Jaylen Samuels spent the months leading up to the 2018 NFL
draft answering one question over and over again.”People were like Jacob Bailey Buffalo Bills Jersey , ‘What position (are you) going to play?'” the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie said. “And I just kept saying ‘I’m going to play running back.'”Not everyone believed him. The NFL included.The NFL was so skeptical of the former North Carolina State star’s potential out of the backfield he was told shortly before the scouting combine that he wouldn’t be working out with the running backs but the tight ends. Samuels shrugged his shoulders, figuring it was better to be at the combine 鈥?even if it wasn’t your preferred position 鈥?than stuck at home watching it on TV.Fast forward 10 months. They don’t ask Samuels where he fits anymore. Not after the 22-year-old lit up the New England Patriots for 142 yards rushing and 172 total yards in a victory over the New England Patriots last Sunday.Samuels carried the ball 19 times 鈥?more than he can remember at any level of football 鈥?and caught a pair of passes, including a leaping 20-yard, fourth-quarter grab that helped the Steelers run some clock before adding a late field goal that pushed the margin to seven points.There were the usual aches and pains on Monday, but nothing out of the ordinary after the heavy workload. Good thing, because Samuels figures to be just as busy when the Steelers (8-5-1) travel to New Orleans to face the NFC South champion Saints (12-2) on Sunday.Newly minted Pro Bowler James Conner is still dealing with a sprained left ankle that’s forced him to miss the past two weeks, meaning Pittsburgh’s running game will be in the hands of a fifth-round pick who has quickly morphed from project to capable starter.Samuels earned a spot out of training camp thanks to the way he embraced special teams and had found a small niche as a receiving threat 鈥?he’s N.C. State’s career leader in receptions (202), just ahead of former NFL wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Torry Holt 鈥?before Conner went down in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers. Samuels came in and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass on the next play.His first NFL start didn’t go quite as planned. He managed just 28 yards on 11 carries in a stunning loss to the Oakland Raiders. The problem wasn’t so much Oakland’s defense or the iffy turf so much as Samuels’ own jitters.”I felt like I wasn’t being patient enough, just being in a rush, hurry up and get to the hole and try to get there,” Samuels said. “(Against the Patriots) I could definitely feel it all sorting out. The holes are just opening. I just felt smoother and it felt like it was more my game.”A game that not every college coach that recruited Samuels out of high school understood. UNC brought the Charlotte native in for a camp and had him practice with the linebackers.”I was like, ‘What am I doing? Why am I going backward'” Samuels said. “I need to be going forward with the ball.”N.C. State assistant coach Eddie Faulkner saw the potential and during the recruiting process pointed out all the varied ways the Wolfpack could use him. Samuels spent four record-breaking years doing a little bit of everything.Running back. Fullback. H-back. Tight end. Slot receiver. His polished route running was immediately apparent to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when Pittsburgh used its second pick of the fifth round on Samuels.”He has really good hands Color Rush Jacob Bailey Jersey , soft hands you can really throw it all over the place and he can make plays,” Roethlisberger said.”I think he showed that this week that we can put him out there and we can do some things with him and hopefully we are just scratching the surface.”While Steelers coach Mike Tomlin jokingly replied “who said I had confidence?” when asked what gave him faith Samuels could produce, he’s not particularly surprised by what he saw against the Patriots. The shakiness in Oakland was understandable. The bounce back versus New England was promising.”There are oftentimes when you walk into stadiums, particularly as a young guy, it is a first time for a lot of things,” Tomlin said. “And I am sure as he continues to step into stadiums with a significant role for us he’ll check some boxes and do some things he hasn’t done before, but that’s just a very natural thing in terms of a young player.”One who no longer has to deal with questions about where he fits.NOTES: Conner and LB Bud Dupree (knee) did not practice Wednesday. … S Terrell Edmunds (concussion) was limited. … DE Cam Heyward (knee) was a full participant. … Roethlisberger and C Maurkice Pouncey were given the day off. Rob Gronkowski the football player is finished .Yeah, but what about Gronk?Well, the party is about to go bazooka .Look out for Gronk gone wild, Gronk unhinged, Gronk unleashed. Without football strings attached, Gronkowski is suddenly a hot free agent year-round Youth Jacob Bailey Jersey , his talents pitched to far more than 32 suitors, from Hollywood to endorsements to, well, whatever Gronk wants.He was fun-loving and fearless, a dominant tight end whose Super Bowls were won with New England and whose playful personality won over even the most casual fans. Gronkowski, who announced Sunday that he is retiring from the NFL after nine mostly dominant, title-filled seasons, set scores of records for the Patriots at his position and could light up the scoreboard