How Deebo Samuel's Senior Bowl gave him feeling 49ers would draft him

How Deebo Samuel's Senior Bowl gave him feeling 49ers would draft him

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. 

“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.” 

[RELATED: New 49ers LB finds inspiration from life of Patrick Willis]

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.”

George Kittle jokingly offers up Richard Sherman's phone number online

George Kittle jokingly offers up Richard Sherman's phone number online

Professional athletes notoriously keep an extremely safe guard over their personal cell phone numbers.

With good reason, as their devices likely never would stop ringing if the number was publicly available.

49ers cornerback Richard Sherman turned 32 years old on Monday, and his fellow all-pro and teammate George Kittle offered him an interesting present via social media.

Obviously this is all in good fun, as Kittle always has been known for ribbing his teammates.

[RELATED: Why Lynch likely was scouting Louisville's Becton from home]

Sherman has 114 career passes defenses, but he’d have to swat away a lot more phone calls if Kittle were to blast out his digits.

Celebrate Richard Sherman's 32nd birthday by remembering 2019 rants

Celebrate Richard Sherman's 32nd birthday by remembering 2019 rants

Richard Sherman is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, but he might be most in his element at a podium.

The 49ers cornerback is one of the league's best speakers, captivating reporters looking to fill notebooks and fans starved to hear something interesting from the players they follow whenever he addresses the media.

Our colleagues in content at NBC Sports Northwest celebrated Sherman's 32nd birthday on Monday by remembering his epic dismissal of then-49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree after the 2013 NFC Championship Game, but the veteran added to his canon of memorable interviews and social-media rants during his second season with the 49ers during the 2019 season. Here are his best in honor of the All-Pro taking another trip around the sun.

The handshake heard -- but not seen -- around the world

Sherman's 49ers stomped on the Cleveland Browns, the darlings of the NFL offseason, in Week 5 on "Monday Night Football." The win established San Francisco as For Real, but Sherman managed to grab the most headlines when he told NFL Media's Mike Silver that Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield didn't shake his hand before the game.

"What's amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning," Sherman told Silver. "That's some college s--t. It's ridiculous. We're all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent -- that's NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush league stuff, that's disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that's gonna get us fired up."

That's not really what happened, either.

Video revealed that Mayfield did, in fact, shake hands with Sherman before the game, just not a second time. Sherman said he would apologize to Mayfield after the cornerback was caught in a lie, but still managed to turn the fiasco into ... an observation on sports-media priorities in 2019?

"I've said my piece about it," Sherman said in October. "I'm going to have a conversation with him, and then I'm kind of going to be done with it. It’s just funny it got so big. I thought the football game is what they watched for, but I guess it’s the soap opera."

Sherman becomes @OldTakesExposed

Sherman remembered everyone who criticized him signing an incentive-heavy contract with the 49ers as a free agent in 2018.

And I mean everyone.

There's much more nuance to Sherman's contract, as ESPN's Bill Barnwell expertly noted soon after Sherman's dunk session. Yet Sherman showed once again how unsparing he is when vindicated, and it wouldn't be the last time he relished proving people wrong during the 49ers' Super Bowl run.

In his zone

Sherman has long been knocked by critics for being a "zone" cornerback, who have argued that he can't guard the NFL's best receivers 1-on-1. The cornerback lit into those doubters after the 49ers' win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round, when Sherman intercepted Vikes QB Kirk Cousins to set up a San Francisco touchdown.

“People think I’m a zone [cornerback],” he said in January. “[It’s] man! Playoffs! Pick! Gotta have those. You know what I mean?

“But you know what [media] is going to do? They’re going to do what they always do to me. They’re going to make an excuse for why I’m great. They’re going to have an excuse. ‘Oh, it was Kirk Cousins!’ It’s always an excuse. But when somebody does it, it’s like, ‘He’s the best corner.’

“Look, Jalen [Ramsey] was [considered] the greatest corner. But I’m a system corner. We play in the same system! But I’m a system corner. You start to listen and it’s like, ‘Bro, they run the same scheme.’ Like, what are we talking about?”

You will be shocked to learn victory lap continued on Twitter.

[RELATED: 49ers interview Washington prospects for draft]

Corner vs. Corner

There are no two questions more boring than "Is Player X Elite?" and "Is Player Y Better Than Player Z?" Well, unless you happen to be one of Players X, Y or Z.

Longtime NFL cornerback Darrelle Revis sustained hours of sports-talk radio and debate television when he blasted Sherman on Twitter in the aftermath of the 49ers' NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers, drudging up the old criticism of Sherman not being good enough in man-to-man coverage.

Sherman, understandably, wasn't having it.

"You're going to have to get an interview with him and talk to him about it," Sherman said on "The Rich Eisen Show." "I really got nothing for him, but he seems to have too much time on his hands or something. I think it's one of those where a guy who thinks more of himself than the world thinks of him, feels like I'm getting more credit than I deserve or something like that. Obviously, his stats don't match my stats so he's trying to find other ways to make himself relevant in the conversation."

All professional athletes think they can stack up with the best their sport has to offer. Few are as vocal about it as Sherman.