004 : The Player Experience - Sam Renner

For our next episode of The Player Experience, we connected with Sam Renner, a defensive tackle out of the University of Minnesota who is making his way to the NFL. Sam has an amazing story, from walk-on to Big Ten scholarship starter to training for the National Football League. While dominating on the field, Sam has also earned Academic All-American honors and a master’s degree in Accounting. He’s got something for everyone. Follow Sam on Instagram @sam.renner_

What do you play, where did you play, and what was that experience like?

I played defensive tackle at The University of Minnesota. The experience was unlike anything else. I had three coaching changes and 6 position coaches. 

Why football?

Because it was the sport I was best at. Football is an amazing team game with amazing opportunities with college scholarships and professional aspirations. So it was natural that I gravitated towards it. 

What did your training look like throughout your playing career? What does it look like now?

Training is something I love. I’ve done it 6-7 days a week for the past 8 years. It’s how I've been able to put on 60 pounds since high school and keep my speed. It looks very similar now due to training for the NFL. But it's 6 days of weight lifting and 3 days of running. Being a lineman, strength and muscle is crucial and I've been busy keeping that up.

Tell us what a typical day in the life looks like as a college football player. 

6am wake up 

7am team meeting 

8am-noon practice

1pm-5pm classes

6pm dinner 

7pm homework 

9pm free time

10pm bedtime

You need to prioritize what you want but everything is possible. 

What was a major hurdle for you to play D1 football at a top conference?

The biggest hurdle is realizing you are playing guys who are 5 years older than you. The difference between an 18 year old and a 23 year old is huge and you have to be ready to wait your turn. 

What are your goals going forward? Where do you want to be in 1 year? 

The main goal is to make an NFL roster. I am going through the draft process right now but in 1 year I will hope to have been an NFL draft pick and on an active roster all year while playing a little bit. 

What are the obstacles to you meeting your goals? 

Becoming a better football player and being recognized for my play in college. I was only a 1 year starter so lots of people didn’t expect this out of me. 

What was the best thing about playing football at your school?

Teammates. I’m sure that's everywhere but the bond is second to none.

Over your career, who are some teammates you really enjoyed playing with? 

I feel like the older players I looked up too had a big impact on my life. Guys like peter Mortell and Blake Cashman were people who came in and made an impact in football and in their academic life

Who do you love to watch or model your play after?

The big one for me is JJ Watt is probably my biggest idol on the defensive line. He is the best to ever play the position and is cool to watch. 

Who inspired you to play?

I would say Tom Brady inspired me to play with determination. He was a 6th round draft pick and became the greatest quarterback of all time. Nothing is impossible in his eyes. 

How can you describe the recruiting process for college, and the draft process into professional sports?

I wasn’t recruited for college. All I did was email Minnesota asking to walk on and they said sure. As far as pro sports. It’s a long process. Mostly interviews and seeing if you have the talent to play. They want to get measurements of everything to see if you fit the mold. 

What tools and resources do you lean on to further your success?

I learn a lot from motivational speakers. Eric Thomas and Inky Johnson are my two favorites. But they are always there giving me insight on how to get through something or how to persevere.

What is a piece of advice you’d want a young player coming through the ranks to know?

This is a slow grind. I’ve been at this game for 15 years and it consumes my life. But with that don’t be frustrated that it doesn’t come right away. Everything happens for a reason and if you take care of business everyday you will get your shot.