Tyshun Samuel caught 166 passes in his Chapman High career. Friends, family and coaches gathered at the school Thursday to recognize a big catch he recently made off the field.
Samuel committed to play football for South Carolina, 12 days after receiving a scholarship offer from the Gamecocks.
“It’s been a good 12 days,” Samuel said. “It will be a great place for me to play. I like the offense and the atmosphere and the coaches. They’re just as energetic as the crowd is.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Shrine Bowl selection is the Gamecocks’ third and likely final commitment at the wide receiver spot in the class of 2014. He is the 15th pledge for USC and eighth from inside the state.
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Samuel picked USC over North Carolina, Appalachian State and Vanderbilt. He was offered by Steve Spurrier Jr. after the Gamecocks’ win over Coastal Carolina, one day after USC’s receivers coach watched Samuel catch seven passes for 123 yards in a 17-7 playoff win over Belton-Honea Path.
“Every time the ball was in the air I was going to get it,” Samuel said. “He wrote me on Facebook and told me he was very impressed with me. I went to the [Coastal] game, he took me in the locker room and he offered me then. It put a pretty big smile on my face.”
Samuel, a three-star prospect, is projected to begin as a slot receiver for the Gamecocks. He could also contribute on special teams and line up in the backfield if needed.
He played running back and defensive back for Chapman before switching primarily to receiver his junior and senior years. The recruiting process started picking up steam after two standout seasons and accelerated once Samuel earned a qualifying test score.
As a senior Samuel had 61 receptions for 1,184 yards and 15 touchdowns. He added 837 yards on the ground and 13 scores, and found the end zone two more times on interceptions. His 30 total touchdowns this year gave him a school-record 53 for his career.
Samuel didn’t grow up a fan of South Carolina or Clemson. His interest in the Gamecocks began his 10th grade year, and the communication with coaches there began last season.
“He knew where he wanted to go,” Chapman coach Mark Hodge said. “Last year I asked him where he’d like to go, and he said South Carolina. This opportunity presented itself. It’s far enough away from home that you get to start a new chapter in your life, but it’s close enough that your friends and family can come watch you play. It’s a great opportunity.”
Though his first name is Tyshun (prounced Tie-SHON), most call him Deebo, named after the neighborhood bully character played by actor Tiny Lister in the 1995 movie “Friday.”
“I got that name when I was little,” Samuel said. “My daddy said I used to take stuff from people when I was a baby. He gave me the nickname Deebo.”
Thursday’s commitment ceremony was one of two important events in a busy day within a very busy week in the life of Samuel.
He caught eight passes for 266 yards and scored four touchdowns last Friday in a 29-27 playoff loss to Daniel. On Wednesday, Samuel scored 34 points to lead Chapman to a 94-77 win over Boiling Springs in basketball.
And as stressful as a commitment event can be, an eight-minute senior project presentation Thursday on the nutrition of an athlete was harder on the nerves, Samuel said.
The scholarship offer and commitment are only the beginning of the road to college and beyond, Hodge told Samuel.
“This is not the celebration,” the coach said. “This is the next step. Be thankful and humble for the opportunity, but there’s still work to do to finish.”