Even though the former Pro Bowler Asante Samuel is having statistically a poor outing, he is still making an impact with his mere presence, but in ways that won’t show up on the stat sheet. With the Atlanta Falcons missing the playoffs for sure this season, Samuel has gone from being one of the best playmakers on the field into a mentor and coach.
Samuel, who has recorded a total of 30 tackles and just one interception, hasn’t been able to stay healthy because of a lingering thigh injury that continues to bother him since the beginning of the year. At the age of 32, people have been debating whether or not Samuel no longer has the ability to be the once feared shut-down corner in his earlier days when he suited up for the New England Patriots or the Philadelphia Eagles.
For his career, Samuel has a total of 434 tackles and has notched 51 interceptions in 11 years. While the former playmaker may have lost a step or two on the field, through out his time, Samuel has always found a way to make an impact. With the Falcons’ result already known, younger guys have been receiving more playing time. One of these younger players to be logging more minutes has been rookie cornerback Robert Alford, who has been on the receiving end of getting valuable advice from one of the best corners in the NFL.
“He’s just told me to stay focused,” Alford said of Samuel’s advice. “Just focus on my technique and that this is not college. Everybody is good here, and you just have to be on your tip-top game every time you step on the field. And I think that’s helped a lot and kept me focused.
While there have been some painful grown pains for the rookie corner and most recently coach Mike Smith yelling at his rookie corner for that lateral play, Alford has been on a steady path where he continues to improve and adjust to the NFL. In their latest victory over the Buffalo Bills, Alford made one of the key plays, as he recovered a fumble in overtime that led the Falcons to hit the game-winning field goal.
Making that opportunistic play kind of brought back memories of all the times Samuel would make those acrobatic interceptions or key plays that changed the outcome of the game. As age catches up to the corner, his advice and mentorship to Alford has been paying off, as the youngster leads the Falcons with two interceptions.
“Asante has been around a long time,” Alford said. “I used to watch him when he was first into the NFL when he was with New England. So just having advice from him and knowing that he’s a future Hall of Famer and a [four-time] Pro Bowler, that’s something that I want to be. And I think he really helps me out a lot.”
Even though the days where quarterbacks wouldn’t dare to throw in the same vicinity as Samuel are almost all gone, his impact on the field is still the same, but in ways where many people wouldn’t realize.
As the Falcons’ season continues, Samuel has proven that he can still make a difference even if that doesn’t include his physical attributes or skills in covering the opposing team’s top wideouts. What Samuel has done shows just how much he can still do and that his presence alone will continue to make an impact, just in different ways.