For a rookie, it couldn’t be more a valuable quality as they work to show their coaches they should occupy one of the coveted spots on the 53-man roster when the regular season begins.
For Jaylen Samuels, versatility is his middle name.
Samuels did it all at North Carolina State. Running back, tight end, and slot receiver. He was even named first-team All-ACC as an all-purpose player, highlighting that not only did he do it all, but he did it well.
The rookie fifth-round draft pick is listed on the Steelers roster as a running back. But if the team’s recently completed minicamp is any indication that versatility will continue in the NFL.
“They have me playing a lot of different positions,” said Samuels. “Right now they have me in the backfield, running the ball as well. Also in the slot, moving around. Playing outside receiver. Pretty much what I was doing in college. Just finding ways to get me the ball. I am up for the task and just ready to get to work.
“It’s good to get in that playbook, learn everything, as much as I can before OTAs, so when those come I can be comfortable.”
Those OTAs start on May 22, three weeks of voluntary football work with the rookies joining the veterans on the field for the first time. Rookie minicamp was just the introduction. OTAs are the next step before things get real in training camp.
“To get back out here, do what I love doing, getting used to the playbook, getting used to the fast paced tempo of the practices. So far, so good,” said Samuels near the end of rookie minicamp. “I am going to get used to it after a while. I am trying to learn the plays right now. There is a lot of thinking going on. Once I get the plays, I can play a little faster and I feel like I will be more comfortable.
“I am ready to get out here, meet the veterans, be able to compete with the veterans and just show them what I can bring to the table and help this team win.”
He also plans on using this time to improve all aspects of his game, including his route running, something he takes pride in, but still wants to get better.
“I love route running,” said Samuels. “I like to get the details in the routes and beat people in open space. I have been doing that all of my life. I still have work to do. That is what practice is for. I am out here to get better.”
Samuels has a little extra motivation to keep getting better, driven by the chip on his shoulder after he lasted until the fifth round.
“It was tough,” admitted Samuels. “I felt disrespected. But the Steelers organization, they believed in me and as long as I have the opportunity I am going to go on with this.
“There is a little bit of chip on my shoulder, but I can’t wait to get back out here. I have had a chip on my shoulder all my life. I have always been underestimated all my life, even coming to college. That is motivation for me.”