116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Southeast Polk star running back Abu Sama sat back and took note.
He’d just set a pair of all-classes state championship game records by rushing for 372 yards and six touchdowns last month in the Rams’ 49-14 Class 5A title game win over West Des Moines Valley.
Many congratulatory texts arrived soon after. And one clearly stood out.
“Breece Hall,” Sama, one of the headliners for Iowa State on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, said in reference to the record-setting Cyclone tailback and current New York Jet. “That was big for me.”
Getting Sama to commit and sign to the Cyclones’ Class of 2023 was similarly sized for ISU head coach Matt Campbell. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound 2022 U.S. Army Bowl participant became one of a handful of highly-touted central Iowans to sign Wednesday with the Cyclones, including Ankeny quarterback J.J. Kohl; his teammate, safety Jamison Patton; Urbandale wide receiver Kai Black; edge rusher David Caulker of Des Moines North; and athlete/tight end Carson Rhodes of Nevada.
Kohl — who stands 6-7 tall — is a consensus four-star recruit and considered a Top 10 quarterback in the class by ESPN and Rivals.
“For us, from day one, I feel like we’ve had to earn the trust of this state and certainly the great high school football coaches of this state,” Campbell said. “But, man, we want to do a great job continuing to start our recruiting journey right here at home and obviously you not only talk about players, then you talk about, who is J.J. Kohl? What’s he done and what’s he about? Who is Jamison Patton? Who is this young man? What does he stand for? What is he about?
“Kai Black, Carson Rhodes — again, It’s not just the players, it’s look what they’ve done in their own programs. Look at the leadership and adversity they’ve already overcome to get where they’re at.”
Sama, who also owns the Iowa high school record in the long jump with a top mark of 24 feet, 10 inches, is eager to showcase his versatility on the football field, regardless of where he ends up position-wise.
“They’ve got good running backs over there,” Sama said. “I’ll probably have to be on special teams and they talk about if you want to play, if you want to start, be on special teams if you want to get on the field.”
That’s the route many former ISU stars took to earn early playing time and Sama said his brother, Amara, a former Cyclone sprinter, trained him to be a strong, skilled and patient athlete from a young age.
“Mostly just explosive stuff, like the hang clean, deadlift, just stuff to help me on the football field and in track,” said Sama, who will try to better his Iowa record in the long jump in the 2023 state track and field meet before joining the Cyclones.
Sama’s made a name for himself in both pursuits. Even Hall noticed that. Now Sama aims to level up, setting his sights on loftier heights.
“It helped me a lot just knowing that he’s watching me as well, a little bit,” Sama said. “Giving me a little bit more confidence. I’m grateful for him and everything he’s done. Now I’m just going to try to follow in his footsteps and do something for Iowa State.”
Brendan Black, OL, 6-foot-4, 310
Kai Black, WR, 6-3, 215
Benjamin Brahmer, TE, 6-6, 215
Trevor Buhr, OL, 6-4, 260
David Caulker, DE, 6-4, 250
Anthony Cunningham, DE, 6-4, 270
Norris Davis Jr., Sm, 6-2. 180
Kooper Ebel, LB, 6-3. 215
Carson Hansen, RB, 6-1, 200
Zaimir Hawk, DL, 6-2, 295
Arlen Harris Jr., RB, 5-11, 195 (Stanford transfer)
Ta’Shawn James, S. 6-2. 185
JJ Jean-Louis, LB, 6-2, 220
Zach Lovett, LB, 6-2, 230 (Missouri trasfer)
JJ Kohl, QB, 6-7, 235
Beni Ngoyi, WR, 6-4, 195
Michael Parkes, WR, 6-1, 185
Jamison Patton, S, 6-2, 195
Carson Rhodes, ATH, 6-7, 245
Jack Sadowsky, LB, 6-2, 232
Abu Sama III, RB, 5-11, 185
Samuel Samé, DE, 6-5, 210
Cam Smith, S, 5-11, 200