill
Johntay Cook had a career night in DeSoto’s blowout 86-26 win over Lake Ridge last week. His five touchdown receptions covered 37, 53, 55, 5, and 23 yards. He is featured in this post’s header photo standing next to Steve Sarkisian.
DeSoto scored early and often in building up a 35-6 lead over Lake Ridge going into the 2nd quarter. Cook scored his first two TDs in the 1st quarter and Tre Wisner added one on a 39-yard run, aided by a nice downfield block by Cook. Lake Ridge, which was set to receive the second half kickoff, fought back in the 2nd quarter and cut the deficit to 42-26 following a defensive TD scored with 2:07 left in the half. But DeSoto responded with three-play scoring drive that began with a 21-yard run by Wisner and ended with a 55-yard TD catch by Cook with 1:24 left on the clock.
DeSoto then poured it on even more by intercepting a Lake Ridge pass with 29 seconds remaining in the half, and three plays later a 5-yard TD pass to Cook made the score 56-26 with 12 seconds left before halftime.
After Lake Ridge punted on the opening possession of the 3rd quarter, Cook returned the punt 24 yards to give DeSoto a 1st down at the Lake Ridge 27-yard line, and three plays later he scored his fifth TD of the night to push the Eagles’ lead to 63-26. DeSoto added three more TDs and a field goal afterward to make the final score 86-26.
Tre Wisner also had his best game of the season, compiling 170 yards from scrimmage on 17 offensive touches, according to the Dallas Morning News’ box score for the game.
Tre Wisner’s highlights vs. Lake Ridge
Johntay Cook’s highlights vs. Lake Ridge
DeSoto is now 6-1 overall and 4-0 against district opponents, and the Eagles retain the #11 spot in this week’s Class 6A rankings. They are tied with 3rd-ranked Duncanville for the lead in District 11-6A, and those two teams will play next week.
This week DeSoto will face Cedar Hill in a south Dallas matchup that has been a hot ticket in recent years, but the Cedar Hill Longhorns have struggled mightily in 2022 and sport a record of 1-6. Cedar Hill lost each of its first six games this season by margins of 18 points or more, then got its first win last week by beating an even more downtrodden Dallas Skyline team 23-0. The team’s six losses are already the most it has had in any season since finishing 2-8 in 2002, the year before future Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire was promoted to Cedar Hill’s head coaching position and began a 14-season run in which he led the school to three state championships.
2024 WR Hunter Moddon — Houston Clear Lake
Last Week: Had one catch for 3 yards and made 5 tackles in a 38-7 loss to League City Clear Springs.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, at Dickinson
Clear Lake suffered its first district loss last week, falling by a 31-point margin to Clear Springs. The Falcons are 5-2 overall and 2-1 in district play. This puts the Falcons in a three-way tie for 2nd place in District 24-6A with Dickinson and Clear Falls, which also have 2-1 district records and will be Clear Lake’s next two opponents.
Friday’s opponent, the Dickinson Gators, sport an identical 5-2 overall record. Dickinson’s two losses were a 38-35 defeat to Clear Springs four weeks ago, and a 37-0 shutout in week one against Humble Atascocita, the current 7th-ranked team in Class 6A. Clear Lake has lost to Dickinson in four straight seasons, with each of those losses coming by 32 points or more.
Here are some of Hunter Moddon’s highlights from the first seven games of his junior season.
2023 WR Ryan Niblett — Aldine Eisenhower
Last week: Team lost to Spring Westfield 64-0.
This week: Thursday, October 20 at 7:00, vs. Aldine Davis
Eisenhower was blown out last week by Spring Westfield, the 12th-ranked team in Class 6A. This dropped Eisenhower to 2-5 overall and 2-2 in district play.
To make the playoffs the Eagles will have to win two of their three remaining games, which should be doable with their next two being against Aldine Davis and Aldine High, which are both near the bottom of the standings for District 14-6A.
