Deebo Samuel was instrumental to the success of San Francisco's 2019 campaign and appears willing to assume a larger role, both on and off the field, in Year 2 with the 49ers.
Earlier this offseason, Samuel revealed a few words of wisdom from former 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on his potential as a player and as a leader. Samuel was one of the first players to reach out to first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk following the draft to lend a hand in helping the rookie adjust to the NFL. Samuel expressed his desire to not just lead by words, but by example when it comes to his teammates and his community.
In light of the recent events surrounding social injustices, Samuel sought after opportunities to create positive influence within his own community. The wideout recently partnered with his marketing agency, ESM Football, to provide scholarships for college-bound Black student-athletes graduating from Spartanburg High School in his hometown of Spartanburg, S.C.
With a goal of raising $5,000 through the "Be the Change" scholarship program, 100 percent of donations from Samuel's fundraiser will go directly to scholarships for Black student-athletes graduating from the low-income area. The scholarship aims to provide an opportunity for deserving students to receive higher education.
Despite being born and raised in Spartanburg, Samuel attended Chapman High School in Inman, S.C., roughly 25 minutes northwest of his hometown. Regardless of locality, the second-year receiver put an emphasis on lending a hand to the city that molded him through coaches, community, family and football.
"I'm just trying to raise money because there are pretty good students and athletes where I'm from, but not too many get the opportunity to go to college due to funds," Samuel said. "Not too many people make it out and get a chance to go to college. So, through this fundraiser, I get to help an athlete that is deserving of that opportunity."
More than half of Spartanburg's population is made up of African American families with roughly 30 percent living below the poverty line. Samuel included, understands the complicated road to access of higher learning and educational resources.
"Where I grew up, you don't really find many wealthy people," Samuel explained. "When I was a kid it was kind of a struggle in my family as well. So, I get it and I understand what people go through back home."
This offseason, Samuel has used his social media platform to promote positive change and the encouragement of young men who follow the receiver. From posts encouraging youth to seek and build representation in beneficial career choices outside of sports and entertainment, to lessons on overcoming disappointment and setbacks, Samuel insists on using his platform (that includes a social media following that is nearly 400,000 strong) to continue to lead by example and serve as a force for positive change.
"It's not just about being an athlete," Samuel continued. "I think a lot of people look up to guys like me and other guys in the league that I think are very good players. You have a lot of kids that really don't even know us but they see as athletes. They listen to the things we say and they're paying attention. We have to use our platform, not only as athletes, but to be more vocal to help encourage positive change."
To learn more about "Be the Change" and The Deebo Samuel Foundation or to make a contribution to the scholarship fund, visit Samuel's Go Fund Me page.