One year ago, it was tough to imagine Curtis Samuel becoming a top recruit. He was impressive as a freshman, but then broke his leg during his sophomore year when the season was in full swing. He missed the post-season and the spring campaign along with the ability to test his skill at another sport.
Enter 2012, and Samuel made a complete 180. He got back to being the speedy player that he is and led Brooklyn (N.Y.) Erasmus Hall to the City championship for the first time in school history while snagging player of the year honors in the process.
Samuel did it as a running back, receiver and defensive back for the Dutchmen, and now the recruiting process is following suit as the cycle shifts to the class of 2014.
"He's got tremendous change-of-direction, he's got tremendous hips and his takeoff is ridiculous," said Danny Landberg, head coach at Erasmus.
Samuel, complete with a lean 6-foot,185-pound frame, follows in the footsteps of good friend and former Erasmus star Wayne Morgan, now a freshman at Syracuse. Landberg links the two, but thinks of each in a different light.
"Wayne was the toughest kid I ever coached, Wayne was the type of kid to take a beating and give one," he said. "Curtis is the best person with the ball in his hands that I've ever coached. Period.
"Both are very instinctive and both are very intelligent players."
Morgan also played both ways, and he's found a home at the next level on defense. It would be tough to imagine Samuel sharing the same fate.
"I don't think he'll be on defense; he's got to be on offense," said Landberg. "You've got to give him the ball. His touch-to-score ratio is pretty high."
Naturally, schools in the area have been on Samuel for a while. But as his dynamic film gets out and spring visits are planned, more programs across the country may be in the mix.
"It's going to be a long time, kid's change their mind a lot. We've got to find a place that's got a lot of variables."
As it helped on the field for Samuel, seeing Morgan go through the process of being a national recruit sets the tone for how to deal with the attention.
"We've been blessed to have big-time schools come in our building the last several years," said the coach. "So he's seen it. He's taking it in stride."
More schools are expected to stop by Erasmus in the near future, but Samuel and Landberg will venture out on a pair of visits soon after. One is set for March 23, while the other is still to be determined.
"Alabama came in, but with them signing many running backs we're not sure what the interest is there."
While the college programs get bigger and bigger, the player and coach are focusing on the short term to make sure the housekeeping part of recruiting is squared away. Not to mention venturing into a sport that will only help Samuel with one of his strong suits.
"We're concentrating on grades, SAT and track," said Landberg. "He just won the Brooklyn championship in the 55 meter (dash). He's 15th in the nation; it's not bad since he's been to four track practices in his life."
Samuel wants to be recruited as a running back and possibly a slot wide receiver. There is no current timetable for a decision.