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The Baylor Basketball Incident: An Eyewitness to One of the Biggest Scandals (and Turnarounds) in NCAA History

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 13, 2023 3:00 am

The Baylor Basketball Incident: An Eyewitness to One of the Biggest Scandals (and Turnarounds) in NCAA History

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 13, 2023 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, next we have a story about one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history—along with one of its biggest turnarounds. Here to tell the story is one of the members of that Baylor basketball team, Matt Sayman, author of The Leftovers: Baylor, Betrayal, and Beyond.

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Keep your ride or die alive at eBayMotors.com. Eligible items only. Exclusions apply. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. To subscribe to our podcasts, go to the iHeartRadio app, or wherever you get your podcasts. Up next, a story about one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history, along with one of its biggest turnarounds.

Let's take a listen. My name's Matt Samen and I'm the head boys basketball coach at Grapevine Faith Christian School, right outside of DFW, Dallas-Fort Worth. And that's what I do full-time, but what I get to tell my players about is a story a story that a lot of them haven't heard before, but their parents are probably familiar with, or I remember at some point hearing about what happened with Baylor basketball in the early 2000s.

And one of my dreams growing up was to be a Division I basketball player, but I never dreamt of being part of one of the largest scandals or tragedies in college basketball history. And going into my senior year down in Waco, that's exactly where I found myself. But before that, you kind of have to start back at how did basketball become so important to me? So I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania in a small little town called Berwick, PA, and my family and I were very active in church. And I would say that we did church really well.

Every Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesdays, we were up there. And at a young age, I prayed a prayer when I was about five and accepted Christ into my heart, but just grew up with that type of head knowledge. But it was really when I was nine years old is when I fell in love, and I fell in love with basketball. One thing that was really big that separated me from my teammates was my ability to practice for long periods of time and not get bored. And I realized quickly when I was about nine or 10 that I had three goals. One was to make my freshman A-team, one was to make varsity as a sophomore, and one was to get a Division I scholarship for basketball. And so I dedicated my time to that.

One example that just of me thinking or viewing the game differently was in seventh grade going to the going to the Berwick Middle School dance. You know, and I'm dressed up in my half green, half purple silk shirt with black jeans, no belt, of course, shirt tucked in. And I'm ready to just dance it up while I go in and I'm walking past the gym and the light is on. I jiggle the door, the door is open. I go inside and there's a basketball waiting, rip my silk shirt off, and I worked on my game for about two and a half hours in the gym by myself. Came out after the dance and my mom said, hey, how was the dance?

I said, I don't know. I was working on my game the whole time and I didn't feel bad about it. I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything. One really important moment for me came. I was a camp junkie. I would go to camps all summer long from fifth grade on. And going into my freshman year, I flew down to Texas and I met the head coach of the Colony, Texas, Tommy Thomas, legendary coach around these parts.

I was about five, seven, five, eight, flat top, size 13 shoe, nothing special to look at. But I had these big dreams and these big goals. And I talked to Coach Thomas about these goals and he said, Matt, that can happen for you down here in Texas. Well, as a 14 year old, I flew back to Pennsylvania where all of our family is from. And I told my mom on the way home from the airport, I need to move to Texas so I can be a college basketball player. They asked my little sister, Becky, if she's three years younger than me, if that was OK. And she said, yeah, let's go. Within two weeks, our entire family had changed their lives dramatically for the dreams of a 14 year old boy. I mean, you talk about parents being invested. You move across the country to a place where we know nobody, we have no family.

They're all in. So I had those three goals and I made my freshman A team at the Colony, Texas, where it's a big 5A public school with a lot of diversity. I had to learn real quick how to play against athletic players and how to get tough and how to not just use my physical skill, but my mental ability to play with these guys. I had a great growth spurt going into my sophomore year where I went from about 5A to 6-1 or 6-2, really skinny. But now I was tall and skilled and I made varsity as a sophomore. Well, going into my senior year at the Colony, we're really good.

