The thought of joining former South Carolina teammate Deebo Samuel is exciting for Shi Smith.
The two Gamecocks notably shared the field together in Columbia, S.C. and Smith is very interested in an NFL reunion. Samuel became a role model and mentor for the young receiver when he first stepped foot on campus, and they have been close ever since, often speaking multiple times a week.
“Ever since my freshman year he took me under his wing as a little bro,” Smith said at his Pro Day availability on Tuesday. “Me and Deebo have a very good relationship. It means a lot. He definitely prepared me for this moment and he helps me a lot.”
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound receiver shared that he spoke with 49ers representatives at the Senior Bowl and that while he has played predominantly in the slot, he has versatility. Projected as a third-day election, Smith’s stock rose after his Pro Day results.
Samuel told NBC Sports Bay Area that he sees Smith as an instant contributor to any team that drafts him. Like the 49ers’ playmakers on offense who look for contact instead of avoiding it, Samuel believes his former teammate has that same aggressive attitude on the field.
"If you turn on the tape, he is an aggressive kind of guy but not as big,” Samuel said. “You see when he gets the ball in his hands, he makes something happen. It’s the mentality that we have. The coaches did a good job of instilling that when we were at South Carolina.”
In his four seasons as a Gamecock, Smith recorded 174 receptions for 2,204 yards and 13 touchdowns. He led the team in receiving yards in 2020 and was at least a top-three target each season since arriving at the school in 2017.
“You watch the tape and you see him in the jet sweeps and making catches,” Samuel said. “He has pretty good speed as well. I feel like he would be a good asset to the team.”
Samuel continues to make time in his schedule to coach up his younger counterpart. Sometimes it’s about football, sometimes it’s about life.
“Deebo helped me with the little things, tips on football, what I need to improve upon, releasing, blocking, stuff like that,” Smith said. “Telling me about my attitude, I should work on that a little bit. I just got a quick temper. I get heated a little bit so that’s one of the things I need to work on.”
Samuel watched his alma mater's games and regularly reached out with things for Smith to improve on, especially with the 2021 NFL Draft in the near future.
"A couple of games this past year I called him and told him some of the things I thought he needed to work on,” Samuel said. “I’ve been in the league two years now and I know what coaches looks for and what they pinpoint.”