Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample (89) runs over Washington Redskins defensive back Deshazor Everett (22) for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Landover, Md., Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Photo: Susan Walsh
Photo: Susan Walsh

Bengals tight end balancing life as new father, NFL rookie

That’s a lot of big changes in a short period of time, but he’s excited about the challenges ahead with both new aspects of his life.

Sample and his wife, Angelina, welcomed daughter Alivia Rose into the world at 12:11 a.m. Saturday at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, almost a month before her due date.

»RELATED: Bengals tap rookie to replace A.J. Green

“It’s been awesome so far, just having her born,” Sample said. “Being born early was something we were surprised about, but we were ready. We’ve had everything since we’ve been in Cincinnati, so that was nice. It’s been amazing so far. Any chance I get to be with her is just awesome. It’s something new, a new journey but it’s something I’m really excited about.”

This time last year, Sample was preparing for his final season at the University of Washington as a newlywed. He married Angelina Danylyuk on July 22, 2018, at a winery in Woodinville, Wash. The couple knew it would be hectic after the season as Sample would be preparing for the draft and then transitioning with a new team, so they pushed up the timetable on their wedding.

It ended up being quite the year for him. He had 25 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns in his most productive season playing in an offense that relied more on his run-blocking ability. The Bengals drafted him in the second round, seeing him as someone who could help bolster the running game but also develop into an asset in the passing game.

Sample has made three catches for 22 yards and one touchdown in two preseason games so far. He missed the third preseason game last week because of a hamstring injury but returned to practice Sunday and could play in the finale Thursday against the Colts.

»RELATED: Pair of rookies to start season opener

The Bengals open the season in Sample’s home state when they play Sept. 8 at Seattle.

“He’s a gritty player,” coach Zac Taylor said. “He really just has a knack in all three phases, the protection, the run game, the receiver play. His first game was kind of his welcome to the NFL moment. I thought he played much better (at Washington), and he’s only going to improve with every single game he plays against a different defensive line. Different linebackers he’s got to block, we are only going to see him improve from a guy that has that mindset and attacks each day like he does. I’m very pleased with the direction he’s headed.”

Learning a new scheme has been the biggest adjustment, Sample said, especially after studying and playing the same system for five years at Washington. Getting a fresh start with a team full of players making the adjustment to Taylor’s new offense has made things a little easier.

“It’s been great,” Sample said of the transition to the NFL. “It’s kind of nice just focusing on football. There’s no school like college so it’s truly your job, and that’s pretty cool to do something you love and it’s considered work. I enjoy showing up every day, enjoy the little things — learning the offense, getting to know the city, just trying to improve every day. There is still a lot to do and a lot of growth to happen, but it’s good so far.”

Now, Sample will be learning to perform at a high level on less sleep with a newborn baby at home. Angelina and Alivia got out of the hospital on Monday, and all are doing well, he said.

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Sample said he is up for the challenge of managing parenthood and professional football.

“For me, throughout my life, I’ve been pretty good about being able to handle different things, whether it’s football, life, family, so it’s different but I’m excited about it,” Sample said. “I don’t think it’s something that will affect football or anything like that. I’m excited for this journey.”

The baby was originally due Sept. 20 and the Samples had been talking with the doctors about potentially scheduling an induction as the date got closer so Drew could be sure to be there. Her early arrival actually came at a good time before the season gets started. They were in the hospital most of the day Friday before Alivia was born overnight, and the Bengals had an off-day Saturday.

Sample feels comfortable knowing they have the support of their family to help out early on as Angelina recovers and they settle in as a family of three. Angelina’s mom came into town already and the rest of the family will be visiting soon as well.

“We have a ton of great support,” Sample said. “Obviously, it’s football season, so we know that’s important, but baby is good and my wife is awesome so that makes it easier to focus here for sure.”

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