I'm ranked seventh in the country and I get to go down to Waco, Texas, to Bailey University to go on my college visit with a guy named Dave Bliss. Coach Bliss, already a legendary coach, met me and my mom at the gas station in Waco and he had a Bible in the back seat of his car. And I think, I'm not saying that it was planned, but he was a master salesman. He knew what I stood for, knew what my mom was all about. And my mom made the comment to me when she saw the Bible, she felt like this was the right thing.

So it was pretty wise to have that in the back. But Coach Bliss did a great job of taking us around the whole campus and everybody that he introduced me to, he introduced me like I was already one of his players and that like me coming to Baylor was going to be the best thing for our university. And I'll never forget, he said this, he said, Matt, I want you to be one of the pillars of our program. And man, any 18 year old that hears that from a big 12 school, Division I, and you're the kind of kid I am that has these goals, I would have signed there if I could. On the way home, I looked at my mom and I said, that's where I want to go.

And with tears in her eyes, she was like, oh, I'm so glad. So freshman, sophomore, junior year, I played every game at Baylor, meaningful minutes at times, lesser minutes at times, but I realized how to bring value. By the end of my junior year, I had solidified a starting role. And man, we were about to be really, really good. We had future NBA players that were sophomores. We had some role players like myself that were juniors that were going to be seniors. And going into my senior year, we were picked to be in the top four in the Big 12, which that means that you're probably top 25.

And that means you're going to march madness to the big dance. When we come back, more of Matt Sammon's story, a rise, a fall, a rise again, here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country, stories from our big cities and small towns.

But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to OurAmericanStories.com and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.

Go to OurAmericanStories.com and give. Hey, this is Tonya Rad from the Scrubbing In with Becca Tilly and Tonya Rad podcast. You'll know real when you get it. It'll say eBay authenticity guarantee, and you'll feel it. Maybe it's a head-turning handbag, a watch that says it all, jewelry that makes you look like the gem, sneakers and streetwear so fresh every step feels fly. When it comes to style and luxury, eBay gets it. They're making sure the things you love are checked by experts, not just any experts, specialized experts, real people who love this stuff with real hands-on authentication experience. So when you see that shiny blue check mark that says authenticity guarantee, shop with confidence. Every inch, stitch, sole and logo is verified authentic through a detailed inspection. That's how you know that eBay's got your back. Because when you finally step into those sneakers, put on that watch, get your real gold glow up, swing that handbag over your shoulder, or step out in that streetwear, you'll realize that feeling is unlike any other. With eBay authenticity guarantee, you can trust that feeling of real is always in reach. Ensure your next purchase is the real deal.

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Ford is committed to the preservation of the environment and treading lightly. Hi everyone. This is Scott Patterson from I Am All In with Scott Patterson. I'd like to invite you to watch my brand new series on the CW called Sullivan's Crossing. It's all about healing and journeys of self-discovery. And I think you'll really enjoy it. I play Sully Sullivan and my character owns a campground in Nova Scotia, Canada, when my estranged daughter, played by Morgan Cohan, comes back seeking solace after a very difficult situation.

And we both have to navigate a very tough past family history. Meanwhile, Cal, played by Chad Michael Murray, who works with my character and has a very mysterious past of his own, begins to befriend my daughter Maggie and makes things even more complicated for all of them. If you want more, you'll have to watch it. The series is based on the New York Times best-selling series. And did I mention this will mark my return to the CW since Gilmore Girls, as well as Chad Michael Murray's return to the network too. I'm so glad to be back and I hope you'll meet me there.

Sullivan's Crossing airs Wednesdays on the CW or stream free on the CW app. And we continue with our American Stories and Matt Damon's story. Let's pick up where we last left off. There's the pass to Laitner puts it up. I grew up watching Duke make its amazing runs in the early nineties with Laitner, you know, hitting that turnaround shot against Kentucky. Like I practiced that shot in the dream, not just playing college basketball was getting to that stage.

And man, like it really felt like it was about to happen. I can remember it was a Friday afternoon in June of 2003. I just come in from playing sand volleyball. I stayed on the Baylor campus every summer to be with our strength coach to get extra classes in.