2023 TE Will Randle — New Orleans (Louisiana) Isidore Newman
Tore ACL during a game on Sept. 16 and will miss the rest of the season.
2023 TE Spencer Shannon — Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei
Last week: Team beat Orange (California) Lutheran 48-16.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, at Rancho Santa Margarita (California)
Mater Dei remained perfect for the season at 8-0 after winning its 25th consecutive game last Friday by a 48-16 score over Orange Lutheran, which had a 6-1 record going into the game.
The Mater Dei Monarchs are now 3-0 in Trinity League play with two regular season games left to play. On Friday they will be on the road to play a 6-2 Santa Margarita team that is 2-1 in league play, having most recently lost three weeks ago to Orange Lutheran by a 28-26 score.
2023 OL Jaydon Chatman — Killeen Harker Heights
Last week: Bye
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:30, vs. Temple
Harker Heights had its bye last week and returns to action on Friday with a home date against Temple in a game that will likely decide the champion of District 12-6A. The Harker Heights Knights are 6-1 overall and 3-0 in district play, while the Temple Wildcats are 6-2 overall and 4-0 in district play. Every other team in their district already has two or more losses in district play.
Temple’s two losses this season came in non-district games against Arlington Martin, the 10th-ranked team in Class 6A; and College Station, the 3rd-ranked team in Class 5A Division I.
Harker Heights will be aiming for its first outright district title since 2002, and a win on Friday night would be its first against Temple since 2012 (the Knights have lost seven straight to the Wildcats since then). The schools in District 12-6A are all on the smaller side by 6A standards, with Waco Midway being the largest with an enrollment of 2,557, according to the UIL’s rank-order list for 2022-24. Harker Heights has the district’s smallest enrollment, so it will compete in the 6A Division II playoff bracket regardless of where it finishes in the district standings.
2023 OL Andre Cojoe — Mansfield Timberview
Last week: Team beat Dallas Molina 60-0.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, vs. Dallas Sunset
Timberview scored touchdowns on eight of its first nine possessions last week against Molina, and its defense limited Molina to just 5 first downs in a 60-0 win.
The Timberview Wolves are now 7-0 for the season and 5-0 in district play, and they are tied for the lead in District 5-5A Division I with Richland, who they will face next week.
Timberview is ranked 2nd in Class 5A Division I and should get another easy win on Friday against a Dallas Sunset team that has lost seven straight games and has been outscored 308-28 in its six district games thus far.
2023 OL Trevor Goosby — Melissa
Last week: Team beat Denison 54-44.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:30, at Greenville
Melissa won its fifth straight game last week and improved to 4-0 in district play following its 54-44 win over Denison. The Melissa Cardinals are tied with Lovejoy for the lead in District 7-5A Division II. Lovejoy is ranked 10th in Class 5A Division II and will be Melissa’s final regular season opponent in two weeks.
On Friday, the Cardinals will play 2-5 Greenville. Greenville played Denison fairly close in a 34-27 loss five weeks ago, but since then the Lions have lost to two other district opponents — Crandall and Mesquite Poteet — who Melissa beat by a combined 60 points.
2023 OL Payton Kirkland — Orlando (Florida) Dr. Phillips
Last week: Team lost to Orlando (Florida) Olympia 11-0.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, vs. Winter Garden (Florida) West Orange
Dr. Phillips had its three-game winning streak snapped last week in a 11-0 loss to Olympia. The loss dropped the Panthers to 3-4 overall and 1-1 against its district opponents. Two of their final three games are against district foes, the first of them being Friday night’s game against West Orange.
Dr. Phillips will be looking to move up in the district standings and avenge a 45-7 loss against West Orange in the 2021 season. According to the FHSAA ratings that I mentioned in Cedric Baxter’s section, West Orange is ranked 20th out of the 66 teams in class 4M, while Dr. Phillips is 36th.
