It was the start of a new year, and a new chapter for Prince Micheal.
A native of Nigeria, Prince Sammons is arguably the top football prospect in the state of Ohio in 2016.
On January 8, 2012, a Megabus dropped off the very large 15-year old boy from Nigeria in downtown Cincinnati.
A lot ran through Prince’s mind during the 12-hour bus ride from Wisconsin where he was staying with an AAU basketball coach to the Buckeye State. Prince knew he was lucky to be living in the United States. He was pumped about going to meet the Sammons family for the first time, Brandon and Betsy and their two little girls and one boy. That’s who he’d be staying with while attending school at Cincinnati Christian Hills Academy.
A little intimidating, but nonetheless very exciting.
Looking forward to all of that, Prince also thought about his seven siblings back home in Nigeria. It hadn’t been long since both his parents passed away. Less than a year in fact and he was the one that found his mother.
“Most of the struggles I’ve had, losing my birth parents and changing countries, now living with people that love me and take care of me, the struggles have me doing what I’m supposed to do and putting everything behind me because life goes on no matter what.”
Life has gone on to be very good for Prince Sammons.
This past April, his adoption from Brandon and Betsy became official. He has two more brothers and one more sister. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound sophomore defensive end is an honor roll student that recently landed his first scholarship offer from Cincinnati. Arguably the top prospect in the state in the 2016 recruiting class, Michigan and Ohio State are two other schools showing personal interest. Alabama was in to see Sammons at school last Friday.
The last two years have nearly been a blur. Basketball brought Sammons to the United States. Love has given him a home in Ohio.
Last week, Sammons was wearing a Michigan bracelet on one wrist and an Ohio State bracelet on the other. He's attended games at both schools this fall.
“A guy that I coached basketball with a couple years ago, he coached the freshman team, he somehow knew about a guy that helped get Prince to America,” Brandon Sammons said. He’s a teacher at the school and an assistant coach for the football and basketball teams. “Long story short, they were trying to find someone that could bring him in, adopt him, and basically become parents because his parents have passed away. He’s been through a lot in the last couple of years. Where he’s coming from, that part of the world, I heard about him, my wife and I prayed about it, talked about it. He needed a stable home, he needed a loving environment, he needed structure around to support him. We thought the best way we know how to do that is to literally treat him like he's one of our children. It all really happened in a week.
“Most people kind of looked at us like you’re absolutely psychotic to do something like this. We were like when God calls you to do something, because we’ve been in situations before where we were like we should’ve done this and didn’t, it was much smaller-scaled stuff, we were like we’re going to be obedient and see where this goes. It wasn’t a whim. The initial thought of hey let’s do this was, but we came home and talked for a couple hours about how is this going to change things for us, things for our kids, things for our family. All these dynamics we tried to think through as much as we could. It was a Tuesday night and we actually heard they needed someone to take him in. I talked to the coach on Wednesday and Saturday night I got a text message saying he’d be in town on Sunday.”
Prior to meeting in person, Prince and Brandon had talked on the phone just one time for five minutes. In a whirlwind they were together, and just as fast the two parties fell in love with each other.
“He’s a big teddy bear,” Brandon said. “He loves little kids.”
Brandon and Betsy knew they wanted to adopt Prince before they even met him. When he arrived, he enrolled in school right away, where his reading and math skills were a few levels behind. He dug in and quickly caught up.
Ohio rules stated Prince was ineligible to play sports because of his F-1 Visa status. While Brandon and Betsy tried to fight that, they also fought the legal system to adopt.
“We hit roadblock after roadblock,” Brandon said.
“I had a lawyer tell me you’re better off sending him back and see if you can figure it out that way. I was like that’s not really an option. We’re going to figure it out. We called Nigeria’s adoption consulate and they said you can’t adopt him here because you’re not a citizen of Nigeria.
Sammons aim is to become a doctor and take his work back to Nigeria.
“People came into the situation that we met that were like, I know that person and this person and maybe they can help connect you with that person. After a bunch of that stuff we found a lawyer that knew different pieces of the law. He said if we do this we can do that, it was like trying to find your way through a maze with a blindfold on and no sound. We found a lawyer that figured out you have to go through this process to gain guardianship, and then once you’re in that process you can get a green card and once he gets a green card you can legally adopt him. He was legally in the country passport wise.”
