Je'lin Samuels' path to Major DI college football has been paved with high risk, high reward scenarios.
The 6-foot-7 had never played Little League football and started his journey after a major letdown.
"I didn't make the basketball going into eighth grade and decided to give football a shot," he laughed. "My coaches tried to make me a wide receiver, but I just wanted to hit somebody."
He started his high school career at Westfield High School, where defensive linemen have lined FM 1960 for decades.
Samuels began to grow into his body, and he made the freshman football and basketball teams. After his freshman season, he went the route of basketball.
"I started my sophomore season just playing basketball and then I moved in with my Godparents and enrolled at Sam Rayburn that November," he said. "Because I transferred, I couldn't play varsity sports for a year. I could play varsity basketball as a junior but I had to play JV football as a junior."
He gave football another shot at the Pasadena school and bit the bullet on the JV team as a junior. He dominated and made a name for himself inside the program entering his senior year. Samuels was a complete unknown, however, by college football recruiters.
"I was praying for a big senior season in football," he said. "It was do or don't. Football was all I had left because I wasn't getting any looks in basketball. At my size, I had the skills of a post player, not a guard. At 6-foot-7, I was never a ball-handler or shooter. My game doesn't translate to the college game, so it was all football."
His prayers were answered at Santa Fe football's expense. In his first scrimmage, he had a tremendous highlight package that he posted on Twitter.
"I started getting contacted by coaches immediately because of that tape," he said. "They all wanted to keep in touch and check on me during the season. I was a kid who virtually came out of nowhere and started popping up on people's radars."
His first offer came from Incarnate Word. Then Wyoming, then UH, SMU, UTSA, Arizona State, Colorado, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Baylor, and Tennessee. He signed early with SMU.
"I built a great relationship with the SMU coaches," he said. "They put a big emphasis on character and education. That's big for me. I really trust that they are going to develop me as a great player and person as I go on to the next chapters of my life."
Samuels has become a student of the game in a short period of time. He absorbs tape of Myles Garrett (Cleveland Browns), Cam Jordan (New Orleans Saints), and Khalil Mack (Chicago Bears). His favorite is old-schooler Jason Taylor, formerly of the Miami Dolphins.
"I just watch guys with my same body-type – with a lot of length," he said. "Teams loved my motor and my ability to get to the ball. I haven't really learned any technique yet."
Now, that's scary.