Asante T. Samuel, CB #22
Height: 5′ 10″
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, FL
College: Central Florida
Experience: 10 years
While he may be one of the newest members of the Atlanta Falcons, Asante Samuel is no newcomer to the game of football. A four-time Pro Bowler, a three-time All-Pro selection and a two-time Super Bowl champion, Samuel has been a playmaker from the word go.
In high school, Samuel was a dual-threat player. While he was the starting quarterback his junior year, Samuel spent his senior year focusing on defense. He earned All-State honors, recording four interceptions and 75 tackles.
Samuel attended the University of Central Florida. He finished his career with the Golden Knights amassing 127 tackles (102 of them solo), eight interceptions and set a school-record with 38 deflected passes (the previous record was 34). On special teams, averaged almost 11 yards per return on his 63 punt returns.
The New England Patriots selected Samuel in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL draft with the 120th overall pick. He finished his rookie season with 34 tackles and two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). In his second season, Samuel became a regular starter, including a start in Super Bowl XXXIX, when the original starting cornerbacks, Tyrone Poole and Ty Law, were sidelined with injuries.
Statistically speaking, 2006 was Samuel’s best season. He recorded career-highs in both tackles (59 solo, five assisted) and interceptions (10). Samuel’s 10 interceptions were the second most by a Patriot (Ron Hall had 11 in 1964) and tied him with Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey as the NFL season co-leaders. Samuel also tied the Patriots single-game record with 3 interceptions in week 12 against the Chicago Bears.
Continuing the great 2006 campaign, Samuel returned two interceptions for touchdowns during the 2006 NFL Playoffs. His first was against the New York Jets in the Wild Card Playoffs. The second interception came in the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.
After his stellar 2006 year, the Patriots placed the franchise tag on Samuel for 2007 season. He finished the 2007 regular season with 44 tackles and six interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). Samuel helped lead the Patriots to a 16-0 regular season and to Super Bowl XLII. With less than two minutes to go in the game with the Patriots leading 14-10, Samuel had the chance to give the Patriots a 19-0 record when he dropped what could have been a game-ending interception. The next play, quarterback Eli Manning completed The Helmet Catch to David Tyree en route to a 17-14 New York Giants victory.
As a free agent in 2008, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Samuel to a six-year, $56 million contract. He finished the season with 35 tackles and four interceptions with one returned for a touchdown. Samuel was selected to the Pro Bowl as a reserve player for his work.
On January 4, 2009 against the Minnesota Vikings, Samuel intercepted a Tarvaris Jackson pass and returned it for a 44-yard touchdown, his fourth in the postseason, setting a new NFL postseason record.
On April 25, 2012 the Falcons acquired Samuel from the Eagles, trading a 2012 seventh-round draft pick for the cornerback. In his first game as a Falcon, Samuel recorded three tackles. With the loss of Atlanta’s other Pro Bowl cornerback, Brent Grimes, Samuel will be expected to keep the defense strong as Grimes recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.