Sometimes who you know is more important than what you know.
And if former Richmond defensive back Samari Springs, the son of former NFL Pro Bowler Shawn Springs, winds up being an impact player for the Arizona Wildcats, you can thank linebackers coach John Rushing and his connections for bringing him to Tucson.
“Well actually, it’s a crazy story,” Rushing said. “A guy that I played college ball with at Washington State, him and Shawn Springs are business partners. And he knew I was coaching at Arizona and Samari had done a great job where he was at in Virginia. He said ‘I got a kid, he has a lot of potential, I think he’s a Pac-12 player. What do you think about meeting him?’ So Shawn Springs brought him up here to meet us and we knew that he was a good player because he went (to Richmond) and started as a freshman.”
Maybe Springs isn’t the All-American defensive back his father was at Ohio State, but he turned in a solid two-year stint at Richmond, where he logged 95 tackles, five tackles for loss, and three interceptions in 20 games with the Spiders.
“He’s kind of a tweener,” Rushing said. “He played safety and played corner and he’s very athletic. I mean, it’s rare that you find a guy that late. He showed up and his dad said he wants to be a Wildcat, and they waited until we can bring him after spring ball, and he’s come in and done a great job, learning the scheme and helping out on special teams. He’s been a big plus for us on defense.”
UA cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin views Springs a little differently, saying he is a natural corner who moved to safety because quarterbacks were not willing to throw his way.
“He’s phenomenal, he’s a great athlete,” Martin said. “Long, fast, he’s smart. He’s learning the technique. That’s the thing that’s slowing him up just a little bit right now, just learning the technique and when to apply it within different coverages and things like that.”
Martin envisions Springs, who is eligible to play in 2019, being a key piece on special teams as well as in some of the coverage packages the Wildcats roll out on passing downs. Other than veterans Jace Whittaker and Lorenzo Burns, Arizona lacks experience at cornerback.
“He’s a pleasant surprise,” Martin said. “For a guy to show up here on campus and with his pedigree and from what he has in his background, you could tell...that he’s going to help out tremendously.”