By Matthew Asher
Birthday’s are typically a time for celebration, but for Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, this birthday will be marked with sadness. While the majority of the Falcons will be at home watching the Wildcard football games this weekend, the day before Asante turns 31 (his birthday is January 6), he has to bury his mother.
Christine Samuel died earlier this week after a lengthy battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
How important was Christine to Asante? One of the reasons he agreed to be traded from Philly to Atlanta was so he could be closer to his mother, who lived in Florida. During times in the season when he had some time off, Asante would go and visit his mother.
In addition to his mother, Asante created the “Bring it Home Single Moms” foundation in 2011. According to the website, the foundation is “a national organization providing housing, education, support, and networking to single moms.”
Back when Asante was a rookie with the Patriots in 2003 Christine lived in a hotel room due to the limited finances she had. When New England won the Super Bowl at the end of that season, Asante was able to use his winner’s check to buy his mom a condo.
When he was still an Eagle in February 2012, Asante was interviewed by a local tv station about what his mother means to him. “I can never explain how much I love her, but she definitely knows,” Samuel said during the interview. “I’m always thinking about, (when) you make a play, you want to get in front of the camera and tell (her) “‘Mom, I love you and miss you.’”
Other members of the Falcons also have a heavy heart when they heard about Christine’s death. Atlanta’s other starting cornerback, Dunta Robinson, learned of her passing on Friday.
“Some guys have lost their mother in this locker room, so they understand,” Dunta said. “So the ones who haven’t, we’re here to support him. Whatever we can do to make him feel better, that’s what we’re here for and that’s the beauty of a team.”
While Robinson’s mother is still alive, he sympathises with Asante’s situation. “I don’t know the pain of losing a mom because my mother’s still alive, but I’m sure it’s a very painful situation and he’s a strong person,” Dunta said. “It’s taken a very strong person to deal with the situation. Our hearts go out to him and his family.”
Dunta said he has called Asante to send his condolences but has been unable to get a hold of him so far. Dunta “wanted to let him know that we’re thinking about him, man, and if he needs anything, we got his back,” Robinson said. “Asante is — I mean, the kind of teammate he’s been this year has been amazing, man, so you hate for something like this to happen.”
Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud also commented about Asante. He said that the Falcons secondary is a close-knit group, often watching Thursday night NFL games together. Yet because of the way Asante carried himself over the past few weeks, neither Thomas nor the other Falcons could see the difficulty Samuel was going through.
“He’s a professional,” DeCoud said. “He knows how to separate his personal life and his professional life. You guys [in the media] see Asante every day, you would never know that something that big was bothering him. It’s a testament to his character as a person.”
For now, football can wait for Asante. With the first-round bye, this should give Samuel some time to deal with Christine’s death in his own cathartic way before suiting up next Sunday against a currently unknown opponent. Even though Christine is gone, Asante will still carry the memory of her with him.
“She’s definitely the inspiration of me playing football and I always want to go out there and make her proud.”
I would like to believe that Christine is proud of you Asante. My condolences to you and the rest of your family.
For those interested in the Bring it Home Single Moms foundation can visit the website at http://www.bhsinglemoms.org/.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Falcons news, see CBS Sports Atlanta.
Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.