Player Feature: Deebo Samuel
His father, Galen, gave him the nickname "Deebo" after the notorious bully in the 1995 movie Friday because he was always taking things away from people as a toddler. In high school, his stepmother, Precious Martin, gave him another nickname, "Sweet Feet," due to his speed.
Samuel, a South Carolina native, knew he wanted to stay close to home when he went to college. Growing up with eight siblings, family has been a staple in his life. Stepmom, Precious Martin, noted that Deebo and his siblings were always hanging out at the house and encouraging each other to accomplish their goals. One of her goals was to finally get her college degree after struggling in college during her youth. Deebo, was always there to support her, often helping her with her homework. "Deebo used to help me a lot with my math courses, he's real good in math," said Martin.
A retail management major at South Carolina, Samuel is passionate about fashion and his appearances in front of the camera. His fashion flair became something he was known for during his time in Columbia, usually with help from his stepmom, Precious. She and Samuel would often video chat while he was away from home so she could help pick out his outfits. "I love it. It makes me feel like he needs me," she said. "I can't get enough of it. I don't know if he does it more for me or more for him." Samuel was even referred to as the best-dressed player at SEC Media Day.
Read more about Deebo Samuel by clicking his bio below.
Coach's Corner: Tony Oden
This month's "Coach's Corner" comes from Defensive Backs Coach, Tony Oden.
People often say that defensive back is the toughest position in the NFL, do you agree with that?
"Yeah, I would agree. I think all of the positions are tough and pose their unique challenges. I'm a little biased, but I do think it's pretty hard because the guys have to be very athletic and cover fast guys in a lot of space. That's tough to do especially with the rules, the way they are with contact down the field. So you have to be a very crafty person to get that done. The other thing I think DBs have to do is tackle. A lot of times offenses will force corners or defensive backs to tackle more and in space, which is challenging as well. So you have to cover guys at a high level and you have to be a great tackler as well. That's what makes it tough."
What are the most important traits to being successful as a cornerback?
"For corners specifically, you have to be able to cover head to head for the transition skills and you have to be an incredible tackler. You don't have to be someone who's going to knock the other person back or knock the offensive player back like safeties and linebackers, but you have to be able to get the ball carrier down when it counts in space. I think the other lost art or the hidden gem that makes a great corner is communication skills. To be able to recognize formations and be able to communicate that to the linebackers and safeties. I think another key to being a good corner is being a problem solver. You need a guy who can think fast on their feet because we work on certain things in practice to prepare for our opponents. Most of the time that works out, but the other teams scouts us as well so those guys have to be able to problem-solve on the field using the tools that we give them in real-time and that part is tough. So to make a long story short, you've got to be able to cover, tackle, be a great communicator and you have to be a phenomenal problem solver. Now, if you check all those boxes right there you have an excellent corner."
Can you speak to what it has been like to have Richard Sherman in the meeting room and on the field?
"It's been great. When you have someone who has done as much as he has, in my opinion, he's a future Hall of Famer no doubt about it. To have him in the room, his presence alone makes a difference. There's a type of confidence that the room has when he's in there, as opposed to when he's not in there. When he's not in the room, we still have a great group of guys, but it's just a different presence. The way he sees things, the way he communicates to me and the other players in the room is great. A lot of times he is like a coach on the field. He is that problem solver without question. He is a person that can take the message from the meeting room with us into the locker room and communicate it back to the players. He connects all the dots because he sees the big picture. I would say his presence is priceless. I don't think you can ever put words to it or do it justice to have a player like that. I think he's unique in that regard because I think there's a lot of great players, but great players don't always necessarily bring that presence. He's a giver of information. He leads people, he draws them together and those things matched with his athletic ability and his talent make him unique to people of that caliber. He's willing to share, teach, motivate, but he knows that he still might not have all the answers. He's still extremely coachable which is very refreshing."
What makes a player like Jimmie Ward so versatile?
"I think he's the best, if not one of the best, safeties in the league. I saw him and knew him coming out of college. I knew the kind of player he was or at least I thought I did, but after being in the room and intimately knowing him from a coaching perspective and watching him play, he is priceless because he does so much. I think he is very underrated. He can cover, he's an excellent tackler, he is a phenomenal teammate, he's passionate, he loves football and he studies the game. All those boxes that I checked for the corner are the boxes I would check with Jimmie, plus the other intangibles like his work ethic. To me, he's the prototype safety because he can do it all. He allows our defense to be able to do so much. His attitude is great in the room. He is an underrated safety as far as the league goes, but definitely not underrated in our organization or our meeting room. We all see what he does and how much he means to our defense. He can truly do it all. I can't say enough good things about him."
Can you speak to the "next man up" mentality of your group? They've been tested a few times this year and remain one of the best statistically in the league.
"Obviously it's been challenging, but I think it starts with the players that our ownership, John Lynch, Kyle, and Saleh have selected. It's not a coincidence that these people are here, these are the right type of people. When you take the right type of people and put them with a defensive coordinator like Saleh, they understand the defense, they understand the ins and outs. Once you put all those things together, I'm not shocked at all that the drop-off hasn't happened like most people would think because they just know the character of the men in the room. They know how well they fit the scheme that we do and how well Saleh puts these guys in places to be successful. They know how they're taught, how we teach them routes, and how they understand those things.
