One of the best left tackles in the game, Chris Samuels spent 10 seasons in Washington after being drafted in the first round of 2000 NFL Draft, earning six Pro Bowls over his decorated career. *
Before the Alumni Homecoming game, he spoke about his coaching life, memories playing the Cowboys and having the urge to play again. *
What's tougher for you: Being an offensive coordinator for Churchill High School football team or being a Real Housewives husband?
I tell you, it's challenging on both ends. At times it's frustrating with me being a former football player and coaching. I know the right way, I know how it should be done and I'm preaching it to the kids and they seem like they have it down. They get out in the game and the lights come on and live bullets are flying and then all of a sudden they don't respond, so that's very frustrating. On the other hand, the Housewives deal has actually been kind of fun. I don't take the drama to heart but at times it can be frustrating. One little incident with my mom on camera when I made the Alabama Hall of Fame, that got a little bit stressful, the tension between my mom and my wife. So that's tough, but overall that experience has been great, it's been fun. It's messy, but you've got to understand reality TV.
Do you like being in the limelight in that way? **
It's actually cool. I'm not going to sit here and lie about it. To still be on TV it's fun. Now, I'll be honest, I can actually be myself. When I played in the NFL, I felt like I had to represent the NFL in a positive light, so a lot of things that I held back on, actually being myself, I like to joke, smoke cigars, I like to have a drink from time to time, and every now and then, I'm not proud of it, I use foul language. On this reality show, that's who I am. When you're in the public limelight as far as an athlete, you really have to monitor your behavior and things of that nature. I don't get beside myself and do anything crazy, to embarrass my family, but on the flipside, it is really getting to know who I am.
It's funny because nowadays, many players are taking the liberty to be themselves in public. They weren't maybe as guarded as you might have been.
Players are. I think that's a really good thing. You shouldn't have to pretend to be something that you're not. You should always be yourself. In the time that I came up through the NFL, very few guys stepped out of that box to show who they really were because of fear of being cut or looked down upon. That's your moneymaker, so other guys kind of fell in line. I was just watching this show "Quite Frankly," Stephen A. Smith had this show that he used to do, around 2006. I had never seen the show, but my barber put it on. It was basically about this book and the author of the book said that a lot of black athletes in particular are basically handcuffed on being who they really are, there's a lot of racial issues of different things that if they speak out on this big stage, a lot of people can listen but then they can get blackballed. You fast forward to nowadays, and you see everything that's going on with Colin Kaepernick. At the end of the day, this guy was just standing up for what he believed in, he used his platform as professional athlete to bring knowledge about what's going on in a lot of low income communities. And you see what's happening to him as we speak. It was funny and ironic that I watched this show around 2006 and they were talking about these issues.
Have you thought about what you would have been like in this era of social media and activism throughout the league?
I'm not a big social media guy. Really don't know how to work it that well. I got a little Instagram page and my wife helps me maintain it. I have a few pictures, I never really comment. I don't really know how to maneuver through it, she kind of teaches me from time to time, and I rarely look at anything. So I'm really not a social media guy. But I think that I probably would have taken a knee. No disrespect to the National Anthem, my dad was a Vietnam veteran, my brother fought in Desert Storm. I know police officers, I'm friends with police officers, so it's not the issue of trying to downgrade our military or police force or anything like that. I think that [Kaepernick is] really standing up for racial injustice and he's trying to get people to understand what we're dealing with in our black communities.
Was coaching high school kids something you always wanted to do? **
I actually wanted to coach in the NFL and Coach [Mike] Shanahan and [Redskins owner Dan Snyder] gave me an awesome opportunity after I retired. I worked as an unpaid assistant to the offensive line coach and it was a great experience. Not only did I learn how to coach offensive line, I actually ventured off into the quarterback rooms. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay were so open to me. That was a great opportunity for me. I learned a lot under him and Sean McVay…Those guys taught me the west coast passing game, I took notes, they taught me how to coach from an offensive coordinator standpoint. So I always knew I wanted to coach in the NFL. That experience was great, I wound up stepping down, went to high school, then I came up with a plan that I want to experience every level. I worked under Nick Saban for three years, I was a student coach for two. The only reason I didn't stay with college or pro is because I have a young family. I have a two-year old daughter and a four-year old son, and then my wife, we have a great relationship. Some of those coaches, they don't mind working those hours, but I want to be around my wife and be there for my kids. Do I have dreams of being in college or pro later on? Yes, I do. But as far as now, it's the best fit for me raising my family.
I'd imagine watching Nick Saban, you realize how much of a life he doesn't get to live.
Exactly. I'm telling you he's one of the best coaches I've been around. He's thorough. He works his butt off. Every little detail about everything, whether it's special teams, offense, defense, issues on the field, issues off the field, he's going to micro manage that and I admire him for that. His work ethic is second to none.
What's your favorite Nick Saban story?
Oh, man. Some stories I don't even want to talk about. He's hard core now. He keeps everybody in shape from coaches to players. You have to be that way when you're managing all those different parts to make this machine work the right way, you have to be hard on them. Now, he's not disrespectful by no means, but he will jump on guys when he thinks that they're slacking, he will keep his coaches in shape and keep them staying on point. Trainers, field managers, everybody's in check. I admire that about him and that's a strong person to run that the way he's doing.
Because you played for a variety of coaches for the Redskins, what did you learn seeing so many different styles?