But I just love the university and I love being on campus and being a basketball player at Baylor. And one of my professors that I was friends with called and said, Matt, what's up with your team? What's going on? I said, what do you, what do you, what do you mean? What are they doing now? He said, no, like you need to turn on the news right now. They're saying that there's been a homicide and that basketball players might be involved.

So that summer of 2003 was the longest summer of my life. We had just finished weights and we were told that we were having a team meeting in the locker room, which that's not odd to have team meetings, but in the locker room, our coaches were there, but the strange part was there's policemen in there. That was the different part. And so they go around and they're asking, Hey, we haven't seen Patrick. Nobody's seen Patrick in about a week. His parents haven't heard from him.

Do you guys know anything? The interesting thing was, so Patrick was a red shirt and Patrick was a different guy. He'd be there for a week. He'd be gone for two weeks and we would never have explanations. He was in and out all summer long. So for me, not to see him for an extended period of time, wasn't strange at all.

So I, I dismissed that whole thing. Patrick will show up with like a new tattoo or a new earring. He was in Vegas, who knows? And then that Friday was when that came out in the news and this story started to unfold.

And then these allegations start, they start to dig into coach bliss a little bit. And this was a hard moment where I hadn't seen him in a few weeks and we still didn't know where Patrick was. And I was walking in the bottom of the Farrell center and I was crossing paths with him and he looked older to me and it looked really beat down. And I was such a good follower, you know, as a player and a coach, not a coach's pet, but man, I just believed in them and they, they loved me. And I saw him, I said, coach, I just want to let you know that I'm sorry for what you're going through and what people are saying about you. And I told him, I was like, I don't think you deserve any of that. And being around him so much, I'd once watched him do a four hour coaching video in one take with no ums or uhs. He was incredibly accomplished speaker and a good salesman, but standing in front of this guy, I felt like something's off.

He is not looking me in the eye. He's very kind of frantic with what he's saying and doing. But he said, Matt, you know what, what we found was when we went into Patrick's apartment, we found drugs and money and Matt, that's how he was paying for school.

And I said, wow, like, yes, sir. Like that makes sense. Because it had come out that Patrick wasn't on scholarship. Patrick was a six, eight freak of an athlete that could shoot. And he was going to be an NBA player. Like he was one of the reasons why we were going to be really good the next year. For us to ever think that he wasn't on scholarship, it never came up.

Like I would look more like a walk-on than he did. And so when, but that came out that how is Patrick Denny paying for school? And then Coach Bliss told me this story as a truth.

And as the good soldier that I was, I just went along right with it. Fast forward, they find Patrick's body. And after about a month and a half, found out that Carlton Dotson, one of our teammates had shot and killed him.

Dottie had fled and was pleading insanity up in Maryland. And Coach Bliss resigned before all the truth came out. And my mom tells the story that she looked out the window of me and I was crying and she was crying and it was like hard to see her son kind of lose that innocence that I had had.

And to be hurt like that. I went to the press conference and they asked some of us older players to talk. So I stood up in front of our, my teammates and their families and defended Coach Bliss.

Thanked him for all the time that he had had with us and told them that I would be staying and that I hope they did too. And I had this feeling kind of in my heart at that point of I'm lying right now. I was the spokesman for a program that I did not believe in, did not appreciate, didn't really even want to be a part of anymore. I had to get out of not just Waco, but I felt like Dallas-Fort Worth. So I flew back to Pennsylvania to stay with that coach that I had come down to Texas to go to camp with, that guy that I had known.

He moved back to Pennsylvania and so I'm staying with him just to get away. Our media guy called me late, late one night and he said, Matt, have your phone on you tomorrow morning. I said, why? Like what do you need me for? He said, it's about to get really bad.

I said, how can it be worse than it is? Player's dead. Coaches, coaching staff's gone.

He's like, just have your phone ready. My coach came up and woke me up and said, Matt, you need to look at the newspaper. And in that newspaper was a recording written out of one of the assistant coaches that was new, that I didn't know that well, was in the office with Coach Bliss and other players, not me, but other players. And it was him constructing this lie of how they had of how they needed to blame Patrick, paint him as a drug dealer and somebody that was, that's how he was paying for school. And Bliss even went on to say, Patrick can't say anything about it.

