Loyola offensive lineman Sam Yoon is a rising star on and off field
Fourth in a series of stories profiling top high school football players in the Southland by position.
The combination of a father who was born in Korea and a mother who’s part Irish and Polish has resulted in a 6-foot-4, 290-pound teenager who dead lifts more than 500 pounds, has never received a grade other than A in high school and plays offensive tackle as if it were the most important position on a football field.
“My mom will always say a big factor in my size would be consumption of milk,” said senior Sam Yoon of Los Angeles Loyola. “I would go through several gallons growing up.”
It’s easy to find positive things to say about Yoon, who has a 4.8 grade-point average, was elected student body president and had one student say on Twitter, “He’s the nicest student on campus.”
But nice doesn’t get you anywhere in the football trenches except being pushed back on your butt. Yoon didn’t start playing tackle football until his freshman year. That’s when he had to get comfortable using his size to dish out punishment as a blocker.
“I remember a big, athletic kid who just hadn’t played before,” coach Drew Casani said. “Like any first-year guy, it’s getting used to pads and helmets and the physicalness of the game. We could tell right away he was going to be athletic and strong. It was how tough he would be. Now he’s finishing guys and has a little nasty streak in him.”
Yoon could always watch film of his father, Ed, an undersized lineman at Beverly Hills High, on how to scrap and hustle. It’s rubbed off on him.
“I’m relentless,” he said. “Between the whistle I will not stop. I never trash talk anybody and I’m conscious about being a good sport. During the play, I’m not your friend.”
Yoon is like a sponge with everything he‘s taught in the classroom, which helps explain how he received A’s in Advanced Placement English, AP U.S. History, AP Chemistry and Honors Latin III on his last report card. He scored 1550 on the SAT out of 1600.
In football, he also listens.
“Our coaches always talk about we’re the most under appreciated and under recognized but we do most important job of on the field,” he said.
Protecting the quarterback and creating opportunities for running backs certainly make Yoon a player to watch. He has made steady progress each season and there’s every reason to think his best days are ahead. During the summer, after Loyola’s five-game spring season, college offers starting rolling in from Pac-12 schools like UCLA, USC and California.
“I have no doubt he can play at next level,” Casani said. “He has the work ethic and intelligence and competitiveness of a guy who can really play for a long time.”
Casani remembers having Yoon in a freshman P.E. class, and Yoon was determined to make sure he was the best P.E. participant in ultimate frisbee and badminton.
“I believe doing is the best form of learning,” Yoon said.
Friday: Matayo Uiagalelei, St. John Bosco tight end.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN TO WATCH
Zach Eagle, Chaminade, 6-7, 310, Sr. Made major progress in offseason.
Earnest Greene, St. John Bosco, 6-5, 330, Sr. Toughest to beat on bull rush.
George Iyalomhe, Cypress, 6-3, 290, Sr. Size, strength, good fundamentals.
Wendell Moe, Long Beach Poly, 6-3, 330, Sr. Moore League lineman of the year.
Phillip Ocon, St. Francis, 6-4, 320, So. Going to be a big-time college recruit.
Samiuela Sefa, Bishop Alemany, 6-3, 320, Sr. Physical, effective blocker.
Jake Steele, Murrieta Valley, 6-4, 260, Sr. San Jose State commit with 4.3 GPA.
BJ Tolo, Mater Dei, 6-1, 290, Jr. Will be rare four-year OL starter in 2022.
Michael Wooten, Sierra Canyon, 6-6, 290, Sr. Has committed to Oregon.
Sam Yoon, Loyola, 6-4, 290, Sr. Rapidly improving OT with 4.8 GPA.
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