By Jeff Owens/Photos by Jeff Owens and Josh Hyber
ATLANTA — It's hard not to notice Deebo Samuel on the football field.
His speed, explosiveness and play-making ability make No. 1 in the Garnet and Black stand out.
He also attracts attention when he walks into a room, especially when he is dressed to the nines.
For the second year in a row, South Carolina's all-star wide receiver was the best-dressed player at SEC Media Days Thursday, turning heads with his new white sports coat, black bow tie, navy pants and white shoes.
Samuel, a preseason All-American and one of the best wide receivers in the nation, bought the outfit at Men's Wearhouse in Columbia especially for the occasion.
"I walked into the Men's Warehouse and this jacket caught my eye and I was like, 'I will put something together to go with it,'" Samuel said. "Everywhere I go, I try to [look good]."
Samuel looked spectacular on the field last year, scoring six touchdowns in the first three games of the season, including two kickoff returns for TDs, before breaking his ankle in the third game against Kentucky.
After missing the rest of the season, he is back for his senior year and hopes to take up where he left off as one of the most explosive and exciting players in the country.
Samuel said Thursday he is fully recovered and ready for fall training camp.
"I am feeling fine. I am able to maneuver … I'm ready to go," he said.
Will Muschamp, quarterback Jake Bentley and the rest of the team hope Samuel returns to being the player who has scored 15 career touchdowns in just 18 games.
"Deebo for 11 quarters last year was probably the most explosive player in college football," Muschamp said. "We're looking forward to getting him the ball a bunch and having him have a healthy senior season."
“He’s one of the most explosive players in the country and is a player that you can throw it five yards to him and he’ll get 90 for a touchdown,” Bentley said. “Just having him out there, we’re going to find all kinds of ways to get the ball in his hands and just let him make plays."
Samuel admits the season-ending injury last year was disappointing and "emotional," but he kept his spirits up and worked hard to return for his senior year. He bypassed the NFL Draft to return for one more season at South Carolina.
"Before I broke my ankle I had hamstring injuries that set me out for a couple of games but not for the rest of the season," said Samuel, who missed three games with injuries as a sophomore. "Breaking the ankle, you get down on yourself and you think that maybe football is not for you but I couldn't look at it that way. I had motivation from my coaches and also my parents who were motivating me to be able to push me to get back to the level before I got hurt."
Samuel will be a huge key to South Carolina's up-tempo offense this season and feels a sense of urgency to have a big year after the injury.
"The hardest part was getting through rehab," he said. "Once you are hurt and you first start you feel like kinda sick and broken but after you push through it, you feel like, 'OK, I am getting better and better each day.'
"Going through any type of injury, you are going to get down on yourself. It's just how you attack it and how you go about your day."
Samuel enters 2018 as one of the top receivers and all-purpose players in the country and a preseason All-American. If he gets off to another fast start, he could be an early candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
But for now, he's not thinking about all that.
"I look at that as motivation but I am not all into predictions," he said. "I have to go out there and produce and try to make those things happen."
For now, he's content attracting attention — with his play on the field, and with his style off it.
Asked if he was the best-dressed player at media day, Samuel said, "Yes, sir, I would say so."
Teammate D.J. Wonnum, decked out in a bright blue plaid suit, begged to differ.
"I am the best dressed," Wonnum said. "I mean, [Deebo] looks pretty good, I ain't going to lie, but I am confident on what I have on, too."