'Something special' about Bulls center Genus
NEWPORT, R.I. -- It would be no surprise to find USF center Sampson Genus putting in extra time in the weight room, as the senior is arguably the Bulls' strongest player, able to bench-press a team-best 455 pounds.
But offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler was in the weight room one day this summer when he looked out the window and was impressed to see the 318-pound Genus running outside in the midday heat.
"It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon, it's about 98 degrees, and he's out there running by himself with a stopwatch, timing himself," Shankweiler said. "No coaches around, and later I grabbed him and said 'Didn't you get enough work this morning?' He said, 'Coach, I've got to do all the things I can do."
Genus is in Newport today with quarterback B.J. Daniels and first-year coach Skip Holtz, representing USF at the Big East preseason media gathering. Out of eight Big East schools, there are only five offensive linemen in Newport, but after earning second-team all-conference honors last year, Genus has a chance this fall to show he's one of the Big East's best.
"This time of year, everybody's writing big articles about everybody, but this kid, there's something special about his commitment to football and his football team," Shankweiler said. "He's a very unusual kid in that respect."
Genus, 22, was excited about Monday night's famous clambake, where the lobsters didn't have much of a chance ("I can eat a couple of them," he said) and the publicity reminds him just how far he's come. Genus came to USF from tiny Lake City, a straight shot up Interstate 75 to the quiet city of about 12,000, where he grew up with a love of cooking more than any sport.
"I come from a little old country town. I never really pictured myself doing this," said Genus, who will graduate in December, needing just three and a half years for a degree in criminology. "Football wasn't really a big thing in my head."
And if Monday brought together football and good food, that's a fitting intersection for Genus, who can barbecue just about anything and has a grilling rivalry going with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. Genus spent a year on the defensive line himself, starting five games as a sophomore before moving back to center last fall.
He's entrenched himself there, and Shankweiler said his quickness off the snap may be the best he's coached in 28 years of coaching offensive line at the college level. USF will likely have three seniors and two juniors starting on the offensive line, so there's no shortage of veteran experience, but Shankweiler said Genus stands out as a leader, period.
"I think he's probably the leader on our football team. It goes beyond just the line," he said. "The kid has earned the respect of everybody in that locker room, regardless of position."
As the Bulls work to develop a more traditional running game in Holtz's new offense, that commitment starts with the offensive line, and Genus likes to hear that USF wants to establish the run behind him and his linemates.
"It should be one of our strengths, because we have some big powerful guys up there," Genus said.
USF has had just one offensive lineman drafted in its history -- Kenyatta Jones in 2001 -- but Genus has a chance to do just that with another season of steady progress. Last year, offensive coordinator Mike Canales took to calling Genus USF's "bellcow" -- the cow wearing the bell, the recognized leader of the herd, the one you need to listen for if you want to know where the group is going.
"It means you're leading the charge," Genus said. "It ended up sticking with me."