By Steve Maugeri
In the sport of football, a lack of height is often considered a handicap. For Kutztown University, linebacker Sam Dougan, it is an advantage. Despite his 5-11, 205-pound frame, Dougan has had a nose for the ball carrier his whole career. His size incited a fearless demeanor in him, and opened new door to his ability. Using his sideline-to-sideline reputation as a player helped him carve his niche in the football world.
However, his lack of ideal size limited his college offers. Ever since his days playing youth football, Dougan was incidentally labeled as inadequate or disproportional. Numerous college coaches refused to roll the dice with the proverbial “honey badger” linebacker. They were nervous he would become a boy among men, a gazelle among hyenas. This would flat-line most players’ self esteem, but Dougan simply shrug it off. “No matter what happens, you get what you put in. I knew that in the end, all of my hard work would pay off,” he said.
Despite the ocean of doubt surrounding him, after a long compendium of accomplishments over the last three years, Dougan was recently named to the 2014 USA College Football Division II Preseason All-America second team. He spun what many considered as an inferiority into a hidden advantage, and this has dismissed any objections on his abilities.
When informed of the news, the linebacker was moved to tears. “I didn’t even know what to think at first, it was something I thought I was never gonna get it. Just to be mentioned as an All-American, it’s a special honor,” he said.
The senior is no stranger to adulation, as he earned his second straight all-PSAC selection last year after leading the team in tackles for the second consecutive season. Despite his numbers, he barely flirted with the periphery of the national scope. However, the soft-spoken Dougan never bemoaned, and used it as motivation instead. Dougan is flattered by the award, and will repudiate any complacency in order to finish his career on the right note.
“Once everything is said and done, your senior class will either be remembered with either a wining record or a losing record. I want to go out as a winner and as a hard worker,” he said.
Dougan is well deserving of the accolade, as he has led his team in tackles for the past two seasons. This past season, the Folsom, Pa. native finished with 88 tackles, which was good for 7th in the PSAC. Throughout the first seven games of last season, Dougan sat atop the conference in stops. Additionally, he made his presence felt in the opponent’s backfield, as he finished 7th in the PSAC in tackles for loss with a career-high 14 stops. Dougan made a career of using his speed and short stocky frame to gain leverage over opposing ball carriers with a lower center of gravity. “I’m quicker than most people think, and I have great instincts, people can’t get their hands on me as quickly in order to stop me from going to where I want to go,” Dougan said.
With a combined 194 tackles for his career, he has cemented himself as one of the most feared defensive players in Division II. He will aim to become the 17th Golden Bear to reach 200 career stops, which is a goal that is more than within reach.
Dougan developed a long following in order to merit himself. The All-American teams are selected by a wide committee of coaches, sports information directors and writers. Breaking the All-American threshold taught Dougan that anything done consistently will produce results, and his success formulated the national bid. No longer playing under the radar, Dougan finally joins the elite ranks of college football players as the true unsung hero of the Golden Bears.