2023 OL Connor Stroh — Frisco Wakeland
Last week: Team beat Frisco Centennial 42-14.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, vs. Frisco Lebanon Trail
After losing their first two district games by single-digit margins, the Wakeland Wolverines have won three straight games by an average margin of 31 points. Last week they took care of business against Frisco Centennial by a 42-14 score.
With a 3-2 district record, Wakeland is tied for fourth place in District 6-5A Division I with Frisco Lone Star, a team it has a head-to-head win against. Wakeland’s next two opponents, Lebanon Trail and Sherman, have a combined season record of 2-12. If the Wolverines can win those two games then their season finale against Frisco High (which is 6-1 overall and faces district co-leader Reedy this week) might not be a must-win for a playoff spot.
TexasFootball.com’s most recent playoff projections for Class 5A have Connor Stroh’s Wakeland team meeting fellow Longhorn commit Andre Cojoe’s Mansfield Timberview team in the first round of the playoffs.
2023 DL Sydir Mitchell — Oradell (New Jersey) Bergen Catholic
Last week: Made 4 tackles in a 31-21 win over Montvale (New Jersey) St. Joseph Regional.
This week: Saturday, October 22 at 2:00, vs. Jersey City (New Jersey) St. Peter’s Prep
Bergen Catholic won its final non-league game of the regular season, beating St. Joseph Regional 31-21 last Saturday. The Crusaders are 6-1 overall and 1-1 against their opponents in the United Red division, and their last two games of the regular season will both be Saturday games against division opponents.
This Saturday, they will play a St. Peter’s Prep team that is 5-2 overall, and which beat St. Joseph Regional by a 41-38 score four weeks ago.
2023 DL Dylan Spencer — Houston C.E. King
Last week: Made 5 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for loss in a 55-0 win over Beaumont United.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, vs. Humble Atascocita
The King Panthers moved to 5-2 for the season and 3-1 in district play after a 55-0 shutout of Beaumont United. Friday night’s game will be a much stiffer challenge, as they will host Class 6A’s 7th-ranked team, Humble Atascocita.
Atascocita and top-ranked Galena Park North Shore share the lead in District 21-6A, while King and Humble Summer Creek are tied for 3rd place, each with a 3-1 district record. Every other team in the district already has 3 or more district losses. With three games to play, King should be able to sew up a playoff spot by winning just one more game.
2023 EDGE Derion Gullette — Teague
Injured - out for 2022 season
2023 EDGE Billy Walton — Dallas South Oak Cliff
2023 CB Malik Muhammad — Dallas South Oak Cliff
Last week: Bye
This week: Thursday, October 20 at 7:00, vs. Dallas Samuell
South Oak Cliff has not allowed a point in three district games so far, and it would be mildly shocking if that streak ended this week. The Golden Bears’ opponent tonight will be a 2-5 Dallas Samuell team, whose two most recent games resulted in a 64-7 loss to Dallas Spruce, and a 49-6 loss to Dallas Kimball.
SOC had a bye last week, but in its two most recent games it beat Kimball 56-0 and Spruce 48-0. SOC moved up one spot to #9 in this week’s Class 5A Division II rankings.
SOC is in an unusual ten-team district (6-5A Division II) that was split into five-team zones for football. That district’s four playoff spots have already been clinched, and over the final two weeks of the regular season those four teams will play a sort of tournament to determine the seeding for their district’s playoff spots.
2023 LB S’Maje Burrell — North Crowley
Last week: Intercepted a pass in a 47-27 win over Weatherford.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:30, vs. Hurst L.D. Bell
North Crowley remained unbeaten after a convincing win over Weatherford last week. The Panthers are now 7-0 overall and alone in first place in District 3-6A with a 4-0 district record. S’Maje Burrell recorded an interception in the game, which you can watch from three different angles in the video below.
The Panthers moved up one spot to 22nd in this week’s Class 6A rankings, and on Friday they will host an L.D. Bell team that began the season 5-0 but has since lost two straight games by small margins, including a 41-38 overtime loss two weeks ago to the Weatherford team North Crowley beat last week. A win on Friday should clinch North Crowley a playoff spot for a third straight season.