He's dead. And the thing that really hit me, I would think more than anybody else in the country besides Patrick's family that read that he had told me that story almost word for word, but not as a lie. He told me it as a truth. He didn't ask me to lie to people like he was telling these players and these coaches to do. And that was like a last straw moment of any type of belief in people or goodness that I had. Oh, I was so angry and mad.

And we found out that, yeah, he knew that Patrick had threats and he had been paying for players and other players too. But that summer it was full of a lot of hope and despair. The question I never asked was, God, how can I be a light in this situation? How can I bring good and lead people the right way? Instead of what I did is I think I actually, I let people not think I did.

I know I did. I led people the wrong way because when you say that you stand for something and you believe something and then when it gets hard or you completely throw it away, people will see that and they'll get confused. I think I led people farther away from having the faith in God because I was known for something and then completely was doing the opposite when things get hard. So regret, I mean, the pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.

And that's one thing I regret. And you've been listening to Matt Sammon tell a heck of a story about how his world unraveled in the summer of 2003. And I'll never forget it myself as these news stories and news accounts rolled out from ESPN and all across sports pages and the news pages of America, a murder in college basketball, drugs, and then ultimately the corruption at the core of the coach and the program. But interestingly, Matt Sammon put himself in the middle of it even though he didn't do anything wrong.

He failed himself as a leader and the people around him as a leader and failed himself and his walk with his own God. And by the way, to get the book, The Leftovers, Bailer Betrayal and Beyond by Matt Sammon, go to Amazon for the usual suspects. More of this remarkable story about basketball, about life and so much more. Matt Sammon's story continues here on Our American Stories.

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Visit eBay.com for terms. Hi everyone, this is Scott Patterson from I Am All In with Scott Patterson. I'd like to invite you to watch my brand new series on the CW called Sullivan's Crossing. It's all about healing and journeys of self-discovery and I think you'll really enjoy it. I play Sully Sullivan and my character owns a campground in Nova Scotia, Canada when my estranged daughter played by Morgan Cohan comes back seeking solace after a very difficult situation and we both have to navigate a very tough past family history. Meanwhile, Cal played by Chad Michael Murray who works with my character and has a very mysterious past of his own begins to befriend my daughter Maggie and makes things even more complicated for all of them.

If you want more, you'll have to watch it. The series is based on the New York Times best-selling series and did I mention this will mark my return to the CW since Gilmore Girls as well as Chad Michael Murray's return to the network too. I'm so glad to be back and I hope you'll meet me there.

Sullivan's Crossing airs Wednesdays on the CW or stream free on the CW app. Life sometimes has this way of blindsiding you with a feeling of being overwhelmed at the worst possible time. It could come while you're out with friends, while you're leading an important meeting, or just with your family at home. Something that can turn even the best day into a challenge. Chronic migraine. Hi, I'm Nora McInerney and this is The Head Start, Embracing the Journey, a new podcast from iHeartRadio and AbbVie.

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Listen to The Head Start, Embracing the Journey on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And we continue with our American stories and the howling tale told by Matt Samen about the college basketball program he was a part of. And by his senior year, he would be a starter on a team that would more than likely end up in the big dance and be a top ten player in the world. And we're going to be sharing this story with our American storytellers, Matt.

Let's pick up where Matt last left off. And so I was going into my senior year with no coaching staff. I lost ten teammates that summer, two to the tragedy, you know, Carlton and Patrick, and then eight others that decided not to come back or they graduated. And that's a lot of turnover at that level.

You'll have three or four or five, and even now with the transfer portal, but rarely is there an overhaul like that, and rarely do you lose your best players. Where those NBA guys that we had, they all left. And I found myself in a very unfamiliar place where, okay, basketball since I was nine years old has been the thing that I've focused on and I've just had as my passion. Well, now it's the problem and I have no passion for it.

I'm upset with it. So the next thing is I turn to, okay, what's, I got to go back to my source, which I thought was my relationship with God. And I realized at that point, the foundation that I thought I had really wasn't there. It was basketball. Basketball is the problem and I feel this hole in my life for the first time.

