USC Gamecocks Football

South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel sets lofty goal for rookie season with 49ers

Former South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel is preparing for his first season in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. The second round pick has a big goal for his rookie year.

“Rookie of the Year,” Samuel said without hesitation when asked what he is aiming for.

The last receiver to win Rookie of the Year was Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014, but Samuel believes winning the award this year is a realistic goal.

“Why would it not be?” he said. “Just hard work and dedication to the game, just staying in the room and learning from (49ers quarterback Jimmy) Garoppolo and learning from all the guys.”

Samuel, who remains unsigned along with 49ers first-round pick Nick Bosa, took a break from preparing for his rookie season to host a youth football camp Saturday morning at Spartanburg High School, about two weeks before the 49ers start training camp.

He was in California for minicamp earlier this summer and said there were a few surprises.

“The playbook is probably one of the hardest things in the NFL. … The speed of the game and how smart defensive players are, it kind of shocked me a little bit,” Samuel said. “I’m in the playbook every day, so I’m learning bit by bit and by the time the season comes I’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

Samuel was known as one of the best route runners in college football last season, but he is continuing to work on that aspect of his game as well.

“Really just staying in shape and working on my routes. A lot of people can see it (on social media) and they’re going crazy about it, but it’s one of the big things I’ve been working on all summer long,” Samuel said.

Off the field, Samuel has been busy as well. He recently got a tattoo with artwork that represents different parts of his life. The tattoo covers his entire back and took about three days to complete.

“Background about the tattoo: 36th overall pick in the NFL to the right, Vince Lombardi quote went to the left, name at the top, number in the middle, and where I was born and raised at on the bottom of the back,” Samuel said.

As for Samuel’s former team, he has spent plenty of time in Columbia recently and believes South Carolina has a chance for a special year.

“Looking at the schedule, it can be great, it could be good or it could be bad,” Samuel said. “It’s just how the guys’ mindset is. I’ve been up there a good bit. Their mindset is like, it’s the national championship year. I believe in them and they believe in them.”

Samuel also spoke about the returning receivers and what can be expected of them.

“Bryan (Edwards) is going to be Bryan. He’s going to be the playmaker,” Samuel said. “You’ve got Shi (Smith), the fast speed guy that takes the top off. You’ve got Josh Vann, who played a little bit last year, but you see a whole lot of potential in him... He’s a mix of both. He’s fast and got a little movement to him. And Chavis (Dawkins) and all the other guys just coming along as well.”