THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – If Ra'Shaad Samples had his way several years ago, he probably would be sitting at a desk at a "Big Four" accounting firm instead of one inside an NFL team's facility as an NFL position coach.
However, a change of heart thanks one of his college coaches proved impactful, putting the 27-year-old on a trajectory in the coaching profession whose latest stop is in Los Angeles as the Rams' newest running backs coach.
"Man, I thank God every day," Samples said during his introductory video conference Wednesday. "I'm blessed, bro, I'm really blessed because it's a lot of coaches that don't get this opportunity, and there's coaches out there who probably know more ball than me, probably more experienced than me, probably more qualified than me and I have the opportunity to sit in this chair and do this."
Before that gratitude and perspective, there was a reluctance to a career in coaching that stemmed from his upbringing.
The son of prominent Dallas-area coach Reginald Samples, Ra'Shaad had grown to resent the coaching profession. He was coached by his father growing up, but the relationship was "Coach first and dad second" rather than the other way around. It always-on coaching, with seemingly no delineation.
So when Samples got to college, he pursued an accounting major, following in the footsteps of his three older sisters who are in accounting and business.
"To be completely honest, I was trying to figure out, since I'm getting my school paid for, how can I get out of here and make some money immediately and do something that didn't take a lot of energy, that I could be at home, that I could travel," Samples said.
Samples' college playing career began at Oklahoma State, where he spent two seasons before transferring to Houston. That career ended prematurely due to concussions, but then-Houston coach Tom Herman still saw a way for one of the Cougars' team captains to have an impact by challenging him to be a mentor for young players off-the-field.
There was some resistance at first, though. Once his career ended, Samples began exploring hobbies to get him further away from coaching, including umpiring baseball games. Samples said Herman had to drag him out to the football field. Eventually, though, he embraced it.
"He called me, he hunted me down, and I would come and I would skip practice," Samples said. "I did everything I could to avoid coaching. (But) when God has a purpose for you, you have no way of avoiding it."
Serving that purpose took him from being a student assistant at Houston for two seasons from 2016-17, to an assistant wide receivers coach at Texas in 2018, followed by three seasons at SMU.
Along the way, he connected with then-South Carolina running backs coach Thomas Brown through Bryan Carrington, who is now TCU's offensive analyst - recruiting coordinator but was at Texas at the time.
"We probably interviewed him for a total of, I would say maybe an hour, an hour-plus, but I would say right off the bat, you knew he was a guy (who was a) great communicator, bright future," said Brown, now the Rams assistant head coach/tight ends coach after serving as assistant head coach/running backs last season. "Excited to have him here."
The seat Samples sits in now, he wants to use to set an example for others.
Much like his change of heart in pursuing coaching, he sees a bigger purpose that comes with the platform.
"It motivates me more than anything because I know there's some young coaches out there who don't know if this is what they should be doing, don't know if they're gonna ever get a shot or don't know if you can be a young coach or if they need to wait their turn," Samples said. "I just see myself as kind of like the poster child of, if you want something and you can work for it and gain the knowledge and create relationships, then you can attain it, so it just motivates me to make sure I do a great job."
The Los Angeles Rams have finalized the coaching staff for the 2022 season. Look through photos to meet the coaches!