Well, what do you fill that hole with? I ran. I ran to things that I had never drank before in my life until, and really until I turned 21 was the first time I ever had a sip of alcohol.

But even to that point, it wasn't anything that I enjoyed or did that much, but I ran to it. I'd never been a party guy. In fact, I can remember going to a party early on in my college career. I wasn't a drinker and I was known as a believer.

And when I walked in, I saw some of my friends hide their drinks, put them away because they didn't want me to see them like that. They didn't want, because that's what I stood for. Well, in the span of two months, I completely destroyed that. In fact, my place became the place to go and that competitive nature that got me to become the player that I was, because I always felt like as a D1 player at Baylor in the Big 12, I really didn't belong. Physically, they were too big and too fast and too strong and my skill wasn't good enough. So what did I rely on? I had to do more, work harder and push myself farther than any other of my teammates were willing to do. That type of competitiveness, when you throw it into the party scene is dangerous. And so I became really good at that.

I became a very angry person and resentful and I stopped trusting anyone. And so with that in mind, I realized I couldn't go anywhere else to play as a senior because what am I going to do? Call up Kentucky and say, hey, coach Calipari, my name's Matt Sam and I'm a senior. I'm six, two and a half.

I can't jump that well, but I did average four and a half points last year. Can I come? Like, it's just, I knew I made a few calls, but I knew that I was stuck at Baylor.

So I started to just stay in my apartment and have those destructive habits or I'd get out of town. So I'm driving up to Dallas and I get a call from somebody that says, hey, you got a new coach. I'm like, what? Who in the world would take this job? Like you have no players.

Baylor's and the NCA are about to bring sanctions on your team for years to come. Who would take this? A guy named Scott Drew.

And I said, never heard of him. A few weeks later, Scott Drew comes in and we had to meet in the baseball locker room and I'm sitting in there and this is where the title of the leftovers comes from. I'm sitting in this locker room with myself and five other scholarship players.

The problem is, is none of us are stars. Like we are role players at best. And some even younger players that weren't even role players the year before they were bench dudes. And then we've got four or five walk-ons. We were leftovers. We were leftover from everything that had happened. And for whatever reason, we were still at this school. Coach Drew walks in at 32 years old with the same energy and relentless joy that he has now.

He's the exact same person. He came in with this bounce and a step with this huge smile. And he kept talking about guys, guys, listen, there's this, there's joy in the future. There's joy in the foundation that you were going to set. The problem is, is for the first time in my life, I sat back as a very arrogant, jaded, frustrated 21 year old. And I looked around and I, for the first time in my life, I completely disagreed with what my coach was saying. I could not see any joy, any positivity that could possibly come out.

Because see, here's the thing. I knew what we were up against. And in my mind, I didn't think he did. He was coming from Valpo. Valpo is a great school. They play great competition. In my mind, I thought, that's not Big 12. That's not Texas, OU, Kansas, Oklahoma State, A&M at the time, Missouri, Colorado. It's just not these teams that have Hall of Fame coaches and McDonald's All-Americans that I've battled against the last three years.

You don't understand. And look at our supporting cast. Like we are going to get killed. And that's what happened at the beginning. And we were losing to teams that we used to beat really bad. And there's one game where it's the first time in, I believe, in Division 1 basketball, high-level basketball history, that a coach subbed out five scholarship players and put five walk-ons in. And it was in Waco, at home, and our crowd went nuts.

They were cheering so loud. And the reason he put them in is because we weren't playing very hard. We were giving, especially myself, we were giving false effort. Our walk-ons played really hard, man. And they were bringing energy, and the crowd was appreciating it. But scholarship players beat walk-ons.

There's just a difference between them. And so that started to happen. Coach Drew looked down at the bench at us and said, you better play hard when you go back in. When I walked on the floor at the Farrell Center, I heard something that I'd never heard before. They were booing the walk-ons going out of the game and booing the scholarship players going back in.

I wanted to let them know, maybe with a hand gesture, how I felt in that moment about being booed. But it was really hard. And we lost that game by 20. And after the game, in the locker room, taking a shower, just sitting there crying, I was ready to quit that night. And my parents had never allowed me to quit anything, even eighth-grade swim. Midway through the swimming season, I hated the speedo. I hated swimming.

