Sam Roush spent last autumn away from organized football.
The pandemic had accelerated his family’s previously scheduled move from California. His old high school, Valley Christian, didn’t get to compete much anyway; its schedule was initially put on hold, then shortened to a handful of games due to COVID-19.
Roush was a man without a team. He worked out on his own or did speed workouts with his dad, Luke, a former speedster while playing safety at Duke.
Still, that didn’t set him back.
“The first thing about Sam that sticks out is his athleticism. But the other thing is his frame of mind when it comes to football,” Roush’s former coach at Valley Christian High School, Mike Machado, explained. “Sam knows where he wants to be and what he wants to achieve, and he doesn’t deviate much from that at all, whether it’s the preseason, regular season, postseason or offseason.”
Fast forward and Roush — a four-star tight end committed to Stanford — appeared in good shape at last week’s Riverdale 7-on-7 tournament, giving Lipscomb Academy’s offense another dimension.
His season away from football was not a season away from work. After the eastward jaunt from California to Nashville, Roush eventually hooked up with Lipscomb Academy strength coach Luke Richesson, a veteran performance guru with a decade of NFL experience.
“I’d go to the gym, make it to the track three or four times a week,” Roush said. “My dad helped me a little bit, then obviously once I got here I could do the workouts with Coach Richesson, our strength coach, who is pretty awesome. He’s been great.”
Until college, all that’s left is for Roush to play his final season of high school football, which figures to be his best yet.
He’s been pent up the last year waiting for real competition again, and plenty of people around Lipscomb Academy are eager to see how he will infuse a Mustang offense that came one win shy of winning the Division II-AA state title last year.
At Valley Christian, Roush was just as effective split out wide as he was on the line of scrimmage, where he could bull linebackers into the second level.
“Sam was a force in blocking,” Machado said. “But he also was a tough matchup for corners, safeties and whoever had to step up and play him.”
Roush is now listed at 6 feet 5, 225 pounds and ranks as the No. 8 prospect in Tennessee by the 247sports Composite.
He’s been perfecting his timing with Mustang quarterback Luther Richesson.
“That’s been pretty easy,” Roush said. “He’s awesome. He’s the best quarterback in Middle Tennessee right now. He got ranked fifth by 247(sports) at Elite 11. He’s a great quarterback and he can put it on me anytime.”
Roush has an intriguing upside. His varsity experience to this point has been unlike most elite prospects. Much of his childhood was spent with his family in Indonesia, where his dad’s career took them and where the closest thing to football is rugby.
But football is firmly within his pedigree. Roush is the grandson and great-nephew of Phil Olsen and Merlin Olsen, respectively. Both enjoyed careers on the defensive line for the Los Angeles Rams, but Merlin Olsen was a generational player — a member of the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome in the 1960s, which helped popularize defensive line play, and a 14-time Pro Bowl selection and NFL Hall of Fame inductee in 1982.
Roush is likely just scratching the surface of his talent.
“In my opinion, his best is yet to come,” Machado said.