like his smile can light up a room.The numbers only tell a speck of the story.Super Bowl wins were great.Boy, was it so much more fun just being Gronk.He stood tall at the Super Bowl and WrestleMania ; won big games and took on gamers; starred on the field and in film; and did it all with a goofy charm that belied a gritty tight end who seemingly always played through pain. The Patriots are going to miss Gronkowski as they try for yet another Super Bowl championship.But Gronk’s not going anywhere.So let’s take a look at what made Gronk so great, and what could be ahead:GRONK THE GOATGronkowski never would have had a sustained run as a popular pitchman , hosted kids shows or popped up in movies had he not been one of the greatest tight ends — yeah, probably the greatest — in NFL history.Gronkowski was hobbled by injuries last season and played just 13 games Womens Jacob Bailey Jersey , and each ache raised constant questions about possible retirement. Gronkowski had plenty left in the Super Bowl and still had clutch catches in the tank on New England’s final drive. He had two catches on the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown drive, the second catch set up Sony Michel’s 2-yard score in the win over the Rams.Tom Brady to Gronk, one more time for a title.“I like making big catches like that,” Gronkowski said.Gronkowski went out a champion — and he may be headed to Canton.He had 10 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns in New England’s win at Denver in an AFC Divisional playoff win in 2011. Gronkowski might have been more impressive in the 2015 AFC championship game, when he converted two fourth-down attempts on the game’s final drive and had eight receptions for 144 yards and one touchdown, perhaps his best effort in a crushing defeat.Gronkowski is the only NFL tight end with more than 500 career receptions who averaged more than 15 yards per reception.He averaged nearly 69 yards per game and cracked juvenile jokes about setting a record 69 TDs for a tight end, thanking his mom when he reached the mark. He finished with 79 TDs receiving and one rushing.GRONK GONE WILDThe final image of Gronkowski in a Patriots uniform, greatness.The final image of Gronk out of uniform, hilarious.He celebrated the Super Bowl title on the parade route by stripping off his shirt , chugging beers, flipping his hat backward and acting like a frat boy on a float. A hurled beer from the crowd that ricocheted off his hulking chest was the final hit in his career.Gronk seemed to make as many TMZ clips as NFL Films highlights.Earlier this month, TMZ reported Authentic Jacob Bailey Jersey , “Gronk and his bikini model girlfriend have taken their hotness to sea … “cause the couple put on one hell of a twerk fest on a boat in Mexico.” Peter King prose, this was not.Who knows where Gronk will end up in retirement.Or do we?Gronkowski has a standing offer from WWE to move from the gridiron to the squared circle and become a professional wrestler like his childhood friend, Mojo Rawley. Gronkowski stormed over the barricade at WrestleMania in 2017 and bro-hugged Rawley after he won the Andre the Giant battle royal.Gronk vs. The Rock?Gronk vs. Brock?With WrestleMania just weeks away, the goofy Gronkowski could crash the show again and get mixed up in more shenanigans. Heck, “Gronk” doesn’t even need to make up a ring name.GRONK THE ENTERTAINERGronkowski might find his NFL bio condensed on a Hall of Fame plaque down the road but there’s almost no way it could fit in his offseason activities. Gronkowski was a hit with the average fan — from kids to grandparents — because of his endearing persona that made him about as A-list as any athlete. He had a personal “Talk with Gronk ” that poked fun at any idiot who wanted to eat a Tide Pod. He hosted “Crashletes” on Nickelodeon , was a fed a beer bong by Patriots teammate Julian Edelman in the “Entourage” movie, and played a heightened, animated version of Gronk on “Family Guy.”Late night TV host Conan O’Brien once invited Gronkowski and Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch to play a stirring game of “Mortal Kombat.”Gronkowski found victory lane just as fun as the end zone when he partied with Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch and team owner Tony Stewart in 2017. He had Monster Energy drinks and Monster girls all around him, a winning combo in an offseason pit stop for Gronk.“I’m just having a blast,” he said. “I never really got to tailgate. I never really got to run-around (on Sundays). It’s cool to run around and meet people, enjoy the atmosphere, see what really goes down on this side of the stadium.”GRONK SAID IT“Yo soy fiesta.”Always the life of the party Jacob Bailey Jersey Boys , Gronkowski quipped he was the party in an interview with ESPN Deportes after one of New England’s Super Bowl wins. He was a hit in any language, especially compared to the milquetoast Brady. Among his best just-for-laughs takes, reading erotic Gronk fiction to Jimmy Kimmel such as, “I would have the pleasure to spike a football between butt cheeks,” he told a Boston talk radio station that he was a virgin and said Patriots fans were “going bazooka” at Gillette Stadium.But he went from whimsical to warm on the Insta post where he called it a career.“Cheers to all who have been part of the journey,” he wrote, “cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertainty of what’s next.”
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