I wanted to play basketball. My mom would have let me quit. I was ready to quit that night. And I didn't think anybody would have really judged me for quitting that night. And assistant coach came in, and he said, Matt, show up tomorrow.

Just show up tomorrow. And then at some point, it happened, where we started to believe in each other. We started to believe in our coaching staff. And we started to become competitive. Every night was our championship.

And that's a dangerous team. When you're not, because here's the thing I forgot to say. Before our season even started, we were told that we weren't allowed to play in postseason. That's like you and me being told, hey, you're going to come and work hard every single day, but I'm not paying you.

Well, I'm not coming to work then, buddy. And you've been listening to Matt Sammon tell a remarkable tale of redemption. But it didn't come easy. Going into his senior year, having lost 10 teammates, he ran to alcohol, the very thing he'd stayed away from his entire young life. Indeed, he became a competitive drinker, a competitive partier, and excelled.

He was also growing increasingly angry and resentful. And in comes Scott Drew talking about the joy there was in the future. When we come back, more of this remarkable story. And please pick up Matt's book, The Leftovers, Baler, Betrayal, and Beyond. It's a real page turner. Pick it up at Amazon or The Usual Suspect. More with Matt Sammon's story when we return here on Our American Stories.

Hey, this is Tanya Raad from the Scrubbing In with Becca Tilly and Tanya Raad podcast. You'll know real when you get it. It'll say, eBay authenticity guarantee, and you'll feel it.

Maybe it's a head-turning handbag, a watch that says it all, jewelry that makes you look like the gem, sneakers and streetwear so fresh every step feels fly. When it comes to style and luxury, eBay gets it. They're making sure the things you love are checked by experts.

Not just any experts, specialized experts, real people who love this stuff with real hands-on authentication experience. So when you see that shiny blue checkmark that says authenticity guarantee, shop with confidence. Every inch, stitch, sole, and logo is verified authentic through a detailed inspection. That's how you know that eBay's got your back. Because when you finally step into those sneakers, put on that watch, get your real gold glow up, swing that handbag over your shoulder, or step out in that streetwear, you'll realize that feeling is unlike any other. With eBay authenticity guarantee, you can trust that feeling of real is always in reach. Ensure your next purchase is the real deal.

Visit ebay.com for terms. Hi everyone. This is Scott Patterson from I am All In with Scott Patterson. I'd like to invite you to watch my brand new series on the CW called Sullivan's Crossing. It's all about healing and journeys of self-discovery. And I think you'll really enjoy it. I play Sully Sullivan and my character owns a campground in Nova Scotia, Canada, when my estranged daughter played by Morgan Cohan comes back seeking solace after a very difficult situation.

And we both have to navigate a very tough past family history. Meanwhile, Cal played by Chad Michael Murray, who works with my character and has a very mysterious past of his own, begins to befriend my daughter Maggie and makes things even more complicated for all of them. If you want more, you'll have to watch it.

The series is based on the New York Times best selling series. And did I mention this will mark my return to the CW since Gilmore Girls, as well as Chad Michael Murray's return to the network too. I'm so glad to be back. And I hope you'll meet me there.

Sullivan's Crossing airs Wednesdays on the CW or stream free on the CW app. Life sometimes has this way of blindsiding you with a feeling of being overwhelmed at the worst possible time. It could come while you're out with friends while you're leading an important meeting, or just with your family at home. Something that can turn even the best day into a challenge.

Chronic migraine. Hi, I'm Nora McInerney. And this is the Head Start Embracing the Journey, a new podcast from I Heart Radio and AbbVie. We're taking the things you usually save for your friend group into the open. We want this to be a conversation that helps us find the bits of optimism in a tough situation. I'll be swapping stories with doctors, experts and patients who are battling this invisible condition. And we'll be sharing everything experiences, migraine coping strategies, major wins, all of it. Listen to the Head Start Embracing the Journey on the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

And we continue with the story of Matt Sammon here on Our American Stories. Let's pick up where we last left off with coach Scott Drew, coming in and slowly shaping and changing and forging the character of this new Baylor team. And that's kind of the feeling we had all year long, was why are we actually doing this?

