SANTA CLARA -- After playing for the 49ers' coaching staff at the 2019 Senior Bowl, former South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel knew there was a strong chance he would end up in Santa Clara.
“Yes, sir,” Samuel said Thursday at the 49ers' facility. “Me and Coach Shanahan and John Lynch connected well there. I kind of knew that if I was there around this time that they’d probably be calling my phone. It’s just kind of a feeling that I had.”
The 49ers picked the 23-year-old in the second round (No. 36 overall) of last week's NFL draft because he boasted the qualities the 49ers sought: speed, power and versatility. Samuel finished his career at South Carolina with 148 catches for 2,076 yards, good for an average of 14 yards per reception. He also returned 42 kickoffs for 1,219 yards, averaging 29 yards per return.
“At South Carolina I played almost every position except quarterback,” Samuel said with a smile.
Samuel said playing on special teams is actually his favorite part of the game. While most starting receivers don’t participate in kickoff returns, it’s something that the rookie would even lobby to do, if necessary.
“It’s just a team boost,” Samuel said. “You get the defense fired up because you know they are going to go out there next. And then if they’re fired up and get the stop, we go out there and score again. It’s just energy all over the place.”
Samuel is also known for being a physical receiver. One player he said he models his game after is a former 49ers receiver who was known for being one of the toughest to tackle.
“Anquan Boldin and Golden Tate I would say I mark my game after,” Samuel said. “Great athletes after the catch, know how to get separation and beat man coverage.”
Samuel recorded 27 touchdowns in four seasons at South Carolina, showing off a diverse skill set. He caught 16 TDs, rushed for seven and took four kickoffs to the house.
He can also make plays after the catch. Samuel was one of the best receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft in making defenders miss, according to Pro Football Focus.
Deebo Samuel's 21 missed tackles forced in 2018 was T-4th among WRs in this draft class. Here's a breakdown by @PFF_Mike before the draft on how Samuel was one of the most dangerous receivers in the country after the catch. #49ershttps://t.co/540WSalmE4— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) May 2, 2019
“It’s just the mentality I get when I get the ball in my hands,” Samuel said. “When I was growing up, I was taught that way. My father always said get the ball in the box every time you touch the ball so every time I get it I’m really trying to put it in the end zone.”
The combination of those on-field traits -- and his character -- made Samuel an easy choice for Lynch and Shanahan three months after their shared experience at the Senior Bowl.
“On the field wise every teams loves playmakers and I go out there and I just give it my all every time I’m out there,” Samuel said. “Even off the field I’m still the same person I’m smiling laughing and an easy guy to get along with.”