It did not take long for newly named defensive line coach Al Washington to make his mark on the recruiting trail since coming over from Ohio State. Notre Dame put out an offer to 2023 New Bern (N.C.) defensive lineman Keith (KJ) Sampson.
“Coach Washington reached out and talked to me and my coach and offered me on the spot,” Sampson told the Irish Breakdown staff.
Happening so quickly, it appeared that this offer came out of nowhere. In reality, Washington’s roots at Ohio State helped to lead the Irish to this point. Sampson originally came on Washington’s radar from Nick Sebastian, who is currently a defensive line assistant at the University of Ohio State.
Before the offer, Sampson had a baseline understanding of the Irish program but that knowledge is about to expand exponentially. The staff is ready to sell the vision to the talented defensive lineman.
“I knew something about Notre Dame and all of the news surrounding it, but I wasn’t paying too much attention,” Sampson explained. “I’m excited to get there and meet everybody.”
On the field, Sampson’s talent level is hard to ignore. He has been a standout for New Bern High School since his freshman season, bursting onto the scene with 52 total tackles, with four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks thrown in for good measure.
Since then, the 6-3, 285-pound defensive lineman has become a dominating force for the Bears, pacing the team with 107 tackles during the last two seasons, as well as recording 22 tackles for loss and 11 sacks during that time. Sampson was a defensive force in 2021, helping to lead the team to a 10-2 overall record and a second round playoff appearance.
Sampson ranks as the nation's No. 143 overall player and No. 20 defensive lineman according to 247Sports. On the field, Sampson isn’t your typical interior defensive lineman. The effort and speed he plays with is unique for the position.
“What makes me special is my ability to run sideline to sideline and get into the backfield quickly,” Sampson said.
Competition is going to be stiff for Sampson’s services, and the Fighting Irish have some making up to do. On January 15 Sampson released a Top 5 that consisted of Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, South Carolina and NC State. With the blue bloods hot on the trail, Notre Dame will need to go all in on this one during the process.
Sampson also plays basketball for New Bern - but is currently recovering from a wrist injury that he suffered at the end of the football season. He is set to begin rehab this week during his recovery that unfortunately cost him the basketball season.
An unfortunate circumstance, Sampson will have time to develop relationships with prospective schools. Sampson will be making a visit to campus sometime this Spring or Summer.
When Sampson does make it to South Bend, that’ll be the big opportunity for the Irish to make waves in his recruitment. Despite being a little late to the party, the Irish look to get in with one of the more talented defensive tackles in the nation down the stretch.
It’s not always how it starts - but how you finish.
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