It's not worth it. But once you start to look at every situation or goals to be one and oh every night, play hard for each other, and let's just go out and do something that nobody thinks we can do, there's power in that as a team. We weren't supposed to win any Big 12 games. We were supposed to go 0-16. And we ended up, we beat Iowa State at our place for our first Big 12 win. We ended up beating A&M twice, nothing better than beating A&M twice.

And their coach actually got fired the day after we beat them the second time, because apparently the worst thing that you can do is lose to a bunch of leftovers. And then one of the big personalities in the Big 12 game was Bobby Knight. He was at Texas Tech. I had grown up being a Bobby Knight fan in Indiana.

Well, my first couple years, because he was there my sophomore, junior, and senior year, he was at Tech. And he would come out, or he would shake the head coach's hand, turn around, and just bolt. Not go through, shake assistants hands or players hands. And I was always like, God, I want to shake his hand. And you know, just, you know, I was always like, God, I want to shake his hand.

I want to shake his hand. And, you know, just because I had some, Roy Williams was at Kansas, and I had some cool moments with him the years before. And so senior year, we're at Texas Tech, we're actually up four going into the second half playing really well, but we just ran out of gas. And that's what happened to us. I mean, I was averaging 38, 39 minutes a game.

But we had played really hard, but we lost that game. And I told myself before, when this game's over, I'm going up to him. I don't know what's going to happen. He may walk right through me, pass me, not even shake, but I'm going to do it. And so he was walking to half court, and I took a straight line towards him. I left the line.

I didn't even shake anybody. I went right toward him. I said, Coach Knight, I said, I just want to let you know, it's just been a pleasure getting to play against you the last few years. He put his arm, he's a big dude, put his arm around me.

He said, Matt, I'm telling you right now that if I would have been at Tech when you came out of high school, I would have recruited you really hard. And oh, man, like that year, all of the stuff that happened, like that to me was a win, a personal win. Like we lost, but I think my dad even captured a picture of me standing at half court smiling. Those were really cool moments.

When basketball came back, here's the interesting thing. I thought that those destructive habits that I'd thrown myself into, I thought it was just temporary. I thought I was just coping. You know, I don't laugh a lot anymore.

Just let me laugh for a couple hours and forget where I am. But Coach Mills, who was an assistant at Baylor, we used to have team chapels at my apartment. He would come in and there's one time where he just said, you know, guys, don't think that you can do what you want whenever you want right now without consequences. But then when you get out in the real world that these temptations will go away, that you can just get back to what you call right living. And I remember being such a cocky, arrogant kid going, you know what, in my head, you're wrong.

That's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to live the way I want right now. I'm going to be in control of my happiness.

Well, fast forward nine years of living an extremely immoral life. It was my 30th birthday and I was alone in my apartment in McKinney, Texas, with a six pack. And I thought, is this really what I'm going to do? Is this really?

This is it. I'm 30 years old by myself celebrating my birthday, just completely alone and frustrated. And that same anger and resentment and poor me, why me mentality that I adopted as a 21 year old, I still had it. After that night, I went to a random church in Plano, Texas, that I'd never gone to before. I just went, I sat in the back and I heard a message that I felt like I had heard hundreds of times. They passed around a card, the visitor card.

And growing up in church, you never fill out the visitor card because you're never a visitor. And so I, but this card goes by, I filled it out. I put my name and information. I said, I'm angry and I have questions.

And I put that card in. And honestly, I never thought I'd hear back from anybody. Few days, maybe a week goes by and I get a response from a lady at that church saying, hey, we'd love to have you come in and talk to our pastor. And I emailed back and forth with her, trying to figure out a spot, a time.

And it just worked out about two weeks later. I went in, she opened the door for me. I sat with her, talked with her for a little bit.

She was really kind. And then I went back and I got to talk with the pastor and I laid out my story just kind of the same way that I've done right here. And, and I told him the story, he said, and he said, Matt, and I was really, you know, I love Pistol Pete.