2023 LB Liona Lefau — Kahuku (Hawaii)
Last week: Team beat Mililani 29-17.
This week: Saturday, October 22 at 6:30, vs. Kapolei in the semifinal round of the OIA Open Division playoffs.
Kahuku completed its regular season schedule last Saturday by beating a good Mililani team 29-17. Kahuku, Hawaii’s defending Open Division state champion, is the state’s top-ranked team and finished the regular season with a record of 8-2. Those two losses came against St. Frances Academy of Baltimore, and St. John Bosco of Bellflower, California, which are currently ranked 2nd and 5th in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings.
Kahuku now moves on to the playoffs, and on Saturday the Red Raiders will host Kapolei in the semifinal round of the Oahu Interscholastic Association’s Open Division playoffs. Kahuku beat Kapolei four weeks ago by a score of 35-0.
2024 CB Jaden Allen — Aledo
Last week: Team beat Burleson Centennial 64-21.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, at Denton Ryan
Aledo manhandled an upset-minded Burleson Centennial team last week that had been ranked sixth in Class 5A Division I. One week earlier, Centennial had dealt Denton Ryan its first district loss since 2014, and last Friday it hoped to put Aledo into the loss column in district play for the first time since 2007.
The game was tied 14-14 at the end of the 1st quarter, but Aledo outscored Centennial 50-7 over the game’s final three quarters. The Bearcats were led on offense by junior quarterback Hauss Hejny, who finished the game with just one incomplete pass and threw for a season-high 276 yards and 4 touchdowns, and also ran the ball 12 times for 175 yards and two more TDs.
On Friday, Aledo will face Denton Ryan, which is coming off of its bye week after losing its first district game in eight years to Burleson Centennial. With the win over Centennial, Aledo is alone in first place in District 3-5A Division I, with a district record of 6-0. Centennial, Denton Ryan, and Justin Northwest (who Aledo beat 49-20 in early September) are all tied for second place in the district with one loss each, and every other team in the district has at least three losses. Aledo, which is ranked 4th in Class 5A Division I, is mathmatically assured of a playoff spot already, and will clinch the district championship with a win on Friday, which would also break Ryan’s seven-year streak of winning its district’s championship.
2024 CB Aeryn Hampton — Daingerfield
Last week: Team beat Elysian Fields 54-6.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, at Queen City
Daingerfield had its third straight dominating win last week, beating Elysian Fields 54-6. The Tigers are 5-2 overall and 3-0 in district play, and have outscored their three district foes 183-18. Aeryn Hampton’s highlights from that game show him scoring on a long TD reception on a tunnel screen, and returning a punt for another score.
They are in a three-way tie for the lead in District 11-3A Division II along with Harmony and Waskom, two teams that will play each other on Friday. On Friday, Daingerfield will play a Queen City team that is winless in district play, and which lost 49-10 to Elysian Fields four weeks ago.
The Tigers will mathematically clinch a playoff berth with a win on Friday.
2023 S Jamel Johnson — Arlington Seguin
Last week: Completed one pass for a 62-yard TD, and had 6 carries for 30 yards and 1 TD in a 47-7 win over Joshua.
This week: Friday, September 21 at 7:00, at Ennis
Arlington Seguin dominated Joshua last week to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Cougars outgained the Joshua Owls 417-101, and Joshua scored its only touchdown a few minutes into the 4th quarter.
Jamel “J.J.” Johnson was involved in a pair of scoring plays on the night. He finished off Seguin’s second possession with a 16-yard touchdown run, and while playing quarterback midway through the 3rd quarter he scrambled to his right and hit an open Carterrious Brown for a 62-yard touchdown. He also ran for a two-point conversion late in the 2nd quarter.
