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Sam Vos: Big-time experience inspired ‘Big Body’ walk-on

Jared Jedick | Friday, November 20, 2009

For walk-on wide receiver Sam Vos, his college football experience has been all about personal growth and making the most of what opportunities he has gotten in life. Being able to have the chance to be around a major college program like Notre Dame has given Vos a deep sense of pride in what he is able to accomplish.

“You hear the cliché that the speed of the game in college is so much different than it is in high school,” Vos said. “And now I really take pride in the fact of how far I have come since I walked on. When I first started everything was going so fast, and now I can actually compete with the guy I am lining up against.”

As a member of the scout team offense and special teams unit since the spring of his freshman year, nothing has come easily for Vos, but nothing means more for him about his walk-on experience than to be a part of team with big-time players and big-name coaches.

“Probably the greatest part of my football experience is just being able to be a part of this team and be around all these guys,” Vos said. “I am a walk-on, I wasn’t really recruited by anyone coming out of high school, so I took a shot at making this team, and once I made it, being around these types of players is special.”

Vos also puts a lot of stock in having played under coach Charlie Weis, as he has taught him life lessons that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.

“Two big things I have gotten out of my relationship with Coach Weis is work ethic and time management,” Vos said. “Those two things will definitely be useful going forward.”

Vos grew up in the small town of Burlington, Wis., with his mom and dad and two younger brothers, and that family experience has prepared him for his future life, both as a man and as a football player.

“My mom and dad come to a lot of games and are really supportive of me, they have taught me how to be the man I am today,” Vos said. “My younger brother Max got a scholarship to Northern Michigan after leading our high school to the state championship, and my youngest brother Mitch is a freshman in high school and just being introduced to football.”

Football was also a big part of his life in high school, as he went to Catholic Central in Burlington, Wis., where he learned a lot about football and life from coach Tom Aldrich.

“It was just the way he created a winning program and taught us life lessons,” Vos said. “He used football as a tool to teach us things we could use the rest of our lives.”

Coming to Notre Dame and walking on to the football team has been tough for Vos, as he has not yet gotten onto the field during a regular game.

“I have not made it onto the field yet, but hopefully I will get on the field for the Connecticut game,” Vos said. “I will take what I can get, but I have hopes of getting in there as a receiver.”

Beyond the rigors of playing football and practicing everyday, it has taken a great deal of effort to be able to balance class, football and having a social life.

“Day to day you are waking up in the morning and doing some kind of workouts,” Vos said. “Sometimes it is as early as six in the morning for workouts. That takes a couple hours and then we have classes until about two. After that its meetings and practices for a couple hours.”

All that work makes it hard to find time to socialize and wind down, but Vos said he believes that it is important to make that kind of time.

“I don’t get to go out and have as much fun with my friends, but you have to set aside some time away from school and football,” Vos said. “I have been able to fit it in.”

Vos has formed some important friendships in his time at Notre Dame, including his fellow receivers and walk-ons.

“All of the receivers are really tight. My other clique is the walk-ons,” Vos said. “It is really a unique experience of what we all went through with the tryouts and what we go through every day.”

One of Vos’ closest friends is fellow walk-on and fullback Mike Narvaez, as they have gone through this journey of being a walk-on together.

“With me and Mikey, the reason we are friends is because we walked on at the same time, and we have been through the whole process together,” Vos said. “As walk-ons we are not always getting the special treatment, so we joke around together and keep it real. Sometimes off the field we will go out to eat together, stuff like that.”

A result of these relationships with the receiving corps and the walk-ons is his nickname, which refers to his stocky build.

“The other receivers thought I was a kind of a stocky dude, so they started calling me ‘Big Body,'” Vos said. 

Vos said he loves it when the receivers get together because he believes they are all a bunch of fun-loving guys.

“When you get the receiving crew together, they are a real bunch of clowns,” Vos said.

When asked what advice he would give to a freshman trying to walk on to the team, Vos responded that he would want them to focus on the positive side of things, not the hard work.

“I would tell them to really look on the positive side,” Vos said. “There are a lot of things that can get you down when you aren’t playing and you aren’t traveling. You really have to look at the big picture and your whole college experience.”

But Vos said what he has gotten out of his experience, from being with the players on this team and the coaches that have taught him, is that you have to make the most out of every opportunity you are given.

“The most valuable thing for the rest of my life is that you get limited opportunities and you have to make the most of every opportunity that you ever get,” Vos said. “Seize things as they come and make the most of them.”

Vos has been the living embodiment of this motto for his entire Notre Dame career.