The NFL has had it’s fair share of outstanding defensive backs that’s for sure. Some receive more notoriety than others for any number of reasons. One that is perhaps a little underrated is Asante Samuel.
Samuel grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and attended Boyd Anderson High School where he played quarterback and then moved on to playing defensive back where he made a name for himself.
Upon graduation, Samuel attended The University of Central Florida where he played cornerback. At UCF, Samuel racked up 8 interceptions, 127 tackles and broke the school record for pass breakups with 38. Being undersized and not at a marquee school, Samuel’s college football career was not highly glorified or publicized. Samuel was also a bit undersized at 5’10” and carrying a thin frame.
The New England Patriots saw enough in Samuel to make him a 4th round pick in the 2003 NFL draft. After injuries to both starting cornerback his rookie season, Samuel was inserted into the lineup and never left. In his first three seasons with the Pats, Samuel played solid at cornerback amassing six interceptions and 37 pass break ups. However, it was in his fourth and contract year that he really took off. Samuel’s 2006 season was one of the best ever by a Patriot cornerback. Samuel intercepted 10 passes to tie with Champ Bailey for the league lead. He also broke up a hefty 24 passes during the year. His onslaught on the passing game did not just end in the regular season. During the playoffs, Samuel returned a pair of picks for touchdowns to help the Pats get to Super Bowl XXXIX.
Samuel would go on to play one more season with New England before he was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency in 2008. As an Eagle, Samuel’s strong play would continue as he grabbed 23 interceptions including a league leading 9 in 2009. After four seasons with Philadelphia, Samuel moved on to Atlanta. Samuel made an instant impact with Atlanta in his first season grabbing five interceptions and breaking up 17 passes. Two seasons later, Samuel retired from the NFL.
When all was said and done, Samuel totaled 53 interceptions, broke up 164 passes, scored six touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl five times. Samuel was also an All Pro twice in 2007 and 2009. He is one of only 34 players in NFL history to grab more than 50 interceptions in their career. Not bad for a 4th round pick from the University of Central Florida.