After serving in the United States Army, Detroit native Sam Blue, Sr. wanted to combine his passions for assisting people with their fitness and training goals and working with young people. His company, Triangle VertiMax, trains dedicated young athletes, preparing them for the uppermost levels of high school and college competition. While the logo for Triangle VertiMax reflects the confluence of trainer/athlete/sport as opposed to the Triangle, Blue has unquestionably made his mark on hundreds of local athletes.
How did your military experience prepare you for working with young athletes?
The military experience taught me to be transparent, either right or wrong. With athletes, when they’re doing movements or they’re training or playing, they’re either executing correctly or they’re incorrect, so I make that correction. It also instilled in me [the idea] that the best way is to be direct. I think that transparency is what reaches kids. If I see a kid that I know can play at a Division I level, I tell him, “If you dedicate yourself—just like in the military—if you really work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll get promoted.”
What brought you to the Triangle?
When I got out of the military, I wanted to raise my son here rather than in Detroit. In my upbringing, we weren’t taught about college. I wanted him to be brought up in this environment, where college is instilled in a lot of the kids. The [athletic] competition level in this area is off the charts. Wake County is just one of those places where the kids are really working hard, wanting to be the best. They’re passionate about it.
How many athletes do you typically work with at one time?
The max that I like to work with is four in one session, but that’s rare; most of my sessions are one-on-one. That way, it’s more like an individual workout rather than a sweatshop like some of these other places that have 20 or 30 people come in and only five kids benefit. Not all training is good training. It needs to have purpose. I can have four different athletes from four different sports, and they’re all doing something completely different and I can focus on all of them.
I work with over 500 middle and high school athletes a year, with another 300 in college. Whether volleyball, soccer, football, basketball, track, softball or baseball—whenever they’re at home or in the area, they always come through to train.
What’s your biggest success story?
My son, Sam Blue, Jr.. He played three sports—basketball, football and track—at Millbrook and did great at all of them. Up until he completed his junior year he only wanted to play basketball in college. The summer prior to his senior year I told him we need to get working on the basketball trail because he didn’t have any offers at that point. He was like, “Dad, I don’t want to play college basketball. I want to play college football now.” I told him to keep in mind that we hadn’t done one camp or one combine; we’d done zero football recruitment. I told him to write up the pros and cons of schools he was interested in. I took a month off work, and we trained five mornings out of the week, football specific, and then we hit those camps. He ended that summer with 14 Division I offers, but he had received over 30 total offers by the end of that summer. [Sam Blue Jr. is currently a redshirt junior defensive end at North Carolina A&T.]
Do you hear back from the students?
I get all these text messages from athletes. When they first report to college and go to conditioning, they text me: It was a breeze. I appreciate what you did. It helped so much.
What are your goals for the future?
My wife, Derema, would confirm that I feel my training is more like a tailored suit. Once someone wears a tailored suit that’s made specifically for them, it’s hard to go back to off-the-rack. I consider Triangle VertiMax a Ticknors or Liles type of bespoke training. Other places are like department stores—their goal is just to get people in and out. I intentionally want to keep it small. That way I can work with each athlete, because I don’t look at each athlete that comes through that door as a client; I look at him or her as a niece, nephew, or close family member. I see myself as becoming a part of their village.
My job is also to educate, to empower. I don’t want kids to rely on their high school coaches for recruitment. That’s not their job. The information is out there for everyone. You just have to learn it for yourself. I want to empower athletes and parents to do that on their own, too. With me, it’s about education. I didn’t plant the initial seed for the athlete and the sport they participate in. I consider myself some of the fertilizer that the parents chose to use to help that seed flourish.