TO PRACTICE LAST YEAR, ARIZONA STATE QUARTERBACK SAMSON SZAKACSY turned to wideout Aaron Pflugrad and started to talk about the moon hanging distantly in the desert sky. ¶ "He's, like, 'You know, we're looking at the moon right now, but somewhere else, other people are looking at the same moon in a different [way],' " Pflugrad recalls. "He was talking about religion, and how people see God differently. I was, like, Whoa, where does this come from? But that's Samson."
The redshirt junior quarterback from Camarillo (Calif.) High, who verbally committed to USC before deciding right before signing day in 2007 to come to Tempe, is more than a pair of cleats and a helmet. A lot more. In July he organized a football camp for 120 kids at the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, around 100 miles from campus. This fall he's set to begin acting in a student-produced film. The role, he says, is being written specifically for him. ("I don't know if I can even act," Szakacsy jokes.) And immediately after this season, he plans to finalize his first music album, a mixture of slow hip-hop and soft beats that he'll record himself through his computer and upload to the Internet.
"[Music] makes me think about who I really am," says Szakacsy, who has been playing the drums since he was three and began strumming the guitar four years ago. "Because I don't know yet. My music is the most personal thing for me."
He got that love of music from his parents, who have always had instruments around the house and who encouraged young Samson to sit in on their jam sessions at an early age. "My husband and I have been writing and recording music most of Samson's life," says Nancy, whose music background is classic rock. "I had never really even seen a football game before I had Samson. So I wonder, How did I end up having a quarterback?"
In any event Arizona State's sure glad she did. Szakacsy has battled aches and pains the last few seasons, and the long-haired gunslinger who threw for 2,038 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior at Camarillo while breaking an 18-year Ventura County record for completion percentage in a season (184 of 254) has two years over which to make a similar impact in Tempe. In 2009 Szakacsy sat out the first part of the season with a bum right shoulder but played in four of the final five games, throwing for 362 yards and three touchdowns before having arthroscopic shoulder surgery in January. He missed spring practice, but in August, Szakacsy said he felt great, throwing without pain for the first time since high school. The preseason competition with Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler for the starting job was fierce, but the good news for Szakacsy was that the coaches planned to design packages especially for him no matter what.
"People forget how good of a quarterback he is because of all the stuff he does off the field," Pflugrad says. "His biggest problem right now is he's not used to having such a strong arm. He's even been overthrowing some of our routes."
As for everything else?
"I try and do everything with the same level of sincerity," Szakacsy says. "It's easy to be a hypocrite these days. All I'm trying to do is better myself and those around me." The man in the moon would be proud.