He’s going to Carolina — and not just in his mind!
Erasmus Hall grad Curtis Samuel heard his name on April 28 and, suddenly, every dream he’s ever had came true in a single moment.
Samuel was selected No. 40 overall by the Carolina Panthers in the National Football League Draft, capping off a year that was nothing short of spectacular for the Brooklyn-bred gridiron star.
“It’s amazing, just to get drafted and share that moment with my family,” Samuel said during a press conference after being drafted. “That experience is just amazing. Just to finally realize, that’s a dream come true, to finally get to play in the National Football League.”
Samuel made a name for himself at Ohio State this season, leading the Buckeyes in receiving with 74 catches for 865 yards and seven touchdowns. He also chipped in with 97 carries for 771 yards and eight touchdowns and was the only player in a major conference with more than 700 yards each rushing and receiving.
Now, the one-time Dutchmen standout is hoping to translate that kind of production to the pros, and is anxious to find a spot in the Panthers’ offense.
“There are different things I can do,” Samuel said. “Line up in the backfield, motion out to the slot, put me up against a linebacker or a safety. Just creating different looks for the [opponents’] defense.”
Samuel won’t be the only would-be playmaker to compete for a position in the Panthers’ backfield next season; Carolina also drafted Stanford star Christian McCaffrey in the first round. But Samuel isn’t worried about splitting reps, if anything, he’s confident he and McCaffrey can provide a one-two punch that will give the Panthers offense a new dynamic that will set opposing defenses back on their heels.
“He [McCaffrey] can do a lot. And I can do the same thing,” Samuel said. “Just to have that opportunity, [to] flip-flop guys, give defenses different matchups, is a good thing. Then having a great quarterback in Cam [Newton], it’s going to be great. We’re going to have fun here.”
Samuel is the 19th Ohio State product to suit up for the Panthers, but he’s quick to point out that he hasn’t forgotten his Brooklyn roots. In the hours immediately following the draft, he celebrated his professional future with a family dance party, and constantly reiterated how thankful he was to have his family’s support every step of the way.
Samuel is shining a light on New York City football and he’s determined to be a role model for future gridiron greats in Brooklyn.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “To have younger kids look up to me and understand that what I’m doing is the right thing in life, and to just keep motivating those little kids to accomplish dreams like this one day.”
There’s been plenty of talk in the past few months about what Samuel can bring to a professional team — discussions of his speed and receiving ability, and even chatter about using him in the return game — but he’s not listening to any of it. Samuel knows what he’s capable of and he’s ready to prove it all over again.
“I’m always a team-first guy. I’m about making the team get better and get them to where they want to be,” he said. “I just want to be Curtis Samuel.”