Part of Pistol Pete's story is he was after his MBA career is gone and he was lost. He's and he's in his bed and he hears this voice and it's Jesus. He hears Jesus' voice out loud. And Pistol Pete said, it was like, it was like he was in the room with him and his life changed instantly. And I told this pastor, I was like, I'm waiting for that voice. If God will talk to me, if Jesus will speak to me like that.

And he said, Matt, you can't be waiting around for that. Like that doesn't happen all the time. He said, you need to give up control. So what are you, what are you talking about control? It's like you were a good kid. Basketball was really in control of your life. When it went bad, you took control of your life.

And it's kind of like this light bulb moment. And I gave up control that day. You know, I was saved that day, a few weeks after my 30th birthday.

And the change was pretty drastic. The things that I'd been running to for peace and for comfort and it become really bad habits. The desire just wasn't there. The cool thing is, is that day that I went into that church, I was just angry and looking for answers. But I think one thing I've learned is like my plan, my goals as a little kid was just to be a college basketball player. Like I really didn't have anything past the age of 21.

I had no other goals. And I realized that his plans are just so much bigger and greater than our little plans are. His plan was for me to meet Jana that day.

She was the lady that emailed me back that opened the door to that church. And we got married about 11 months after that day. And we've been married now almost 10 years. And then when Baylor wins the national championship this last year, this last year, man, we finally really have our ending to the leftovers. It took us 18 years from six scholarship players and a bunch of walk-ons and a 32 year old coach to win the national championship and to be the best. And I'm humbled to get to be a part of a small part of that. When people ask me first eight to 10 years after playing college basketball, which normally, I mean, normally it's a cool thing to be able to say that you did like less than 3% of high school players playing college at any level, less than 1% of our division one.

And so it's an extreme game of musical chairs that if you're able to figure it out and make it, it's special. When people would ask me, did you play? I'd say, yeah, I played. Where'd you play?

Well, I played at Baylor and I can see their eyes. When were you there? I was there from 2000, 2004. Were you there? When all that stuff went down and it's no longer about, you know, that achievement, it's about what did you know?

What can you tell us? How crazy was it? Well, now, especially with them winning it all, I get to puff out my chest a little bit. You know, where'd you play? I played at Baylor.

Oh wow. National champions. Yeah, we were, but you can't imagine where we came from. You know, it's that kind of story now. And a great job as always on the production by Greg Hengler and a special thanks to Matt Samen for sharing his story, the good, the bad, and the ugly parts.

And by the way, make sure to get The Leftovers, Matt Samen's book, and it's available at Amazon and The Usual Suspect. And my goodness, there was some good. The team was starting to turn it around.

They beat A&M twice. He had that encounter with Bobby Knight when Knight told him, I would have recruited you hard. But those bad habits he'd adopted, well, they weren't temporary. And by the age of 30, he found himself alone in an apartment on his birthday in McKinney, Texas. And he went to a local random church in Plano, Texas, and filled out a visitor card. I'm angry.

I have questions. And my goodness, everything from there turned. He returned to his faith, returned to his God, and found a future of hope and redemption.

The story of Matt Samen's redemption, Baylor University's redemption, their basketball program here on Our American Stories. Your team gets to ride with a highly rated driver and you get to follow along with real-time notifications and live trip tracking in your Uber app. Add your team to your Uber account today. Available in select locations.

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Officially licensed product of MLB Players Incorporated. Hey, this is Lance Bass from Frosted Tips. So my husband Michael and I just took an amazing road trip to the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Vegas. And thanks to Hyundai, we were able to record a special episode just for you guys along the way. We're so excited to take you on this journey with us. You're not going to want to miss this one, right, babe? No, you won't. Here's a quick preview.

You can listen now wherever you get your podcasts. I love to be on the tour bus. I don't sleep better than when I'm on a bus. But I also had to share a bus with Joey Fatone. But the good thing is eventually when we made it, we had a bus that had a shower on it. This episode is brought to you by the all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5 and IONIQ 6.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-20 14:01:49 / 2023-10-20 14:22:21 / 21

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