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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Helix senior plays anything, including ukulele

Originally published August 29, 2010

When Sam Meredith isn’t making tackles and laying down blocks on Friday nights, he often can be found strumming a ukulele in his spare time.
It’s quite a sight watching the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Helix High senior pluck a 21-inch ukulele in the family band while his father Sam Sr. plays lead guitar and sisters Christine (22), Sarah (15), Erika (10) and Lauren (7) sing on Sundays at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in La Jolla.
“I’ve always found playing the ukulele a way to relax,” Meredith said. “But I didn’t start playing it seriously until about a year ago. We have kind of a reggae sound.”
On the football field, Meredith is known more for a crunching sound.
“Sam is a beast,” Helix senior teammate Austin Gonzalez said. “If I saw him running down the field I wouldn’t come up and stick my shoulder in his chest. He’s a power guy who will just run you over.”
A three-year starter with the Highlanders, Meredith has performed as a tight end, defensive tackle and offensive tackle.
“Honestly, I think he can play almost every position on the field,” Helix coach Troy Starr said. “He’s an excellent blocker and has good speed (5.2 over 40 yards) for his size.”
This season Meredith will divide his time between tight end and the defensive line. Given his druthers, he would rather spend most of his playing time on defense.
“I favor defense because you can be more aggressive, get after people,” he said.
Senior running back Raymont Nailon, who will join forces with Darrion Hancock in the Helix offensive backfield, recognizes Meredith’s value on defense but welcomes the fact that he also plays offense.
“He’s a phenomenal blocker — nobody gets by him,” Nailon said. “But at the same time he’s a good possession receiver. I don’t remember him dropping anything last year.”
Except opposing ballcarriers — whom he brings down with regularity. No question Meredith averages more tackles than catches per game.
“He’s not one of those guys who does a lot of yelling and screaming in practice,” Nailon said. “He has this way of motivating guys to focus on every play, even in practice. Maybe it’s just because he’s a big guy.”
An agile big guy at that. Meredith also plays basketball for the Highlanders and believes that has helped him improve his footwork.
Starr labels Meredith “a legitimate Division I guy” as the Scotties prepare to open the season at 7 p.m. Friday by hosting Rancho Buena Vista.
BYU likes the Highlanders’ kingpin as an offensive lineman, while UCLA favors him on the defensive side. SDSU can see Meredith playing tight end for the Aztecs in the future. Stanford is also ready to offer him a scholarship.
Meredith’s 3.6 grade-point average has opened doors to many college opportunities.
“I predict Sam maybe as a center at the college level,” Starr said. “He’s going to get a lot bigger — probably somewhere between 280 and 300.”
Wherever Meredith goes, he figures to make an impact.

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