ATLANTA (WIS) - Decked in his crisp white blazers with dark slacks and pristine white dress shoes, Deebo Samuel entered the interview room ready to answer questions.
Ready seems to be the buzzword this upcoming season for the Deebo Samuel, who only played 11 quarters before suffering a broken ankle against Kentucky. For Samuel, September 1 can't get here fast enough as he looks to pick right up where he left off last season.
"I'm at 100 percent now and I'm ready to go," Samuel told reporters in the main room during player interviews at the College Football Hall of Fame.
It's no secret that Deebo would rather have played with his teammates instead of donning his jersey with sweats and a 'dad hat' on the sidelines. The frustration of not wearing the pads and helping the Garnet and Black win more games was something that constantly nagged at him.
"In previous years, before I broke my ankle, I had hamstring issues which made me sit out a couple games but not for the rest of the season," Samuel remembered. "When you break your ankle, you can get down on yourself. You can say to yourself, 'Maybe football is not for me.' I didn't look at it that way. I had motivation from Coach Muschamp, Coach McClendon and my parents to motivate me to be able to push myself to get back to where I was before I got hurt."
But that wasn't the only person who made sure Samuel's spirits stayed up. Samuel said quarterback Jake Bentley constantly checked on his progress and made sure he was okay on a regular basis.
"It's important because our relationship is not going to end just because I stop throwing passes to him. I think that's what Coach Muschamp preaches all the time," Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley said. "This game is about building lifelong relationships, and I truly believe that me and Deebo will be friends forever. I know that may sound kind of 'aww' but you really do. The relationships that you build, they just stay with you. Checking in on him every day, I've been through those injuries myself, so I know what he's going through. I just try to keep him positive, and I just love his attitude through the whole thing. And he's going to help our team."
Even though Samuel wasn't able to contribute on the field, he made sure to contribute off the field with his receiving corps. Having the chance to help guys like Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith week by week didn't just help them become better pass catchers, it helped Samuel see things differently as well.
"While you're off the field, the game slows down for you," Samuel said. "It's all about paying attention to what things do and critiquing the guys that you play with and telling them what to look for if they don't see it."
Last year, Samuel had 15 catches for 250 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. As a returner, Samuel had a 97-yard kick return that went for a touchdown against North Carolina State and Missouri in the first two weeks of the season. With Samuel back in the fold, head coach Will Muschamp intends to get Samuel the ball "a bunch" and expects his production to remain the same.
"God puts you through situations where you can handle the situation," Muschamp said. "He's stronger from it and, to be able to handle the type of adversity, to be an athlete and have your feet taken away from you is tough and that's a very difficult process to go through. I'm really proud of him and how he's handled the whole situation."