FIU fifth-year senior running back Anthon Samuel lists all the normal physical elements still-growing college football players improve in the offseason – size, strength, speed – before relegating them all to medium priority.
“In order to win championships, you need leadership in the locker room,” Samuel said. “Leadership was the main thing I wanted to focus on. I think I did a good job in that over the summer. I want to continue to grow in that role and lead my team to a championship.”
Samuel said inspiration for that came from “Just listening to the coaches. We have coaches who have been around Super Bowl teams. Every time they talk to us, all you hear is leadership, leadership, leadership. You never hear, ‘Oh, this guy ran for 1,400 yards’ or ‘This guy ran for 1,500 yards.’ You just keep hearing ‘leadership, leadership, leadership.’ That’s something I wanted to pick up on.”
When Samuel transferred from Bowling Green to FIU in 2013, life experience, football experience and credentials (1,842 rushing yards in two seasons) slotted him as a leader on a roster of freshmen and sophomore running backs. Most of them still had the whiff of prom cologne while Samuel had grown man responsibilities – the Opa-Locka native transferred to FIU to be a present father to his son, Aaiden.
Samuel’s son lives with him except for Friday travel days and Saturday game days during the season.
“I’ve managed it pretty good,” Samuel said. “Obviously, my family helps a whole lot. In camp, they’re looking after my son now. They make it pretty easy on me, my family. I’ve gotten used to it. I got my schedule. I’m the type of person who likes to be set. I have everything set out, my family there for support.”
But it’s hard to be a leader without being on the field. Samuel was a transfer redshirt in 2013 and suffered his fourth football concussion in the spring.
After he decided not to quit football and recovering from a 2014 training camp hand injury, Samuel steadily saw his workload increase behind freshman Alex Gardner. The two wound up tying for the team rushing lead at 582 yards after Samuel assumed the No. 1 role when Gardner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
“He’s not loud, not vocal, but he does it through work ethic and kind of does it one-on-one. He gets guys aside and talks to them,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “He’s been unbelievable in the running back room with those guys. Not just this year, last year. The maturity he brought in that room with A1, a true freshman; and (sophomore) Silas (Spearman); and (freshman) Napoleon (Maxwell) and those guys, he did a great job of providing leadership. He and (junior fullback) Lamarq Caldwell both did.”
Sophomore running back Napoleon Maxwell was on crutches Saturday with a left knee injury.
“We should have a final answer for the next day or two whether it’s going to be surgery or whether or not it’s going to be a sprain and we’ll get him back,” Turner said. “We’re concerned about it.”
Maxwell saw little action until classmate Alex Gardner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Marshall. Over the season’s remaining four games, Maxwell ran for 239 yards on 50 carries (4.8 per carry) and caught four passes for 90 yards including one 57-yard touchdown against Old Dominion.
FIU’s Sunday practice will be at night with some scrimmaging.