Nicolas Ah Sam needed just a couple of weeks to go from scout team to first team at Portland State.
The Springfield graduate sat out the first three games last year while expecting to redshirt as a true freshman before coach Bruce Barnum decided to get him on the field. Ah Sam made his collegiate debut against Montana on Sept. 30 and, two weeks later, he was in the starting lineup against Northern Arizona and remained there for the rest of the season.
“I was just trying to give the first-team offense the best look they could get so I was giving 100 percent in practice whether I was on scout team or with the twos or threes,” Ah Sam said. “Fortunately, they pulled my redshirt and I started the last six games.”
The 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore outside linebacker will play in front of friends and family Saturday when Portland State (0-1) visits No.23 Oregon (1-0) at 11 a.m.
“I guess you could say it’s a dream come true,” Ah Sam said. “Being a kid who grew up in Springfield and going to a bunch of Oregon games, I was always in awe of Autzen and wished I could play there. So it will be cool to be in my hometown again, but I will be focused. It is a business trip and that is how it goes at this level.”
Ah Sam missed PSU’s season-opening 72-19 loss at Nevada because he was suspended for a violation of team rules. He's listed at No. 4 on the depth chart against the Ducks, but said he has been moving up in practice.
“I have not been told if I will start, but I’ve gotten reps with the second team,” he said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t play in the first game so I have been taking every rep as it comes and I will take advantage of any opportunity I get.”
After earning all-state honors at Springfield, Ah Sam ranked ninth on the Vikings with 38 tackles last season despite sitting out the first three games. He had 2½ tackles for loss, including one sack.
“The No. 1 thing was how much faster the game was,” Ah Sam said. “Players are stronger, faster and smarter, but at the end of the day you are still playing football. The game goes by a little quicker than high school.”
Ah Sam finished the season with a season-high eight tackles against Eastern Washington.
“Physically, I felt like I was there,” Ah Sam said. “I consider myself someone who loves contact. I threw on a few more pounds this year to make sure I was ready.”
Ah Sam and the Vikings will be heavy underdogs for the second consecutive week going on the road against an FBS school before returning to face FCS foes the rest of the season.
“Everybody is human,” he said. “Everyone bleeds the same blood. There is no such thing as a perfect human. We go into each game with that mindset to play as hard as we can and give our best effort.”