Seguin is now 3-4 overall and 2-2 in district play. Its game on Friday night at Ennis will have playoff implications, as the two teams are tied for 4th place in District 5-5A Division II. The winner of that game will have a leg up on clinching the district’s fourth and final playoff spot, but Seguin would still likely have to beat Burleson in its regular season finale in two weeks. Burleson is 1-6 overall, but took played district co-leader Everman to within two points last week.
2023 S Derek Williams — New Iberia (Louisiana) Westgate
Last week: Team beat Maurice (Louisiana) North Vermilion 39-7.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:00, at Lafayette (Louisiana) Christian Academy
The Westgate Tigers bounced back from their first loss of the season two weeks ago and knocked off North Vermilion 39-7 last Friday. On Friday, the Tigers will face their final non-district opponent, Lafayette Christian Academy, then will close out the regular season with their final two district games.
Westgate remains at #7 in this week’s Non-Select Division I power ratings, while Lafayette Christian Academy is #6 in the Select Division II ratings. Lafayette Christian Academy is 5-2 for the season, and both of its losses have come against very solid opponents. LCA lost 35-20 four weeks ago against Ruston, the #2 team in the Non-Select Division I ratings, and last week it lost 21-17 to the top-rated team in the Select Division II field, Lafayette Teurlings Catholic, which had beaten Westgate 30-22 the week before.
Historic Longhorn Notable of the Week: Lawrence Sampleton (1978-81)
This week’s column won’t go nearly as far back in UT’s football history as the periods in which some recent Historic Longhorn Notable of the Week entries were students, but it will still go back far enough to profile a Longhorn who played his final season in Austin 40 years before Ja’Tavion Sanders played his first.
As has been noted at BON and elsewhere on the Longhorn-related internet, a big reason for UT’s offensive success in this season has been the emergence of sophomore tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who is tied for 2nd on the team with 28 receptions, has gained 320 receiving yards (3rd on the team), and has scored five touchdowns (2nd on the team).
Sanders, a five-star recruit who signed with Texas in the 2021 recruiting class, already appears to be the biggest play-making tight end the Longhorns have had since Jermichael Finley departed for the NFL after the 2007 season.
Discussions of Longhorn tight end greats usually focus on the decade or so between Pat Fitzgerald’s two All-America seasons (1995-96) and Finley’s final year at Texas. That period also saw future NFL tight ends Bo Scaife and David Thomas have standout careers at Texas, as well as Derek Lewis being on the receiving end of the iconic “Roll Left” play that helped Texas upset Nebraska in the 1996 Big 12 Championship.
Lawrence Sampleton was a star tight end at Texas who is not as well remembered today, probably due to a combination of recency bias and the fact that he played during an era where Longhorn offenses didn’t give their tight ends as many opportunities to shine in the passing game as did many of the good UT offenses of the past 30 years.
Sampleton was a four-year letterman at Texas from 1978 to 1981, a period during which UT seldom passed the ball and was largely ineffective when it attempted to. More than a decade after the end of his college career, Sampleton was considered by many as the best tight end ever to play for Texas, and he was picked higher in the NFL Draft than any Longhorn tight end in the 40 years since his selection.
I am a lifelong Longhorn fan who turned 40 this year, and until 2021 I was not familiar with Sampleton or his high school or collegiate accomplishments. This may be projection on my part, but I suspect that he is equally obscure to most of my age cohort, who were born too late to have watched him in burnt orange, and are not old enough to remember his brief pro football career.
Lawrence Sampleton was listed at 6’5” and 215 pounds as a senior at Seguin High School in Seguin, Texas, located about 52 miles south of the UT campus. He was a star in three sports while in high school. In football, he played tight end on offense, linebacker on defense, and served as his team’s placekicker. As a senior in 1977, he was Seguin’s leading tackler, caught 18 passes for 381 yards, and made six field goals. In one game he made a 47-yard field goal, which broke the school record for longest field goal that had previously been held by legendary Texas Longhorn punter/kicker Russell Erxleben.
