Ra’Shaad Samples was a four-star receiver at Dallas Skyline High School in 2013. Playing for his father Reginald, a Dallas soccer legend, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of Texas soccer and learned to love the city’s soccer culture. Although Samples received offers from Ohio State, USC and Notre Dame, as well as major programs from Texas and Texas A&M, he said SMU assumed he didn’t want to play and didn’t pursue it.
“I remember once in four years when SMU coaches walked on our campus,” Samples said. “And I was never on the EMS campus the entire time I was in school. I would love to stay in my hometown.
SMU gained a strange reputation under then-coach June Jones for ignoring local talent, which puzzled many local schools.
Claude Mathis, the coach at nearby DeSoto High School, which regularly produces FBS-level talent including Von Miller, urged Jones a year later to advertise on Scout.com. His comments drew attention in Dallas, where he noted that TCU, Tech and North Texas, among others, were regulars at his school, while SMU was nowhere to be seen.
“I’m just tired of it,” Mathis said this week. “There are a lot of good kids coming here, and we’re trying to help our schools in the state of Texas. How can you help them if they’re not coming? I’m done.”
Things have changed since then. This year, SMU achieved its best recruiting class in modern history, with local talent at its center. And at the forefront of this change is Samples, now a coach and recruiting coordinator at the school for 26 years, whose success, according to his colleagues, defined his appointment as head coach.
Here’s how Samples helped the Mustangs pass Dallas and make SMU a destination.
Wrong. specified.Sonny Dykes, the head coach of Film not specified.SMU, has hired Rashaad Samples to lead the 2019 recruiting effort. “I was around him for about five minutes and I thought, ‘Man, this is the guy I want to work with,’” Dykes said of Samples’ communication skills. Tim Warner/Getty Images
JONES was a sensational signing to SMU after a 12-1 season in Hawaii in 2007, but he spent most of his career in professional soccer before spending nine seasons in Honolulu, so he arrived as an underdog.
In 2014, despite three impressive bowling victories in four appearances at SMU, Jones said the Mustangs’ facilities and the school’s academic standards meant they could not compete with other regional programs for many recruits, prompting him to look beyond heavily recruited players and focus more on developmental opportunities. When Jones lost two games 1-11 this season, the Dallas Morning News reported that SMU had only 68 players from Texas, the lowest number of any FBS school in the state, with more players from out of state (31) than from the Dallas-Fort Worth region (30).
Sonny Dykes grew up an EMS fan before his father, Spike Dykes, became head coach at Texas Tech University. Later, as an assistant at Tech under Mike Leach, Sonny Dykes spent many years recruiting in Dallas and always followed the work of SMU. When Jones’ successor, Chad Morris, left for Arkansas after three years with a record of 14-22, Dykes sold SMU on drawing the team’s attention to everything that was happening in Dallas in hopes of fulfilling SMU’s promise to become an urban college football team.
“I think the best high school coaches in the country are in Dallas, and they’re ahead of schedule,” Dykes said last week. “I think in many ways it’s a soccer utopia, one of the greatest soccer cities in the United States.”
When SMU found success on the field under Dykes – the Mustangs won 10 games in 2019 for the first time since 1984 and finished 7-3 this year – they were able to shake off their bad reputation. “There have been moments,” Dykes said, “but you have 40 years of inconsistent – and mostly bad – soccer beatings.
Then, in 2019, he brought Samples home. After concussions interrupted his playing career at Oklahoma and Houston, Samples was only 24 years old and was a student assistant at Houston and graduate student at Texas under Tom Herman, with only a year of recruiting experience in Austin. But Dykes thought he could become program director with his connections in Dallas. He appointed him SMU’s recruiting coordinator.
“Ra’Shaad is one of those guys who impresses people very quickly,” Dykes said. “He really impressed me. I was around him for like five minutes and I thought, ‘Dude, someday I want to work with him.
It didn’t take long now. As soon as he was on board, Dykes gave him the keys to the recruiting operation.
“If I were in Coach Dykes’ shoes, I don’t think I would have the confidence to do it,” Samples said. “He just said, ‘Go do your thing. I want you to be who you are.”
Proclaiming the gospel from Dallas is not that difficult.
“It literally means everything to me,” Samples said. “I grew up here. All my friends grew up here. I’ve seen so many great players play here. To be a part of this landscape as a coach, going to these games and recruiting these guys is almost like not having a job.
This enthusiasm fits well with the EMS program of Dykes, who keeps talking about Big D. He wants to organize youth camps all over town and dress all the kids in EMS t-shirts. The Mustangs wear the Dallas logo on the front of their replacement jerseys, the Dallas logo on their helmets, and they also wear district posters representing local players from their districts or cities, including one from Samples.
