Scholar athlete: Sam Stahl, Niceville High School

Scholar athlete: Sam Stahl, Niceville High School

One student at Niceville High School has more on his mind than winning state this year. His end game is more long-term.

Sam Stahl has a need to succeed on the field, in the classroom, and in life.

"I want to be able to enjoy myself and do all this fun stuff, but at the same time, I know there are smart decisions that have to be made," he said.

Being detail-oriented is what Sam said gives him the upper hand on the field where he plays safety.

"It's really the precise and dedicated movements that make me play the way I do," he explained. "If you don't waste any energy or any movement then you get to the ball a lot faster and you make plays a lot better."

But head Coach John Hicks said Sam's greatest asset can also be his biggest setback.

"He's very analytic, sometimes just too much. In football, sometimes you just have to play," Coach Hicks said. "I say, 'Sam, don't overanalyze it, just play and you'll be fine.'"

Constructive criticism isn't lost on Sam.

Coach Hicks said he takes it, processes it, and uses it to improve himself.

"He's probably what I would consider a very mature kid. He's got all his priorities in order, he's got some long-range goals," Coach Hicks said.

Not many other 17-year-olds are already thinking about retirement, but Sam has a good head on his shoulders. In fact, when he's not on the field, his friends often jokingly refer to him as the 'dad' of the group.

"It's not that they don't engage with me as a friend, it's not like they treat me as a parent, but just that I'm more mature in some situations than they are," Sam said.

This senior is clearly wise beyond his years.

On top of juggling homework, five AP classes, and a job, he's also on track to graduating Magna Cum Laude and hopes to become a mechanical engineer.

"Having this plan makes it easier because if I stray from the plan a little bit, I can still have a central guidance to where I want to go and what I want to do," Sam said.

Perhaps one of the only details Sam hasn't pinned down yet is which university he'll attend, but wherever he ends up, Coach Hicks has high hopes.

"He's going to be successful no matter what career he goes into," Coach Hicks said. "I could see him running his own business, but probably a corporation. He's that good."

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