Coming out of high school, Richard Samuel IV appeared to be a “can’t-miss” prospect for the NFL. He was an early enrollee at the University of Georgia at the tender age of 16. Despite his young age, he was already 6’0" and 200 lbs.
Samuel was ranked as a 5-star recruit and one of the top 25 players in the nation coming out of high school. He was coming off a strong senior season in 2007 where he rushed for 1,429 yards and 24 touchdowns. He was a standout on the defensive side of the ball as well, where he recorded 82 tackles, including nine for loss, with two sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Samuel was so talented that when he arrived on campus, despite his young age, he got playing time as a 17-year-old freshman. He saw action in 11 games, recording 26 carries for 133 yards and a TD and 19 kickoff returns for 401 yards.
After the early departure of Knowshon Moreno for the NFL, Samuel was able to beat out the much-hyped Caleb King for the starting spot in the running back rotation. He was up and down during the season before being supplanted by freshman running back Washaun Ealey.
I remember the first time I watched Samuel in person. I was covering the 2009 Georgia-Arkansas game in Fayetteville. Samuel rushed for 104 yards, including an 80-yard TD at Arkansas. It appeared to be his breakout game, but ended up being a flash of greatness instead.
After the completion of the 2009 season, the Bulldog coaching staff and Samuel decided he could be more valuable on the defensive side of the ball under the new 3-4 defensive system implemented under Todd Grantham. Samuel would redshirt and bulk up to over 240 lbs. during a redshirt season.
Samuel had appeared to find his niche. He was progressing well and getting rave reviews for his work on the defensive side of the ball. However, during the offseason leading up to the 2011 season, the Bulldogs' leading rusher, Ealey, transferred after yet another season. Moreover, Caleb King was ruled academically ineligible.
Samuel, putting the team first, willingly moved back to the running back position to add depth.
He was not great last season at running back, where he rushed for just 240 yards on 82 carries and one touchdown. That one touchdown, however, will always be remembered by the Bulldog Nation as when Samuel ran through the Gator defense and sealed the victory.
As the 2012 season approaches, the talk now is shifting toward Samuel moving to fullback. This was a recommendation I made at the end of last season because it is what is best for the team, and once again, Samuel will oblige. Samuel is the ultimate team player. Name another 5-star athlete who has willingly and happily done the things that Samuel has for the betterment of the team.
It is because of this we ponder, what if all the Bulldog players were like Samuel?
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty team-first players on the Bulldogs roster. However, at the same time, they have been plagued by selfish players and mentalities over the last five seasons. This is why players are failing drug tests, getting arrested and missing classes.
Richt has done everything he can to stop it. The severity of the punishments he has dealt out have far passed those of other SEC coaches. In the end, players have to do the right thing.
Samuel goes to all of his classes, where he has earned SEC Academic Honor Roll. He carries himself with integrity and has received the UGA Sportsmanship Award as proof. He has a lot of talent, but has sacrificed it for the betterment of the team.
In my opinion, Samuel will find a niche and land on an NFL roster at some position. However, I feel certain, NFL or no NFL, Samuel will be a success in life.
He is no longer a 16-year-old kid. He is a man of high character, and regardless of stats, Georgia is blessed to have had him. Now it is time for other players to follow his lead.