Family has helped ease P.K. Sam II's pain, but not his anger toward Nick Saban.
Sam's father died father died Dec. 14, 2006, at the age of 49, just more than a month after being diagnosed with cancer. The disease robbed Sam, then 23, of the opportunity to further bond with the man who helped him believe he could excel in athletics.
But putting family first resulted in Sam being released by the Miami Dolphins. On Wednesday, the 10th anniversary of his father's death, the veteran receiver lashed out at how Saban, the former Dolphins head coach now leading Alabama, handled the matter.
"Thank you nick Saban. 10 yrs ago today you cut me from the MiamiDolphins bc I flew home to hug my dad before he died. CLASSY!" Sam tweeted.
Sam was on Miami's practice roster when he received a late call from his mother the night before a game saying his father, Philip Kenwood Sam, had become gravely ill while they were attending his brother, Lorne's, graduation from the University of Texas at El Paso. Predictably, Sam left immediately and, after failing to reach Miami officials, made arrangements for his agent to inform the Dolphins.
Sam's agent called back three days later with a Miami ultimatum: return immediately or be released. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Sam remained with his father, who died the following day.
Miami re-signed Sam that season but cut him again during training camp the following year. Saban was long gone by then, having bolted to Alabama after going 15-17 over two seasons with the Dolphins.
Sam currently works in IT sales in Dayton, Ohio, a married father of young sons Julian, 6, and P.K. III (Trey), who turns 8 on Dec. 29, and a teenage stepdaughter. While family life has filled much of the void created by his father's passing, Saban's decision remains a sore point.
"I had to go that week without a paycheque while having to deal with making funeral arrangements," Sam said this week during a telephone interview. "I could see if I was making, like, $1-million a game and it was a hit to the team, but [on the practice roster] you're making, like, $4,500 a week, which is still good money – don't get me wrong – but in that business it's just pennies.
"If I was on the active roster and knew I had to play then it would've been like, 'Mom, I have to do this.' But I wasn't letting the team down, I was in a situation where I should've been able to see my dad without worrying about being released. To me, it was just crazy, and ever since I've obviously had a bad taste in my mouth because of it."
Sam, 33, was an 2004 fifth-round pick of the New England Patriots. The former Florida State star also played with Cincinnati, Oakland and Buffalo and in the CFL from 2008-11 with Toronto and Calgary.
"For years it was trying to make a team and being in hotels thinking about [his father's passing]," Sam said. "After I got married … it filled the emptiness and all the stories that used to make me sad I now tell to my kids and they make me happy.
"My parents made sure everything was about family. My father and I had just started becoming more like father and son when he was taken because I'd always looked at him as a coach. I loved him, don't get me wrong, but I was finally opening up and sharing things with him."
Sam comes from an athletic family. Three uncles attended the University of Arizona on either football or track scholarships. His sister, Autumn, played basketball at Clemson while both Sam and his brother played football at Florida State and UTEP.
Lorne Sam also played receiver in the NFL (Denver, Green Bay) and CFL (Winnipeg).
"My father had a lot of passion when he saw us and how good we could be," Sam said. "He was doing drills before all these trainers popped up. … We actually ran tires and obstacle courses he made and it worked out because my brother and I both made it to the NFL.
"No, we didn't end up rich, but we made it and each generation you're supposed to make sure your kids go further than you did."