In April, everything was finally finalized. Prince was now legally a Sammons.
“It’s a great honor to me,” Prince said. “I give God to glory for them to open their minds and adopt me as a son and bring me into their house. I’m happy to be with them.”
Prince is also happy to finally be playing sports.
Ineligible to play football as a freshman, he served as the team’s manager.
“I recruited our water boy,” head coach Eric Taylor laughed.
Just as he did in the classroom, Sammons was a quick study regarding football.
“Quite frankly if I had to guess, a year ago he couldn’t tell you how many yards it took to get a first down,” Taylor said. “Knew nothing about the sport.”
That didn’t stop college coaches from eyeing the team manager and asking Taylor about him. Now they’ve finally been able to see him play this fall and the potential has recruiters salivating.
“His growth has just been expediential,” Taylor said. “He’s really doing a great job of learning and understanding the game. For a guy his size already doing a nice job of already starting to play low. That size, the biggest concern is are they going be able to bend? Are they going to play low? Are they going to stand straight up? He’s done a nice job of playing low. He’s a very physical player. He’s still learning his body and frankly still learning the game. It’s been a lot of fun watching him grow and develop.
A competitor, Sammons grew up playing basketball and soccer. He could still develop into a Division-I hoops recruit as well, however he believes football is his vehicle for the life he wants down the road. This fall he’s played all across the defensive front and also plays some tight end in helping the team begin the season 9-0.
“At this point he’s just a specimen,” Taylor said. “He’s a very gifted young man. People are impressed with his play at the line, his hustle, getting across the field. He’s still learning pass-rush techniques and understanding what two-gapping is all about and slanting, and he’s so raw but already doing so many great things. Very physical.
“I think it’s still clicking. He still has a long way to go. He is nowhere near what he’s going to be. He started this July. I’d say around game three or four he started getting it a little more and making some drastic steps.”
Cincinnati was first to offer Sammons on Sept. 28. He plans to visit for the Louisville game on Dec. 5.
“It’s a great honor to have a scholarship offer early in my sophomore year, which gives me the ability and (drive) to play harder and push me towards my goal which is to be the best player in football.”
An education in America, the opportunity to get free college tuition and perhaps be a high-dollar earner as a football player and eventually a doctor have Sammons dialed in.
“We talk about that every so often, you put yourself in a good position academically, you go get a great education, whether you’re playing football or basketball, get that college education and help yourself out so you can be successful from the terms we have in America,” Brandon said. “A dollar here translates to wealth over there.
“I think he has the potential to do whatever he wants. He’s determined. He has work ethic. Whatever he puts his mind to he seems to do well at it. Especially coming from the education background he came from, he’s getting a 3.0 (GPA) in America in one of the toughest schools in the area.”
The first time Sammons visited Michigan during the summer, he found out he had another brother. Wolverines defensive end Frank Clark told him.
“He saw me and he’s like dude, you’re my brother,” Sammons recapped. “I was like what, you don’t know me. He was like I don’t need to know you. I see you. I want you to come to Michigan. You’re going to play my position. You’re going to be my friend. I was like alright.”
Sammons returned for the Michigan-Notre Dame game in September.
“It was amazing first of all, seeing the atmosphere which was 100,000 something people there. I was delighted to go there and witness what football in college is. I’m watching (Frank) the whole game to see what he did. When I came back here I added that to my game.”
With a Michigan bracelet on one wrist and an Ohio State bracelet on the other, Sammons is also excited about the Buckeyes. He attended the win over Wisconsin last month.
“Ohio State is a great atmosphere too,” Sammons said. “I like the defense. The defense is very fast. They have a nice running back and nice quarterback too.”
Sammons is all smiles when you see him at Cincinnati Christian Hills Academy. He’s made friends and blossomed into a typical American teenager. At the same time he’s thinking about his siblings. He checks in with his older brother. The Sammons family is active in helping his loved ones in Nigeria. He plans on going back.
“My goal from the time I lost my mom, I said I want to be a doctor because back home a lot of people die from minor disease and it’s very expensive for people to go to the hospital. What God wants me to be when I grow up is a doctor, that’s a big thing because I want to go back there and open a clinic and provide medical help for people that don’t have money.
“I want to help people who need, and I want to teach the younger ones the game of football, for them to have the passion to play the game of football and also teach them more about God.”