Deebo Samuel’s decision to skip South Carolina’s bowl game was a tough one to make for the senior receiver, but ultimately it was a move the Spartanburg native felt he had to make.
Samuel announced on Monday that he would not play in USC’s Belk Bowl matchup against Virginia, stating on his Instagram page that, “As much as I would love to suit up one last time for the Gamecocks, having those extra weeks to better prepare for the NFL will be crucial. As I look to the next chapter, I realize the next 6 months will determine my next four years and potentially even more.”
Samuel recently recorded a podcast with Richmond Weaver of Rich Take on Sports and further explained his decision to not play in the Belk Bowl.
“I think I made the decision because the past three or four years I’ve been dealing with injuries. This is my first year being injury free. I just took advantage of that,” Samuel told Richmond Weaver. “I talked to my mom and dad about it. I actually talked to (Will) Muschamp about it before I made the decision and he also said, ‘I think you’re making the right decision.’ ”
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Samuel had battled injuries throughout his career at South Carolina before finally staying healthy in 2018.
As a freshman in 2015 Samuel missed seven games with a hamstring injury. As a sophomore in 2016 Samuel had a breakout campaign with 59 catches for 783 yards, despite missing three games with hamstring issues.
Samuel was one of the best players in college football for the first three weeks of the 2017 season before suffering a broken leg and missing the rest of the year. He tied for the team lead in touchdowns with six, despite playing in only three games that season. Samuel considered turning pro after last season but opted to return for one more year and was able to play in all 12 games in 2018 for the first time in his career.
Samuel explained to Weaver why he chose to come back for his senior season.
“The guys that I came in with, the 2014 class, we always said that we wanted to win a championship. We promised each other that we weren’t going to leave without one,” Samuel said. “We fell short of that this year so I had an opportunity to play in the bowl game or not play in the bowl game, and I think I made the right decision.”
While Samuel is confident he made the right decision, it wasn’t an easy one to decide to not play on Dec. 29 while his teammates suit up.
“It’s pretty difficult, just not being with the guys that you work hard with. Every morning in the summer, every day you’re around the guys,” Samuel said. “We’ve been through it all. We’ve been through the ups. We’ve been through the downs. People doubted us and we showed them what we’re capable of... We’re really all a big brotherhood.”
Samuel will be on the sideline cheering for the Gamecocks as they face off against Virginia, but unlike years past when he was on the sideline with injuries, this time it will be his choice.
Samuel will head to Phoenix to train for the draft after USC’s bowl game, and he has also accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, which will take place at the end of January.
“After I graduate I promised Coach and I promised the team that I’m going to be at the game so I’m going to be at the game cheering the guys on,” Samuel said. “But I think once January 2nd hits I’m going to be training until it’s time to get drafted.”
Belk Bowl info
Who: South Carolina (7-5) vs. Virginia (7-5)
Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
When: Noon Dec. 29