Florida International U

FIU Panthers’ Anthon Samuel back on track after transfer, concussions

Through heavy rain:  FIU’s Anthon Samuels runs the ball in the second quarter at home against Louisville on Saturday.
Through heavy rain: FIU’s Anthon Samuels runs the ball in the second quarter at home against Louisville on Saturday. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Being fluent in the language of concussion pain, FIU running back Anthon Samuel understood what his head told him about football back in March. It was the same thing doctors’ faces told him when they heard Samuel had sustained three previous concussions.

Samuel says he heard God and his mother telling him something else. Faith and heart won the decision over Samuel’s head. Now, Samuel is on the verge of sharing top running back duties with freshman Alex Gardner.

He led FIU in carries and rushing yards in Saturday’s loss to Louisville. Also, the 5-11, 200 pounder from Opa-Locka and Pace High did the lead back thing before at the Football Bowl Subdivision level for two seasons at Bowling Green, where he rushed for 1,842 yards.

“It’s a great feeling,” Samuel said. “Last year, after the concussion, there was a long period of time when my head was still hurting. I didn’t think I would get back on the field. I was pretty much done with football. I considered dropping it all.”

He already had gone through one major transition in the previous eight months, with the transfer from Bowling Green.

“I didn’t really talk to my family,” said Samuel, who has two brothers and five sisters. “Tickets back home were $600. That’s hard for a college student to scrape together. Sometimes I used to be depressed.”

Then along came a son, Aaiden. Samuel couldn’t be the kind of father he wanted to be.

“I tried to be strong for him up there and use that as motivation to stay. But it was taking a toll on me,” Samuel said. “Out of my son’s first year of living, only seeing him 18 days. I felt like I was missing so much. I could still transfer, still do what I love and still have my son around.

“I’ve always been a man of God, family and football, and family comes before football.”

So he transferred to FIU. And sustained a concussion — again.

He didn’t tell FIU coach Ron Turner about his doubts on returning. What if he changed his mind? March came.

“Just something inside myself. I had to have a deep talk with myself. I asked, ‘Am I ready to let that go?’” Samuel said. “I had a talk with my mom, and she just told me to make sure I don’t live with any regrets. I feel that would’ve been a regret.”

He also said, “I feel like God just talked to me to come out and play again.”

So after missing spring practice, Samuel rejoined the team for training camp. Almost as soon as he began running with the first team, he sustained a hand injury.

That healed in time for him to get his first carries in almost two years against Wagner. He got 10 carries there for 26 yards, only two against Pitt, then 13 carries for 38 yards Saturday against Louisville.

Samuel might bring the largest personal cheering section of any FIU player. He figures about 22 friends and family members come to each game.

“I’m just thankful I had the chance to play DivisionI football and be around my son,” he said.

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