After the 1977 football season ended, he was voted his district’s MVP, named Player of the Year on the Austin American-Statesman’s Super Centex team, and was a Parade All-American.
In basketball, he was an all-district first team honoree in three straight seasons and his team’s leading scorer. In track & field he was competitive in multiple events, and as a senior at the 1978 Class 4A state meet he finished 5th in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.6 seconds, and ran a leg on Seguin’s 5th place mile relay team, which ran a time of 3:19.7. (Future Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, was a member of Houston Jones’s mile relay team that won that race in 3:12.7.)
He was courted by dozens of colleges, and like Ja’Tavion Sanders four decades later, he was coveted by different schools on both sides of the ball. Notre Dame and Oklahoma, both of which had won national championships in that decade, recruited him as a linebacker. But he signed with Texas in early February of 1978, knowing that the Longhorn coaches planned on making him a full-time tight end.
As a freshman on a 1978 Longhorn squad that went 9-3 and was ranked 9th at the close of the season, Sampleton was the team’s third-leading receiver, despite playing on offense in only four games. That year’s edition of the Longhorns was a very run-heavy veer option team and only completed 68 passes in that season, with 18 interceptions doubling their 9 touchdown passes.
Sampleton’s coming out party occurred in a October 21, 1978 game in Austin, in which the eighth-ranked Longhorns hosted the third-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. Sampleton didn’t start but came off the bench and played for a significant portion of that game, which he finished with four catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. His 36-yard touchdown catch in the 2nd quarter gave Texas its first lead at 13-7. His final reception, a 33-yard catch midway through the 4th quarter with Texas trailing 21-20, gave the Longhorns a first down at the 10-yard line and helped set up a game-winning four-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Randy McEachern to receiver Johnny “Lam” Jones a few plays later.
The 1978 Texas-Arkansas game can be watched in all of 39 minutes in the video below. Sampleton’s first two receptions come between the 17:00 and 18:15 mark. You’ll see a good chunk of 1970s veer option football in that video, along with some frustrating attempts at passing by both teams. I’d advise against watching the video while playing a drinking game based on the instances where the broadcasters use McEachern’s name and some variation of “almost intercepted” in the same sentence.
Sampleton made just four receptions in that season after the 28-21 win over Arkansas.
As a sophomore in 1979, he was again the team’s third-leading receiver, finishing that campaign with 16 receptions for 315 yards and one touchdown, while the team as a whole had just 93 completed passes. His only touchdown catch of the 1979 season came on a 33-yard pass against Arkansas in a game the second-ranked Longhorns lost 17-14.
He was voted to the All-Southwest Conference first team in that 1979 season, and then improved in each statistical category as a junior in 1980, making 20 catches for 381 yards and a team-leading 3 touchdowns. Despite those statistical improvements, he was voted to the All-SWC second team in that year. Sampleton had proven big-play ability and undeniable physical gifts, but a Kirk Bohls column published in the Austin American-Statesman in December of 1980 noted that he had also gotten a reputation for “catching passes he shouldn’t and dropping those he should.”
His stats dipped as a senior in 1981, and he caught just 13 passes for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns in 11 games played, though he had advanced as a blocker so much so that he had the third-best blocking grade out of the team’s offensive starters. Though the 1981 season ended with him making the fewest catches he had in any full college season, he did set a single-game career high by making five catches that year against — who else? — Arkansas. Once again, the Longhorns had a passing attack that was anything but prolific or effective. In 11 regular season games the team completed 92 out of 207 passes (44.4%), resulting in 8 TDs against 12 INTs.
Whether the knock on his hands was fair or not, playing tight end in an offense that completed less than 100 passes in three of his four seasons with the team meant there was very little chance of his compiling All-America caliber statistics while in college. His physical profile was essentially that of a prototypical modern day tight end, and considering his track times from high school he was undeniably among the fastest Longhorn tight ends ever. Had he played at Texas during the later John Mackovic or Mack Brown eras, he might be remembered quite differently today in the pantheon of Longhorn tight ends.
