Sophomore Quarterback looks forward to bright future

For football fans and Ames High supporters alike, game night is an evening of excitement. The atmosphere is unlike any other: the band jubilantly plays while orange and black-clad students cheer loudly. But on the field, far removed from the ecstatic crowd, an entirely different atmosphere prevails, one of competition and tension through which the Ames High varsity football team must be led. This year, that task fell to sophomore Sam Straub, who played starting quarterback the first three games of the season before being sidelined by a thumb injury. Straub’s childhood was steeped in athletics. He has played youth football since elementary school, which is also when he met Ames High head coach Bruce Vertanen. Straub has also played basketball and baseball since the earliest days of his athletic career. Straub believes that playing these three sports shaped him into the football player and leader he needs to be to lead the Ames High team (currently 2-1) to a successful season. “Baseball and football both require me to throw something,” Straub said. “Football and basketball require me to be in good shape, but I would say the one thing all three sports have in common is being able to handle a ball. Being in shape for one means I’m in shape for the other two.” Straub’s off-season training paid off this summer, when he was invited to practice with the varsity players at two-a-days and team camp. Vertanen said the decision to move Straub up to starting quarterback was not made over the course of the summer, but after careful observation of his entire football career. “Evaluation is never done in a week,” Vertanen said. “I’ve been watching Sam for years in the weight room, at other sports’ practices, and football camps.” Athletics, particularly football, are central to Straub’s life. “In my free time, which I don’t have too much of, I try to hang out with my friends,” Straub said. “I’m not taking any AP classes this year to focus on athletics. They usually keep me pretty busy. I lift weights and play basketball to stay in shape. I work with my quarterback coaches on footwork.” Being quarterback, according to Straub, requires far more than peak physical condition. In order to lead the team to victory, Straub must model a positive attitude and stick to the plays. “The toughest part is remembering all the plays and the reads,” Straub said. “I’m excited [going into the game] and try to be the leader and have a positive attitude. That’s the most important thing. You can’t let everything affect you if you’re supposed to be the leader.” According to Vertanen, Straub’s position requires him to act older and exhibit leadership skills largely absent in other players his age. “You can’t act young when you play quarterback,” Vertanen said. “You have to act beyond your years and have an air of leadership about you.” Senior and defensive end Vince Greenwald, who has known Straub since their elementary school years, observed marked changes in Straub’s mental and physical approaches to the game. “ Sam has definitely made a lot of progress,” Greenwald said. “He’s as strong as an ox in the weight room and that definitely helps out on the field. Mentally he has really changed. He does his best to lead out there even though he is playing with guys two years older than him.” Senior Bo Brammer, who plays both wide receiver and tight end, added, “He’s been doing really well for how young he is and how much pressure he has on him. He has a lot more confidence and you can tell he’s a lot more relaxed out there.” Greenwald said Straub’s biggest challenge this season will be adjusting to its length and the “wear and tear on his body.” According to Greenwald, much of Straub’s success as a leader will come from his highly receptive and hard-working teammates. “Sam really leads by example,” Greenwald said. “He is really fortunate to be on a team with some vocal leaders, leaving him to just focus on doing his job. Also, he really takes his lineman under his wing. He has [Walter Woodruff], [Felix] Yang, Joel [Uhlmeyer] and [Justin] Klinkel over every Monday night just so they know that he appreciates them. That’s leadership.” Straub agrees that the key to a successful season lies entirely in the team dynamic, which he describes as positive. “ We have a great camaraderie as a team and we’ve been working together better,” Straub said. “I think we’re going to get better as the season goes along.” The young quarterback’s goals for the season are to lead the team to victory in the conference championship and into the state tournament. Later in his high school career, Straub hopes to win a state championship and have the opportunity to continue playing football in college. His teammates have a lot of confidence that Straub will achieve success in the future. “ Sam is going to be a great player in the coming years,” Brammer said. “The last quarterback to be pulled up as a sophomore was Austin Arnaud [class of 2007 and former quarterback for ISU] so I think Sam is going to do awesomely in the future.” Greenwald added, “The sky is the limit for Sam. He will continue to get better and better. His future is so bright that he has to wear shades.”