The Wolfpacker

September 2015

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 27 of 95

28 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY MATT CARTER N C State sophomore tight end/ fullback Jaylen Samuels estab- lished himself as an explosive playmaker during his incredible senior season at Charlotte's Mallard Creek High School in 2013. While helping his team finish 16-0 with a 4-AA state title, Samuels piled up eye- popping statistics. He rushed 109 times for 1,404 yards (12.9 yards per carry) and 39 touchdowns, and he caught 49 passes for 932 yards (19.0 yards per reception) and 16 scores. Samuels set a new Mecklenburg County high school record for touchdowns in a single season with 55. Both his rushing and receiving scores totals placed him 10th in the county's annals for single-year marks. Samuels saved his best for last, rushing seven times for 99 yards and three touch- downs while also catching five passes for 114 yards and two scores in the state title game win over Wake Forest High, ironi- cally played at Carter-Finley Stadium. He was named the game's MVP. Despite that startling level of success, there were still questions about what Samu- els — whose lone Football Bowl Subdivi- sion offer before NC State tendered him was Ball State — could do at the ACC level. After one season, the answer appears to be the same as it was in high school: he's a playmaker. "A Good Football Player" Head coach Dave Doeren remembers the first time he made a trip to Mallard Creek after getting hired by NC State in December 2012. Mallard Creek head coach Mike Palmieri, whom Doeren now calls a good friend, told him about an unheralded H-back named Jaylen Samuels. Palmieri suggested that Doeren give him a long look, swearing to the Pack coach "this is the best player I got." Doeren's first impression left him somewhat unsold. "He's not a real impressive physical guy," Doeren recalled. "He's not 6-foot-5, he's 5-11. I thought: he's kind of a tweener. [Palmieri] said, 'I'm telling you he will be the best player that we have. If he was on defense, he would be our best linebacker.' "I believed the guy." Samuels was already an accomplished fixture in Mallard Creek's offense by the end of his junior season. He caught 45 passes for 1,021 yards and 12 touchdowns while playing exclusively wideout that year, leading the team in receiving despite the presence of four-star senior Marquez North. North was rated by as the No. 2 receiver nationally in the 2013 class, and he would sign with Tennessee. In two years, North has started 21 games for the Vols, making 68 catches for 816 yards and five touchdowns. Yet despite out-producing North, Samu- els was a mystery on the recruiting trail. At 5-11 and 225 pounds, many scouts had doubts that Samuels could play receiver in college. He also lacked the ideal size of a tight end and playing experience at run- ning back. Even Samuels felt a bit underappreci- ated. "I did for a little bit, but I got over it," he said. "I just did what I had to do. I balled out when I got the chance. Whoever didn't want me, didn't want me." It's that simple attitude that has served Samuels well and proven doubters wrong. He played as a true freshman last fall for NC State, and once again showed to be a threat every time he touched the football. He carried 15 times for 143 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 96 yards and a score, an 18-yard grab against UCF in the St. Petersburg Bowl on a half- back pass from senior tailback Shadrach Thornton. Samuels' leaping reception in the end zone made SportsCenter's Top 10 plays. Even Samuels has taken notice of his yards per play averages: 9.5 rushing and 16.0 receiving. "I just try to get better every time so I don't settle for less," he said. "If I make a carry for 10 yards, I am going to now try to get 20 yards, then 30 yards. I am going to keep working." Even when Samuels does not have the football, he finds ways to impact the game. Doeren likes to recall his play during a home loss against Georgia Tech. Yellow Jackets defender Quayshawn Nealy had intercepted a pass that had deflected off a fellow teammate's foot. Nealy saw nothing but green grass ahead of him and probably figured a pick-six was coming. Samuels had other ideas. "I knew I had a chance to run down the guy and make a play," Samuels recalled. "I just had to make it." Samuels did, catching Nealy 69 yards into his sprint towards the opposite end zone and stripping him off the football. The Pack recovered the fumble and regained possession. "He's just an all-around good football player," Doeren said. "Kind of a weird description, but that's what he is: a good football player." Natural Abilities Many wonder what is it about Samuels that makes him such a playmaker? Those who coach him have various thoughts on the subject. "He's just got a lot of skills," Doeren said. "He's sneaky fast; he's really strong. He's hard to tackle. He has a good feel for the game; he knows how to get open, catches everything." Tight ends/fullbacks coach and special teams coordinator Eddie Faulkner com- mented that Samuels "has got a gift." "He's sneaky big, can run, has got an Natural Born PLAYMAKER Sophomore Jaylen Samuels Has A Knack For Gaining Big Yards Every Time He Touches The Football Samuels made the most of the limited oppor- tunities during his freshman campaign, com- piling 15 carries for 143 yards and a touch- down, while also notching six receptions for 96 yards and a score. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN "He's special. He can catch the ball, has good hands, can block, do everything. For us, that creates matchup problems because he can play just about anywhere." ■ Tight ends/fullbacks coach Eddie Faulkner on Samuels

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