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He's a catch

Always-upbeat receiver Sammie Stroughter is a natural leader at OSU
by: TOM HAUCK, A sunny personality and strong work ethic have made Sammie Stroughter one of Oregon State’s biggest leaders – and best players.

CORVALLIS - Oregon State football's answer to Ernie Banks was hooting, hollering and having fun as usual during Saturday's scrimmage. Inclement weather greeted the Orangemen, but Sammie Stroughter's weather report showed nothing but sun.

In his 32 years of coaching, 'Sammie is the most fun guy day to day I've ever come across,' OSU coach Mike Riley says. 'It's like his ethic is to just come out and love what he's doing, practice with enthusiasm, work hard and have fun. It's pretty easy to work with that type of kid. He's always the same.'

Well, not always.

'There'll be those days,' Stroughter says. 'I just had one a week ago. I had a bad practice. I was down a little bit. And everybody was saying, 'Sammie, what's wrong?' Guess it just lets you know you're human.'

The other 99.9 percent of the time, Stroughter 'is an upbeat guy, always energetic,' quarterback Sean Canfield says. 'The kind of guy who gets everyone else going.'

It's by design, Stroughter says.

'Attitude is one thing you have control over,' says the 6-foot, 185-pound Sacramento, Calif., native, who will be a senior in the fall. 'Coach Riley always preaches it. Some situations and circumstances you have no control over, but you have control over your attitude and the way you carry yourself.'

Stroughter gets the disposition from his mother, Andrea Brown, who raised Stroughter and his older siblings, Eric and Cam, while working as a nurse.

'She's my heart and soul,' Stroughter says. 'Just seeing her take care of the family, by herself as a single mom, and doing it with a smile on her face … she's been an inspiration.'

Riley hasn't yet named his team captains for next season, but bet the moon Stroughter will be one.

'Sammie has been a leader ever since I got here,' says Canfield, who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall. 'We all look up to him.'

Hey, the kid can play a little football, too.

Last season, Stroughter was one of the biggest impact players as the Beavers enjoyed one of the best seasons in school history, capped by victories over Southern Cal and in the Sun Bowl against Missouri.

Stroughter was third in the nation with a 15.7-yard punt return average, taking three back for touchdowns, including one for 70 yards against the third-ranked Trojans. He led the Pac-10 and was 10th in the nation with a 17.5-yard average per reception, snaring 74 for 1,293 yards and five TDs.

His motto is one any coach would love: 'Every time I touch the ball, I want to score.'

'Sammie is really, really good,' Riley says. 'It's fitting that he was selected (second team) all-Pac-10 and (third team) All-American. He's one of the best college players I've coached at any position.'

And a football junkie.

'A lot of times, I'll be sitting in my office, watching practice (video), and Sammie will come in, sit down, watch it with me,' Riley says.

'He likes to know a lot of details. He wants to know all the little things.'

Stroughter is hardly one-dimensional. A sociology major with a 2.99 accumulative GPA, he is a first team all-Pac-10 academic selection on pace to graduate a term early next winter. He is a religious young man who is involved in many campus, community and charitable activities.

As one of the most important veterans, Stroughter isn't getting a lot of work this spring. As a hedge against injury, Riley is limiting scrimmage action for key players such as tailback Yvenson Bernard and Stroughter - much to Sammie's chagrin.

'I had to reason with Coach Riley about that,' Stroughter says. 'Before the first scrimmage, he told me, 'You only have one series.' I said, 'Nah coach, give me three of four.' Just trying to push the envelope a little.'

If he stays healthy next season, Stroughter could leave OSU as the career leader in punt-return average and among the top 10 in career receptions and receiving and all-purpose yardage. Stats mean little to him, though.

'I was just talking to Yvenson about that,' Stroughter says. 'I don't really care about that stuff.

'I just want to leave Oregon State better than when I came, leave it with a better image and tradition. Whatever I can do for the team, that's the biggest thing. And I'd like for my teammates to be able to say, 'When Sammie was around, he made everybody smile.' '

Hey, let's play two.

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OSU Football

• Oregon State coaches and players are wearing 'VT' patches on their coats and jerseys to honor the victims of the shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech.

'It's really about showing we care,' coach Mike Riley says. 'Those were college kids who died. It's just important to realize we're all in this world together.'

• Quarterback Sean Canfield looked better in Saturday's scrimmage than he did in the previous one, when he was intercepted on each of the first two offensive series.

'I think it's coming along great,' says the 6-4, 225-pound left-hander. 'I'm taking it a day at a time, but I've felt more comfortable ever since spring ball started. I don't know if it's being an older guy, seeing the older guys leave or what, but I definitely feel more comfortable with what I'm doing in our offense.'

• With Yvenson Bernard (Riley's orders), Clinton Polk (minor injury) and Micah Strickland (personal issues) all missing from the scrimmage, fourth-stringer Patrick Fuller had a big day, ripping off several sizable runs, including a 41-yarder. Polk and Strickland should be back for Saturday's 1 p.m. spring game.

• Defensive tackles William Akau'ola Vea and Mitchel Hunt have dealt with knee issues but haven't been ruled out of the spring game.

• Shane Morales, who caught only one pass last season after transferring from College of the Canyons, had a couple of impressive receptions. 'I was excited for him,' Riley says of the 6-1, 195-pound Morales, who will be a junior next season. 'He's a hard worker. He's where he is right now because of work.'

• For the first time in the Riley era, the Beavers are using a shotgun formation often in third-and-long situations.

• Juke of the day: Andy Stewart, walk-on tailback from Sunset High, leaving linebacker Joey LaRocque clutching air en route to a first-down run after a catch in the flat.

• Receiver Anthony Brown is deep with Gerard Lawson on the first-team kickoff return squad.

• Construction of the southeast end of Reser Stadium is moving along. The end now is enclosed, and the foundation for the Jumbotron scoreboard is in.

- Kerry Eggers