Deacon Spotlight: Sam Hartman

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Hartman threw for 2,224 yards and 13 touchdowns in his redshirt sophomore season.

Bry Richards, Staff Writer

Sam Hartman is the starting quarterback for the Wake Forest football team. He is currently preparing for his redshirt junior year after making historic waves during the 2020-2021 season, ranking No. 28 nationally with 2,224 passing yards. He also threw 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Majoring in communications, the Charlotte native is preparing for spring football, and the Demon Deacons are readying themselves for another season in the fall.

Bry Richards: The first time I saw you, you were on the Netflix show “QB1”. Now, you’re preparing for your redshirt junior year season. In what ways would you say you have grown and improved as a quarterback since then?

Sam Hartman: I would say I just did a complete 180. In high school, It’s relatively easy getting into football. Now, at this level, in college, it goes on like exponential growth, but you only see just a bit of it. You think, ‘I know so much,’ and then it just keeps going. You learn more and more about it, and then you realize you don’t know a lot at all. So, I would say that was one of the most significant things because I thought I knew football and how to play quarterback. But I honestly knew very little. My knowledge has grown a lot, and I have grown as a leader too. There’s a lot more responsibility that comes, the older you get, such as dealing with media, doing interviews, doing off the field stuff. Everything is magnified. I was already in the national spotlight in high school, but now it’s even bigger still. When you get to college, you have to keep rolling with the punches. So, I would say those are the two biggest things: knowledge and then a better understanding of being a leader.

BR: Going back to your younger years, what inspired you to get into football and play at the quarterback position?

SH: I was almost forced into it by my parents when I was younger. I didn’t like football. When I had my first ever practice of real tackle football, I was sent home crying by my dad within minutes. But I went back the next day. My interest in the game didn’t start until 2010 when I was 11 and went to a Michigan football game. There were 110,000 people. It was a huge stadium, and I actually think it’s the biggest in the country. It was packed, and I recall we were walking out of the little tunnel, and it was this massive group of people going nuts for football. I remember that like it was yesterday. It was then when I thought, ‘I think this is what I want to do.’ My love for the game often wavered. I hated football during my freshman year because I never got to play, but now, I love it.

BR: There is no question that being a quarterback is tough. After your season-ending injury in 2018, how did you manage to rebound and insert yourself back into the game?

SH: I changed my approach. In 2018, I was so young. Looking back and watching the tape, I think, ‘holy cow.’ Back then, I didn’t understand how important my role was on the team. I didn’t take the number of people depending on me seriously. There was no sense of urgency to prepare and know what I needed to do because I didn’t know any better. I came in here, won the job freshman year, and the following year I didn’t win the job. Since then, I climbed the ladder and figured it out. This past year, I was much better with my preparation. Still, you can always do better. You could talk to the best of the best, and they’re always going to say, ‘you could always step up another level.’ Still, realizing the importance of my role and how my preparation affects the team was critical.

BR: In general, what would you say that your schedule looks like now during spring football?

SH: It’s a bit more relaxed. Usually, I lift at 9 a.m., get treatment and then eat. I still have some classes, but even then, we only practice in the morning. I try to clump my work together so then I have some free time. The spring is when I can take a day or a part of the day and do something else.

BR: It is well known that you are a very religious person. How would you describe the relationship between playing football and your faith?

SH: I think it’s pretty strong. In the Bible, you look at people who have taken on challenges. Instead of crumbling, they take on the challenge and succeed. Religion helps to remind me that there is a bigger purpose. If I’m ever down on my luck, I know I can turn back to my faith and find inspiration.

BR: Do you have any other pre-game rituals or superstitions?

SH: I have a warm-up routine, but it changes a lot. I usually take at least five minutes right before leaving for the field and find a quiet place. I sit there, focus on my breathing, and get in the zone. Especially when everybody’s all jazzed up and walking around and yelling. I like that, but I can’t do it. I would love to be the guy that was yelling and screaming, but then I’d play terribly. So, I find myself just getting a little bit of alone time.

BR: What is going through your head during a game?

SH: I’m actually working on that right now. While I’ve been focusing on the physical part of my game, I’ve put a lot of time into the mental side as well. Sometimes, during the game, I’ll think about the next play. Then sometimes, my mind will be completely elsewhere. In some games, I’m hyper-focused, and I end up playing worse because I’m not playing naturally. Sometimes if I’m distracted, I play great, or I play terrible. It’s all about finding that happy medium of not being overly nervous. That’s one of the biggest things that I’m working on in practice.

BR: As a quarterback, many of your teammates view you as a leader. With new signees and transfers, how do you maintain a strong locker room presence with a changing team?

SH: One of the biggest things over the years that I’ve learned is guys can sense when you’re faking it. It’s tough to be the same guy every day and be your best self. Consistency is tough to find. That is one of the things I’m striving for, so my teammates know that they’re always getting the same Sam, not just ‘mad Sam’ or ‘good Sam.’ It’s hard, and I’m not the best at it, but I’ve gotten better through the years.

BR: With so much more experience under your belt, what parts of your playing style do you consider your strengths? And what do you plan to change or improve?

SH: I hate saying that I’m good at anything, but I would say I am resilient. My weakness is that I sometimes overthink my mistakes. In that sense, this game and this position become such a mental battle.

BR: Overall, what are your plans for the future? Do you hope to make it to the NFL?

SH: I would love to make it to the NFL. I’ve been playing since I was five, so I would love to keep playing just a little bit longer. If the NFL doesn’t work out, I would love to get a farm somewhere with a pond and a couple of horses. I want an all-black horse with a white spot and a couple of dogs. If that happens, I’ll be happy.