Georgia’s Richard Samuel wonders what could have been

semerson@macon.comSeptember 21, 2012 

ATHENS -- Richard Samuel does not speak in long paragraphs. He prefers short, clipped statements.

What few words he does say, however, are fairly clear: “I’d say disappointment. Frustrated. But it’s out of my power, so there’s nothing I can do unless an opportunity or a chance is given to me.”

That’s how the Georgia senior feels about his role on the football team. For years he has been a good citizen, publicly going along with various position switches and saying it would help him in the future.

But now as his career nears an end -- sometimes he sounds like it’s already over -- Samuel is being candid. To be clear, he says he is not angry at anyone. He is just upset at the situation, no longer a factor at tailback, at least in his mind, and destined to not fulfill the expectations that preceded his arrival at Georgia five years ago.

“It’s been bits and pieces, here and there,” he said, speaking after Wednesday’s practice. “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything consistent to help the team.”

Five years ago, Samuel, who was born in St. Croix but went to high school in Cartersville, was a five-star recruit. He was a Parade All-American. In his final two years of high school at Cass, he rushed for 2,771 yards and 43 touchdowns, as well as recording 160 tackles and five sacks.

Samuel enrolled early at Georgia and played right away, averaging 5.1 yards per carry as a backup to Knowshon Moreno. But the next year, while Samuel had a 104-yard game at Arkansas, he was third on the tailback depth chart.

So Samuel accepted a move to inside linebacker for the 2010 season. He chose to redshirt while learning the position, and he and another linebacker, Jarvis Jones, formed a potent one-two combination on scout-team.

But Samuel never played a snap on defense. When Georgia lost its top two tailbacks during the summer of 2011, Samuel agreed to move back to tailback. He started the opener against Boise State but was eventually passed on the depth chart by Isaiah Crowell. Samuel did score the game-winning touchdown to beat Florida but broke his foot on the play.

This year, Samuel put on weight to play fullback, while hoping to still get snaps at tailback. But three games into the season, he is out of the mix there, and Samuel said he’s “pretty sure” he won’t play tailback much there this year.

“A little disappointed,” he said. “I was looking forward to showing why I’ve improved and showing what I’ve worked on. But I can’t control that.”

Samuel has had one big moment so far -- on special teams at Missouri. His tackle to snuff out a fake punt was a key in Georgia’s win and caused head coach Mark Richt to be so excited he hugged Samuel, bruising Richt’s face in the process.

But Richt this week acknowledged that Samuel has had some disappointment.

“He certainly would like to play more, I know that for sure,” Richt said. “But he has been willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. We never really know what kind of a defensive player he could’ve been, because of the injury the year he was gonna make the move. So yeah, he’s been good for Georgia.”

Besides his willingness to switch positions, Samuel is known around the program for being one of the most solid citizens on the team. Long-term, his goal is to be an athletics director. He interned in the Georgia compliance office during the summer of 2011, and this past summer, he worked at a local recreation department. He already has his degree and is working on a master’s.

“I can’t say enough good about Richard Samuel,” Richt said. “I know it’s not been easy on him, as far as the amount of reps he’s gotten to this point. But he’s a very valuable part of the team, and he’s one of the finest guys that’s come through the program. I’d take Richard every time.”

Samuel was asked if his career is overall a source of frustration, or does he have some peace with the way things are ending up, graduating and being in a good place in life?

“I’d probably say frustration,” he said.

Does he have regrets?

“Not so much regrets. Just frustrated that it didn’t go the way I expected or didn’t go the way I would like it to go,” he said.

Does he wish he had been more selfish sometimes,and demanded to stay at tailback or then on defense? No, Samuel said, each time he felt it was good to try something new.

“I guess I just never really had that opportunity to set roots at a position,” he said.

Samuel said he doesn’t blame anybody for that. It’s just the way his career has gone. He admits to wondering what might have been if he had stayed at tailback three years ago or stayed at linebacker two years ago.

But Samuel hasn’t given up on a football future. When the season ends, he will try to impress the pro scouts.

“It doesn’t hurt to try,” Samuel said. “Hopefully at that level, they’ll be willing to (say), ‘Give him his shot, see what he can do.’ So I’ll just give it my best.”

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