When most student assistants join an NCAA football staff, there’s a worry about making a good impression and getting up to speed with the responsibilities of the job. There’s the apprehension of being respected by the players and being an asset, rather than a hindrance to the coaching staff.
But no student assistant has ever had quite the résumé of Chris Samuels, the latest addition to the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide’s coaching staff. As Matt Scalici of AL.com reports, he’s come a long way to end up back with his alma mater:
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with this group. Coach Saban is the best head coach in college football and his staff is second to none,” said Samuels. “For someone like me looking to build a career as a coach, this opportunity is a real blessing. I can’t wait to get to Tuscaloosa and start learning and doing what I can to help these guys win another championship.”
Samuels’s coaching journey began after his retirement from the NFL, serving as a coaching intern during the 2010 Redskins training camp. In 2011, he served as the offensive coordinator for the Blount High School football team in Prichard, Ala.
As Scalici noted, the Blount Leopards score 390 points en route to a 10-2 record, and a trip to the second round of the 6A Alabama high school playoffs.
Now that he has found his new calling on the football sidelines, Samuels was also inspired to finish up his undergraduate degree. During his first stint in college, he was a Human Performance major. According to Scalici, his return to the classroom has been a long time coming:
“I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t been in a classroom other than an NFL classroom in a very long time. Back when I was at Alabama, I had my heart set on making it in the NFL so I kind of took some things for granted. I’m glad I have the chance to go back and do it right.”
“I always planned to go back and finish my degree and I knew that if I wanted to be a college or high school coach, it was something I needed to do,” Samuels said. “I was asked to come introduce the captains at the team banquet this year and while I was there, Coach Saban sat down and talked with me a while and told me he’d love for me to come be a part of their staff. It was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to.”
Redskins fans will remember Samuels as one of the great left tackles of his generation: a first-round pick, turned six-time Pro Bowler, with one All-Pro selection and 141 starts. Injuries forced him to retire prematurely in 2010, but his many years in Washington helped to prepare him for this next step.
Samuels was available at yesterday’s Senior Bowl practice, and spoke to the assembled Washington media (via Ryan O’Halloran of CSNWashington.com):
“I thought it would be easy because I played, but it was totally different.”
“I learned a great deal from playing all those years and I’ve been around a lot of great coaches,” Samuels said. “But a lot of players don’t realize it’s different playing football and coaching football. The Redskins [coaching staff] taught me about shifting different personnel groupings and different concepts in the passing game.
The best of luck to Chris as his strong work ethic carries him into the next step in his great football career. If the desire is there in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the NFL someday.