Deebo Samuel continues to ‘lead by example’ entering resurgent 2023 season

Aug 22, 2023, 9:00 AM | Updated: 9:12 am

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after scoring a 74 yard touchdown against th...

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Entering Year 5 in the NFL, Deebo Samuel is more motivated than ever to make a statement, and that starts with looking at the man in the mirror.

The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver is coming off a 2022 season where he didn’t play to his standards. Bombarded by contract talks in the offseason prior, Samuel was out of shape when he arrived at training camp last season. That in turn, led to a down year, one that saw him miss time due to injury.

Despite all that, he still managed 864 total yards on the year. But that wasn’t good enough for Samuel, calling it an “awful” season in every way.

“Yeah, kind of was hard on myself after that meeting with [coach Kyle Shanahan]. But you know, I took that into the offseason and dragged it on to camp. And day in, day out, just harping on getting better every day,” Deebo Samuel said Monday.

And that he did.

Spending much of his time in Arizona, Samuel leaned out, getting in the best shape since his rookie season. The end result: A rejuvenated Deebo on the field.

Samuel has been active in preseason practices, having his best outing Monday. The veteran WR caught a team-high seven passes on the day, showcasing his new agility throughout.

“Stamina, being able to [play] longer because I was used to doing one or two plays, then come out. But, durability and like the way that I’m building, the capacity I build to keep going,” Samuel stated.

Samuel has ascended so much that now it’s about elevating those around him as well.

While the South Carolina native has never been much of an in-your-face leader, his mentor style is different, letting the work speak for itself.

“I’m not a rah-rah type of guy, I’m a kind of guy that leads by example,” Samuel said. “So I mean, kind of keep it calm, not too hard on everybody. But at the end of the day, we know we got a job, we got to get it done.”

That laid-back style suits the WR room to a tee, already having an imprint on this year’s rookies, specifically Ronnie Bell.

Bell has been one of the standouts of the 2023 preseason, having his best game Saturday. He finished the night with seven catches for 114 yards, including a pivotal 43-yard scamper in the final two minutes.

While the Michigan alum has all the talent to succeed, Deebo Samuel has been in his ear the last few months, helping the rook better grasp the offense.

“First, it starts with run blocking. He was struggling with that at first and so, me and [WR Brandon Aiyuk] was on him hard about that,” Samuel explained about Bell. “But once he got that and then his reps started going up, you can see [talent]. Kind of reflect back when I was a rookie, like how hard it is and you know how hard you got to practice and get ready for game. So, he been getting better at that and it kind of shows in the game like he’s really like that.”

At the end of the day though, talent wins out, Bell making his name known thanks to a physical style of play. A style that suits the 49ers, and Deebo Samuel, to a tee.

“I mean, it’s real important, it’s the standard. [From] special teams to defense to the offense, it’s just a standard that we build here and we just continue to grow on that,” Samuel said.

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