St. Petersburg alum Ben Sams earns (losing) his stripes

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Thu. August 19, 2010 | John C. Cotey | Email

Former St. Petersburg running back Ben Sams, who is walking on at the University of Florida, may be moving closer to a spot on the Gator roster.

Coach Urban Meyer removed the black stripe from Sams' helmet Wednesday, a ritual signifying that he has earned his place at Florida. All freshmen, even the blue chippers, and transfers are given stripes when they arrive and lose them when they prove they belong. It's a rite of passage from recruit to player. The black tape runs from the front of the helmet to the back, and is pulled off in a ceremony by a coach or player.

“They walk up in front of the team, either in a team meeting or on the field and the young man stands up and sometimes gets very emotional because now he’s a Gator,” Meyer told the Palm Beach Post. “His helmet’s like everybody else. It’s kind of cool.”

Highly touted players like Trey Burton and Matt Elam are among those that have already their stripes removed. Former Tampa Catholic offensive linemen Chaz Green, for example, is still waiting.

Sams, a 4.4 student in St. Petersburg's International Baccalaureate program last year, passed on offers from smaller schools to attend Florida for academics and try to earn his spot on the team as a walk-on. Last season, he was an all-county choice after rushing for 878 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Green Devils.

Though the position isn't often employed at Florida, Sams chances to make the roster as a fullback have improved since starter Steven Wilkes suffered a torn ACL.

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