MISSOULA — In 2019, Samori Toure treated Griz fans to a record-breaking season in Missoula for the Montana Grizzlies.
But after four-plus seasons with the Griz, Toure is now ready to showcase that talent in front of Big Ten fans in his first year at the University of Nebraska.
After graduation from UM, Toure opted to take a leap of faith and entered the transfer portal in November 2020. In January, he joined the Nebraska football program as a grad transfer, and has since been acclimating to his new program at the FBS level.
"It was just weird because you know I had been with Montana my whole career," Toure told MTN Sports. "Teammates were like my brothers, those coaches I was really close with, and it was kind of like being thrown into a whole new situation, so I was basically a part of this new team, a bunch who guys that I’d never met before so it was kind of weird at first. Especially at Nebraska because we have a big team so it was an adjustment trying to remember everybody's name and figure out the facility but I think overall it was a pretty smooth transition and after the first couple of weeks I started to get more and more comfortable."
With about eight months now under his belt in Lincoln, Toure has settled into his new home with the Cornhuskers. The biggest learning curve at first was the team's workouts when he got there. After developing a rhythm and routine at UM, Toure was tasked with adjusting his workout regimen at Nebraska. This included winter workouts and weight lifting and getting his body acclimated to his new workload.
Eventually, Toure showcased a taste of what he's capable of doing at Nebraska's spring game on May 1, where he caught three passes for 47 yards, in a game that had 36,000 fans in attendance. It was Toure's first football game since the end of the 2019 season with UM, since the Grizzlies' 2020 fall season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The spring game was great, being able to get out there on the field in front of the fans and kind of just put on a show," Toure said. "That was special."
Toure said the work he put in during the winter with his teammates prepared him for the game and helped him make a smoother transition to the Big Ten program. Before spring ball, he was able to run routes and workout with Nebraska's quarterbacks to develop chemistry with his new teammates. That carried into spring ball, and eventually the Red-White Spring Game.
That momentum is now carrying into fall camp. There's plenty of buzz around Toure's name with the Huskers, all thanks to taking a chance and making the jump.
"I like to think of it as just betting on myself and I’m always going to bet on myself because I believe in what I can do," Toure said. "I believe in my abilities and I also believe in my work ethic off the field. Like I knew I was going to do everything I could to be able to make this go smoothly. I got a really good feel out of the staff and coaches in general before I got here. I felt like it was going to be a good fit so I just really wanted to bet on myself and I think I made the right decision."
But Toure said none of that is possible without his time at UM, and how the school and football program prepared him for this next move. Toure's career at Montana was one of gradual improvement before his explosion in 2019. A native of Portland, Oregon, Toure redshirted in 2016 before a strong freshman campaign in 2017 where he caught 31 passes for 553 yards and five scores where Toure primarily played in the slot.
In 2018, UM made a coaching chance by hiring Bobby Hauck to once again lead the Grizzlies. The coaching staff moved Toure from the slot to the outside, where some more learning curves were necessary.
But in 2019, Toure rewrote the record books at UM. He caught 87 passes for 1,495 yards, both single-season school records. His 303 yards against Southeastern Louisiana in the second round of the FCS playoffs set a single-game school and FCS playoff record as well. He finished his time at Montana with 155 catches for 2,488 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"There’s a lot of things that Montana prepared me for. First thing is probably just my work ethic," Toure said. "I think my work ethic came a long way at Montana and I got to give credit to the coaches and the staff there and also my teammates for pushing me everyday but I felt like it instilled a work ethic in me where I could be successful no matter where I go. And also just myself as a player. Came a long way over my four years at Montana just constantly working on all of the things that I felt I needed to work on. The coaches helped me with that and the quarterbacks and also all of the other receivers at Montana pushed me to where I'm at right now."
"I feel like Montana played a huge part in the player and man I am today."