One-On-One With the Samuels

Mississippi State track and field recently signed the nation's number 1 long jumper, Jarrett Samuels. Gene's Page recently caught up with Jarrett and his dad, Joseph Samuels, Sr., and did a one-on-one interview with both. They talked about Jarrett's career and how he ended up signing with Mississippi State.

Samuels, a Charlotte, N.C., native, has won indoor and outdoor state crowns in the long jump, and his personal best jump of 24-11 last summer was the fourth best nationally and ranks No. 1 among his underclassmen peers.

Long jump competition has taken Samuels far from his hometown of Charlotte. The high school All-American was invited to compete in the 2009 IAAF World Championship in Italy. Competing against the best in the world, Samuels placed sixth at the event with a jump of 24-1 ¾.

Do not mistake Samuels being one dimensional. In addition to his long jump success, Samuels has won championships in the 300- and 400-meter dashes, while also competing in the 200- and 55-meter dashes and the 4x400-meter relay, posting some impressive personal bests along the way: 200m dash - 21.59, 300m dash - 34.73, 400m dash - 47.89, and the 55m dash - 6.42.

Jarrett Samuels

Specifically, what was it about Mississippi State that ultimately led you to choose them over all the other colleges that you considered?
"It was the visit. When I went there it seemed like it would be the best fit for me. I liked how close everyone was on the track team. They were all friendly and welcomed me in with open arms. I also liked how the coaches were so friendly. I know it is part of their job to be nice to you on the recruiting visit, but I think that is how it is going to be when you get on their campus as well."

You mentioned the coaches. What part did the head coach, Steve Dudley, play in you choosing Mississippi State?
"I think highly of Coach Dudley. I like how much he wanted me to be a Mississippi State Bulldog. He stressed to me that I was number 1 on his list and he wasn't going to stop until he got me on the team. He took a lot of time out of his day to call me every week. He even called me on Christmas just to see how I was doing and just to see if I needed anything. That really meant a lot to me, him calling me on Christmas. When he could be with his family, he was thinking about me, trying to recruit me. That really helped a lot."

What are your goals when you get to Mississippi State?
"I know my goals are to be the best that I can be while I am there and to graduate with a degree. And just enjoy the college experience and be the best all-around person that I can be."

You are going to major in International Business. What are your plans for the future in regard to that major?
"My dad kind of introduced me to International Business a little bit. With me already traveling the country, it kind of will help me. I thought it would be a good major to go into. And if I compete professionally, it will help me in other countries."

Was there any one thing that put Mississippi State over the top compared to the other schools that you considered?
"It was a combination. But when Coach Thomas came here, he just topped it off with all the jumping things he explained to me. That really topped it off."

What are your thoughts about Coach Thomas personally?
"He was the smartest man I have ever spoken to about long jumping. He was very intelligent and wise. He knows a lot about the sport and the event."

You are considered the number one long jumper in the nation. But you are still a kid. How do you handle knowing you are the best in the entire nation?
"I don't really think about it as much as you might think I would. I know that is what I am but I don't like thinking about that constantly. I have been doing this since I was seven-years-old, so it's like second nature to me. I kind of expect to be the best, so it's not a shock to me."

Was your goal to be the best or did it just kind of happen?
"It just kind of happened. When I was seven, I didn't really think I would come this far and become the number one long jumper in the country my senior year. I just love doing it. But being number one just adds to it."

Joseph Samuels, Sr.

As a parent what are your thoughts about the Mississippi State coaches?
"I feel the coaching staff were very transparent in regards to the environment at the university. They had very strict guidelines as well and were very upfront with what they expected out of their athletes. And I felt like the coaching staff really made themselves transparent to both Jarrett and us from day-one. That really made a difference in regards to our impression of the university and the coaching staff."

Was Jarrett's primary Mississippi State recruiter Steve Dudley? If so, what was your impressions of him?
"Yes, he was. And, as the head coach making contact with us, that made a really big impression on us. Other universities may have sent an assistant coach but when a head coach makes contact and explains everything from the top down it really makes a big difference. That was one of the things that made a big impression on Jarrett."