Before I got here or early in the season I would have maybe thought the same thing, but as you see it unfold and the more I understand the defense, I understand how it all melts together. If I step back and look at it, I'm not shocked at all. I am extremely proud and happy for our guys and how they work and the results that they're getting because of their work. They're not complacent at all. Every single time without fail, our guys have stepped up when their number is called. They don't ever flinch. They know the standard that they're held to. They look out for each other, they protect each other. It's a phenomenal room. I'm so excited for those guys that come in and play well. With that being said, we still have to play better. We still have a lot of improvement. We are not where we want to be as a room, but they know that and they keep working at it. We want to continue to get better. It's encouraging that we haven't had a significant drop. The next guy up has performed and played which is great, but they are not a complacent group. They want to get better, they can get better and they will get better."
To read more about Coach Oden, click the bio below.
WON of Us: Mary
Mary is the 49ers Fan of the Year presented by Pepsi who is not only an amazing fan in the stands but works nights as an ER nurse working to serve and protect the community.
I've been Faithful since childhood! Growing up we always watched games with my Dad and Grandpa every week. Recently my mom found a file of old school projects that I did and in second grade we had to do a weekly journal entry. One of them is a picture that is a depiction of my memories of watching the 49ers beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI, proving I really have been a fan my whole life. We grew up and have always been Faithful to The Bay!
What do you love about WON?
I love that there is a community of women that can connect throughout the year and share their love for football and the 49ers together. It's so special that the organization recognizes the women in the fan base. We are equally as passionate as everyone else and not all teams realize that, but our team has and continues to create offerings specifically for women. The coolest part about WON is probably the variety of events both in-person and virtual, especially this year. I thought the Yoga with the Kittles was such a cool idea!
Was there one inspirational moment in team history that confirmed your 49ers fandom?
I think my fandom was confirmed every week growing up during the Bill Walsh era 49ers more than a single moment. What those teams could do week after week was so incredible and led to a true golden era for this franchise and the fan base. My all-time favorite player is Jerry Rice because of everything that he could do on the field and accomplished in his career. If I had to pick one moment, I do remember watching The Catch as a kid since it was the most special moment in team history at the time and the legacy of that game has only grown through the years.
Get to know WON member Mary.
What 49ers tradition or superstition do you/your family have?
As a kid, our family's tradition was just gathering together with Dad and Grandpa to watch the amazing feats of the 49ers. Now, I'm an overnight ER Nurse so I make sure that when I go into my shifts before Gameday, I'm always repping the 49ers with my uniform. Since the team has moved to Levi's® Stadium, I became a season ticket holder so I am at every home game even if it means going straight to a 1pm kickoff after working all night. One other tradition that I've developed is organizing an annual tailgate for all of the nurses that I work with that are 49ers fans. The way the team works together to accomplish their goals on and off the field inspires us to use that same teamwork in the hospital, especially in a crazy year like this one has been.
What impact has the 49ers had on your life?
The 49ers were something that everyone in our family could connect with. Each week, we would watch with Dad and Grandpa no matter what and it helped developed some of our most precious memories because it was something that we could all do together. I have a late January birthday, so I was fortunate enough to have several birthday parties that also doubled as Super Bowl parties as a kid. Its moments and memories like those that help us to stay connected to the team over the years in such special ways.
Finally, what the team on the field and the coaches accomplish together really does inspire me and my co-workers to push through the mental and physical challenges that we face in the ER. During the season it also gives us something to look forward to and provides a great escape for all of us from kickoff to when the clock winds down.
This year, the 49ers annual holiday event, Hope for the Holidays, took a socially-distant spin as Sourdough Sam and 49ers staff delivered holiday cheer to 30 deserving families newly housed at Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley's Central Commons complex in Fremont. Through generous monetary donations from U.S. Bank, Jimmy Garoppolo, coaches, executives, and in-kind donations from team partners Zenni Eyeware, Peet's Coffee, Shoe Palace, and Panini America, the organization delivered more than $20,000 of in-kind gifts to the families to ease the effects of the pandemic's shelter in place and financial hit. As Central Commons was completed in December, this delivery will bring the 49ers contributions full circle as they helped with the early stages of construction during their all-hands Community Day service project in 2018.
Keep up with the 49ers in the community throughout the season via Twitter @49ersCommunity and #49ersGiveBack
This Month in 49ers History
January 17, 1952
Hugh McElhenny, a sensational running back from the University of Washington, was selected by the 49ers in the first round of the 1952 NFL draft. Playing in just his fourth professional game, McElhenny gained 102 yards rushing and returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown as the 49ers posted their first-ever win over the Chicago Bears, 40-16. "Afterwards, in the locker room, Frankie Albert gave me the game ball and said, 'You're The King,'" McElhenny said. He finished the season with a league-leading 1,731 all-purpose yards and a new nickname. McElhenny also earned the NFL's Rookie of the Year honor.