When the Seattle Seahawks’ famed “Legion of Boom” secondary disbanded in 2017, Darrien Sampson became a lot less interested in his city’s cherished NFL franchise.
It was around that time when Sampson, a former standout cornerback at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School and current redshirt sophomore at Eastern Washington, noticed the contributions of a pair of Los Angeles Rams rookies, receiver Cooper Kupp and linebacker Samson Ebukam, each drafted in same class out of EWU.
After Los Angeles put ex-EWU receiver and returner Nsimba Webster – Sampson’s EWU teammate in 2018 – on its 53-man roster last in 2019, the Seattle kid had made a complete pivot into Rams fandom.
“It’s kind of crazy. (EWU) has guys in the league producing, many with the Rams,” said Sampson, the son of Rainier Beach head football coach Corey Sampson. “My friends are all about Seattle, and we’d sometimes argue about it.
“I’d say, ‘(Kupp) is going to do this and this’ to your team.”
In the Rams’ 30-20 wild-card playoff game win over the Seahawks on Saturday at Lumen Field, Kupp, Ebukam and Webster did plenty.
Kupp recorded a team-high 78 receiving yards on four receptions before exiting the game with a slight knee injury, including a 44-yard catch in which the Yakima native made nice body adjustment to help set up a first-quarter field goal.
Ebukam forced a late fumble that helped the Rams seal the win.
Webster returned two kicks for 61 yards - he nearly broke for a touchdown on a 36-yard return - returned one punt for 9 yards and recorded a tackle.
“I used to face (Webster) when I was scout team corner and he was a senior,” Sampson said. “So it’s cool to see him out there.”
A sizable portion of EWU’s roster is from the Seattle area, but not all are Seahawks and Rams fans.
EWU linebacker Jack Sendelbach defensive end Debore’ae McClain – both from the Puget Sound area – are Browns fans.
Many EWU football fans and alumni are Seahawks fans, though, and find themselves torn when they face the Rams and their Eagle alums.
“I always cheer for the pro Eags to play great and the Seahawks to win,” Dustin Crowe said. “The most conflicted I have ever been was when Kupp saw the game-winner go through his hands against the Seahawks in 2017. A catch is a Rams win and a drop was a Seahawks win. Seahawks won, but I was so disappointed because I’m still a huge Eags fan first.”
Michelle Schultz echoed Crowe.
“I always root for our individual Eags to make great plays,” Schultz said. “Just not better than my Seahawks.”
Jonathan Carlyle was an athletic training aide in 2016 when Kupp, Ebukam and Webster helped the Eagles reached the 2016 Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.
If the Rams’ offense isn’t moving the ball, Carlyle gets to see his old Bothell High School teammate, Rams punter Johnny Hekker.
“I always root for the Hawks during these games and for Johnny to see the field as much as possible,” Carlyle said.
Jim Jansma, an EWU graduate and Seahawks season ticket holder since 1997, wishes Kupp, Ebukam and Webster weren’t in the NFC West so he wouldn’t have to root against them.
“I’d rather not think about losing to the Rams in the playoffs,” Jansma said.
“It’s the equivalent of losing (EWU) to (rival Montana) in the FCS playoffs.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.