Did Coach Dudley explain why he was the primary recruiter?
"One of the things that impressed us was that he didn't really treat Jarrett any different from any of the other athletes that Mississippi State is currently recruiting. It was more or less the fundamental values that he believes in as a head coach and that he really wants to take ownership and responsibility. He came into our home and spoke with us, and we really felt a connection. And it just improved from that point forward."

When did Mississippi State get involved in Jarrett's recruitment?
"It started last year after the formal recruiting date when all the universities could start recruiting him. A lot of coaches showed up at Jarrett's school and Coach Dudley was one of them throughout that week. Obviously Jarrett already knew some of the athletes that went there; Tavaris Tate was one of them from prior track meets. He knew him and had followed him."

What kind of impression did the academic side of his recruitment by Mississippi State's Steve Dudley make on you?
"It made a very good impression for the simple fact that he made it plain that he expected a commitment from Jarrett regarding his major and what career he was going to go into. He also shared with us some of his academic rules, which go beyond some of the required rules. He spoke in great length about academics. In fact, his discussion was more about academics and what his expectations were than anything else. He made it very clear that he would make that type of commitment. And if Jarrett came there, he expected his academics to continue to excel as he does with all of his athletes. That made a very big impression on us."

Were you able to come on the visit with Jarrett when he officially visited Mississippi State?
"No. We can't always be there for him so we trusted Jarrett to go out and visit the schools himself. After all, he's the one who will be at the university. As a parent, you have to draw the line and let the young man start the process of becoming a man and making these kind of decisions. Some parents choose to do it differently but Jarrett, before the visit, has been out of the country at national and international meets, which we didn't go with him. He went to those and has done a great job of making decisions and managing himself. This was just an extension of that.

"What we did was sit down with Jarrett and go over several requirements in terms of what we expected from universities for him to be successful. Academics was definitely at the top of that list. It had to have his major, which is International Business. That was a big requirement for us. But there were also other aspects in terms of certain things we were looking for such as feedback from students and his relationship with the coaching staff and the values that the coaching staff has relative to the way that we raised Jarrett. There were probably about 15 specific things that we looked at. And we rated each school."

How many schools showed interest in him, recruiting-wise?
"There were far too many to list. At one point, he was probably getting at least one new school a day for probably a month. It just got to the point where it almost became overwhelming. But we had our 15 questions and we looked at those (for each school). For us, geographics was never an item we considered as a requirement. We never looked at how close a school was to our home as being a factor because we wanted to make sure that the school was going to be the best school for Jarrett.

"As far as schools that we heavily considered, two of the schools that he chose Mississippi State over were South Carolina and LSU. Those were two other schools that made his short list. Both of those schools are very fine institutions. The difference came down to Coach Dudley and the relationship that he had built with Jarrett. And also the addition of Coach (Steve) Thomas and the success he has had in Jarrett's speciality. That combination was a really good fit for Jarrett."

I asked Jarrett what it means to him being the number one long jumper in the nation. I want to ask it of you as well. What does it mean to you as a parent to see that your son is ranked the number one long jumper in the nation? That must be a very prideful thing to you.
"It is. But our whole family has always been good at track and field on my side. This is just a little history for you. My brother still holds the long jump record at his high school and I still hold the long jump record at my high school. And (Jarrett's cousin) Jamie Samuels, who you may be aware of as an Arkansas recruit, was the top sprinter in the country and still holds a number of records as a sprinter. He has the long jump record at this high school. So, we were looking for the next big jumper and track and field athlete. And it was just a matter of time that someone else in the family would come along.

"As far as thinking about him being number one, to be honest with you for Jarrett it's not a big thing. When you look back at his body of work, ever since he was in middle school he has broken records. In AAU he was the state champion in the 200, 400 and long jump too many times to mention. He was the national record holder when he was 13 in AAU. When he didn't win he was always either second or in the top five, so he's used to competing on that level. I guess you can say that he's used to the big stage, so it's not a big thing for him.

"My thing with him is that he remains humble. I always tell him through everything to keep a level head. As his career continues to develop, he is going to have a level head with his academics and competing in the SEC. We didn't mention that earlier, but I think that was another thing that he really wanted. He wanted to compete against the very best."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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