Share your 📸s when you see the new billboards around town! #PonyUpDallas pic.twitter.com/J0gBG5BpC0
– SMU Football (@SMU_Football) August 14, 2019
You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, and Monsters knew from experience that SMU had to work. His father, now a coach in the Duncanville Regional Division, showed him.
“Coach Dykes has a completely different mindset, not only in terms of recruiting, but also in Dallas,” said Reginald Samples, who has a record of 296-85 as a coach at three Dallas schools and was named 2019 National Coach of the Year by USA Today. “I met with him several times before he hired Rashaad. He came in and sat in my office and told me he felt he had to do the best job he could in town. He had a plan and he followed it”.
ESPN’s recruiting department ranked EMS No. 1 among Group 5 programs this year and No. 46 overall. In Texas, SMU ranked behind Texas A&M (No. 6), Texas A&M (No. 15) and Baylor (No. 44). This class ranks higher than the Big Five, including rival TCU (No. 49). In the 15 years since ESPN began evaluating players, the Mustangs have contracted six four-star aspirants from Texas. Two of them (quarterback Preston Stone and quarterback Jileen Samuels) have fallen into this category.
Of the 17 seniors signed by the Mustangs this year, 11 are from Dallas/Fort Worth, and the coaches aren’t being too secretive about what they are receiving. “A lot of these guys have been on our campus 10, 15, 20 times,” Dykes said. “We have a great relationship.”
Sampling allows us to get to know as many stakeholders as possible, whether or not they have signed a letter of intent.
“A lot of these kids in Dallas don’t know that we haven’t always had the opportunity to represent our city by playing football, and now a lot of these kids will,” Samples said. “Dude, it bothers me.”
The gem of the class is Stone, a 6-2, 190-pound ESPN 300 rookie from Dallas’ Episcopal Parish who threw for more than 13,000 yards in high school and led his team to two consecutive state championships. Considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country, he was SMU’s choice in the televised broadcast of the 2020 All-American Bowl in January. He stood in front of a line of caps from college football heavyweights LSU, Penn State, Texas and USC, and Stone wore the SMU cap. “Dallas is my home,” he said. “I love my city, I love SMU.”
The arrival of a quarterback with a bid sheet from Stone was a great moment for the Group of 5 program and proved Dykes’ theory that players who can go anywhere stay home and play for the winner.
SMU also mentored another local candidate, Duncanville offensive lineman Savion Byrd, the No. 29 national rookie who signed with Oklahoma in December. Byrd said he narrowly chose the Sooners over SMU on signing day, and while that’s no great consolation to Dykes, the fact that he’s facing a team that has won six consecutive Big 12 titles is an improvement.
If recruits can return for personal visits after VIDOC, Daiki hopes the Mustangs can continue to gain ground. He oversaw the connection of the 2019 class to a weekly event put on by Samples and recruiting assistant Jourdan Blake. They invited local players to attend regular Sunday football practice in the SMU building, but added televisions showing NFL games as well as chicken wings and pizza for the spectators. In order to be favorable to the NCAA, the players must pay for their own food, but according to Samples, Sunday has become a kind of family reunion that starts with a few kids and grows into hundreds after a few weeks.
According to the samples, the presence of players on campus for informal events is an important way for a private school like SMU to show that it welcomes all Dallasians.
We take the first step, we reach out our hand and say, “Hey, we’ll come to you and we’ll bring you to us. We don’t expect you to want to work with us. We want to work with you. People in downtown Dallas are now looking at SMU. They see us, and now we’re a part of the community”.
One of the newcomers, security guard Isaiah Nwokobia, played in Skyline, Monsters old school. He shouldn’t feel the same distance as Monsters at SMU.
“I mean, probably 80 percent of the kids we enrolled this year were at these events,” Samples said. “If we did one a week for 16 weeks, Isaiah was 15.”
The samples are not only noticed by the recruits. Other coaches and recruiting experts are seeing the star rise. And in December, he received a three-year contract at SMU, where Dykes has big plans.
“He’s an elite recruiter,” Mr. Dykes said. “But Ra’Shaad is working just as hard as he is as a coach. In a few years, you’ll see him as a coordinator and offensive player, and then as a head coach. He has everything you want. The ability to communicate, to inspire people, he’s very good at that. He has a lot of experience in soccer, being surrounded by his father.
Dykes can see the results of his work in practice, a team that already looks better. He thinks there is still much to recruit, but he and Monsters believe their optimism is justified.
“It was so important to go back to my culture and reach a place that made me who I am and invest in these kids, invest in this city,” Samples said. “We received some kids with offers from some of the biggest schools in the country. We’re going to end up contracting the best player in the state of Texas. I believe that.”