In his final college game, Sampleton caught two passes for 56 yards as sixth-ranked Texas beat third-ranked Alabama 14-12 in the 1982 Cotton Bowl. Trailing 10-7 late in the 4th quarter, Texas went on an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive that included Sampleton’s only two catches of the day, one that went for 37 yards to convert on a 3rd down play, and another that covered 19 yards. That drive was capped off by an 8-yard scoring run by fullback Terry Orr that gave Texas its first lead with 2:05 left in regulation, and proved to be the game-winning points.
You can see the first of Sampleton’s two catches in that Cotton Bowl game in the video below, then the second one about a minute later.
Though he played in an era in which the Longhorns had an overall paucity of passing statistics, Sampleton still rates high in a number of statistical categories when compared with other Longhorn tight ends. He finished his college career with 57 catches, which at the time was the most by a UT tight end and is now 7th on that list, which is currently topped by David Thomas’s 98 receptions. Because of his length and wide receiver-caliber speed, he tended to make big gains on the balls he caught. He averaged nearly 19 yards per catch, and his 1,071 career receiving yards trails only Thomas and two-time All-American Pat Fitzgerald among Longhorn tight ends. His 73-yard touchdown catch against Rice in 1980 is the second-longest reception by a Texas tight end, behind only an 84-yard touchdown catch by William Harris against Penn State in 1984.
The Philadelphia Eagles bet on his potential by selecting him in the 2nd round with the 47th overall pick of the 1982 NFL Draft. He was the first of 21 tight ends picked in the twelve rounds of that year’s draft in a class whose most productive tight end was ultimately Steve Jordan of Brown University, who was picked by the Minnesota Vikings in the 7th round and went on to make six straight Pro Bowls from 1986 to 1991.
Sampleton played with the Eagles for three seasons and saw playing time in 32 games between 1982 and 1984, but he only recorded three receptions in that time. Ankle injuries ultimately shortened his pro football career. He was waived by the Eagles during the team’s 1985 training camp and was out of the league for that season. He joined the Miami Dolphins for their 1986 training camp, but did not make the final roster.
In his final NFL action, he played in three games with the Dolphins in October of 1987 as a replacement player during that season’s NFL Players Association strike. In those three games he caught 8 passes for 64 yards. He was waived once the strike ended, and he never appeared in an NFL game again.
In 1989, Austin American-Statesman readers were polled on which Longhorns should make a 1980s all-decade team, and Sampleton — who had played his final two college seasons in 1980-81 — got the most votes out of the tight end candidates. In 1992, the same paper’s readers elected Sampleton as the tight end on UT’s All-Centennial team, which was named as the program completed its 100th season of varsity football.
Sampleton returned to Austin after retiring from football and transferred his UT credits to St. Edward’s University, from which he graduated in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in health recreation and sports management. In 1989 he was hired as head football coach at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in Austin. Two years later he became head coach at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, also in Austin. He stepped away from coaching after a few years to become the school’s director of admissions, but would again serve as its head football coach for a few more years starting in 2005. Though no longer coaching today, he remains on the staff at St. Stephen’s 31 years after his initial hiring, and is now the Associate Head of School for Enrollment Management.
He has also had involvement with UT football in his professional years. He was the sideline reporter for UT football radio broadcasts for three seasons from 1997 to 1999.
Lawrence Sampleton, he’s a Longhorn legend.
Previous Historic Longhorn Notables of the Week
Week one: Thomas Milik (1944)
Week two: Raymond Clayborn (1973-76)
Week three: Ox Emerson (1929-30)
Week four: Winston McMahon (1906)
Week five: James Ross “J.R.” Callahan (1943)
Week six: A.J. “Jam” Jones (1978-81)
Week seven: Marshall Morgan “Mark” McMahon (1898-1901)
Week eight: John Robert “J.R.” Swenson (1902)