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Deebo Samuel on the Pressures of Being a Pro

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Deebo Samuel has had a tough road to get to where he is today — mentally and physically. He spoke to Boardroom about the hidden struggles many athletes face.

When it comes to mental health, Deebo Samuel is as candid as it gets.

He’s also living proof of how closely physical and mental health can be linked. Samuel had a strong start to his NFL career in 2019, but the San Francisco 49ers wideout was limited to just six games in his sophomore campaign. After totaling 802 yards his rookie year, Samuel only recorded 391 the following season. The descent in form naturally affected his spirt, and he opened up to Boardroom about when he started to feel his mental health was affecting performance.

“My mental health issues reflect back to my college days,” the 27-year-old said from the NFL House at Super Bowl LVII. “Due to all the injuries I’ve had, I wanted to quit football altogether. In my second year, I kind of suffered from depression because I broke my foot that summer. When I returned, I ended up pulling my hamstring on the first play and as I was walking out to practice one day, my body just shut down. I remember I sat there bawling like, ‘What is going on?’

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It took a phone call to Niners GM John Lynch to signal a turnaround for the South Carolina product. Samuel called Lynch into a room with him and finally opened up about battling depression since his college days. It was the beginning of a mental and physical transformation that Samuel carries to this day.

Part of dealing with the injuries — and everything that comes with them — includes having recovery equipment to help get him back on the field. He’s partnered with Hyperice, and revealed to Boardroom that it helps ease his physical pain. As he enters the 2023 offseason, Samuel is intent on taking the time to focus on both mental and physical health.

“I’m taking this month off and I’ll start back at the beginning of March,” he said. “The first two weeks of March, I go to Sports Rehab LA and just get my body right. Then I’ll mentally start thinking about the things that I could do to get better as well. To make sure my recovery is up to speed, I like using Hyperice because our trainers know how to use the product and they know what tools I need based on my treatment plan.”

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He stressed the importance of first taking that time off. Fans see the contract numbers, the social media posts, and the on-field glory, but it’s hard to connect those visuals with the reality that these are humans — ones who go through the same struggles as anyone else.

“People think just because you have money and are famous that life is great,” he said. “But the more well-known you get it, it makes it 10 times harder to just walk around and be yourself. The money we make is all over us; you can’t hide it.”

He added:

“The amount of stress, amount of pressure you’re dealing with on the field, but also with family and fan noise. Certain stuff that people say really makes you kind of angry and I feel like they don’t understand like the life of being a professional athlete.”

It’s not an easy road, but Deebo Samuel is still working to navigate it. For someone who wanted to quit just a few years ago, he’s still going strong.

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About The Author
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. She began her career in sports journalism with bylines at SB Nation, USA Today, and most recently Yahoo. She received a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Truman State University, and when she's not watching old clips of Serena Williams' best matches, she is likely perfecting her signature chocolate chip cookie recipe or preparing a traditional Cameroonian meal.