Well one thing, I learned a lot of different schemes. Marty Schottenheimer was more of a grinder, Pro Style, smash mouth, play field position, play defense, excellent special teams and then you look at Coach [Joe] Gibbs, the one thing I liked about him, Gibbs made us the team. Gibbs got rid of some guys that didn't want to be there, that were unhappy, and brought us tighter as a team. I think that's why we had success. Under his four years there we made the playoffs two times, and in my 10 years that's the only two times we made the playoffs. Some coaches weren't thorough at all, some coaches didn't put in the time, and we suffered and we basically played poorly because of that.
But that's also a learning process.
Yeah, so I learned the right way to do it under some coaches, and I learned the way not to do it from some coaches.
A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
What immediately comes to mind when you think of Redskins vs. Cowboys? **
Just the hate. I've hated the Cowboys pretty much ever since middle school. I just hated them. Because I was a 49ers fan and my best friend was a Cowboys fan, and the early 90s they had some great battles. The Cowboys came out on top, I think they won back to back Super Bowls, and then finally the 49ers beat them. I've never liked the Cowboys. Now, I can't deny they've had some great teams through the years. Great offensive lines, great running backs, receivers, quarterbacks. But I just don't like them. America's team? I don't think so. Once I got drafted to the Redskins, it was the perfect team for me, because the Redskins hate the Cowboys. Cowboys hate the Redskins. Just a rivalry game that there's no love for the other side. You want to go out and punish those guys, they want to punish us, so I'm rooting for the Redskins every week. Hopefully we'll go out there and beat them.
What was your favorite memory in your time with the Redskins playing the Cowboys?
It was the year we made the playoffs under Coach Gibbs, I think it was the first year we made the playoffs , we beat them 35-7 at home. We had to win the last six games to get in the playoffs and the Cowboys were in our way, and we played them and we totally annihilated them. It was great game for us and we steamrolled them from the jump.
Was there a particular pass rusher you were particularly proud of dominating?
Any time that I can go out and play well against DeMarcus Ware, Osi Umenyiora, that was a big deal. Early in those guys' careers, I felt like I got the best of them, and as I got a little older, those guys started to get the best of me, so it kind of went back and forth. Osi was a beast. DeMarcus was definitely a beast as well, and every week I had to play those guys, [I had] a little extra preparation going into those games, film study, because I knew it was going to be a hard game and those guys were really good. The thing that sucks about it is we pass the ball about 55 times, and that guy gets one sack on me and I protected him 54 times, and this guy had a great game. I just think that sucks.
Yeah, that's the inherent bias of the two lines.
Exactly. Now if he had like six sacks, in one game, OK he had a great game. But one sack? And he gets a great game out of 55 snaps? That's pretty bad.
Look back on the career of the former Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels.
Do you still hang out with some of your former teammates in the area? **
Not as much. I'm more of a family guy. I rarely go out. Going out for me is going to a dinner, having a couple glasses of wine and coming home. My clubbing days are pretty much done. Maybe two or three times a year I might go out, but most of the time my wife will be with me. But I turned 40 on July 28 and we had a party the day after and Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Clinton Portis, Derrick Dockery, Kedric Golston, Mike Sellers, those guys came through. It was just a great joy to hang out with them, have a drink with some of the guys who drink, have a cigar with some of the guys that smoke cigars and talk about old memories.
Did that party make you feel old, turning 40 and being with them?
[Laughing] It didn't make me feel old, but physically I do feel old. My body aches every day.
I know Kirk Cousins still lives in your old town house. Did you help set him up when you left?
* *No, I didn't set anything up. I got wind of he needed a place to stay, and at the time he wasn't really a high profile guy. He reached out to me and we connected and I'll be honest with you, I love that guy when he played at Michigan State. I thought he was an awesome football player. Even when RGIII was the star here, I kept telling people in the barbershop and everywhere, I like Kirk Cousins, that's the guy. I knew Kirk could do it because I watched him at Michigan State, I watched when Alabama pounded him in that Bowl game, but he kept fighting. Fast forward to now, Kirk Cousins is the guy, he's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Also, he's a great leader and a great person and I think the guys rally behind him.
So you're still following the team pretty closely?
Yeah every time I get a chance on Sunday I watch them and root for those guys. Every now and then I dream about getting my neck fixed and going back out there next to Trent [Williams] – he can have left tackle, that's too hard. Just put me at the guard spot. I know if I got myself back into shape I could do two or three more years, but it's just too risky with the neck condition.
Well, Redskins fans have been pretty spoiled at the left tackle position with you and Trent Williams.
Trent is a phenomenal athlete. I remember when I was working with the Redskins, the year I retired, and I think the fields got flooded out from the rain, we didn't have the bubble at the time, so we went to Lifetime Fitness and they had a basketball court in there. Before practice started I saw him with the basketball – he looked like a point guard in the NBA, the way he handled the ball. What really did it for me was when he went and did a 360 two-handed dunk. I said, "Oh my god," I said, "This guy is 315-320 pounds and just threw down a dunk." I couldn't do that. He's fast, he's explosive, he plays with a lot of passion, he has heart and he's become one of the best players on the team, he's a true leader and sky's the limit for him. I think he could become the greatest of all time.
The whole group has started to gel really well together after fastening the Hogs 2.0 mantra. What do you make of this entire unit?
I'll be honest with you, the only line that I can see that might be right there with them is the Dallas Cowboys' line. They have a really good line, got a stud left tackle as well. But I'm really impressed with what they've done piecing this offensive line together. And the offensive line coach [Bill Callahan] has done a phenomenal job coaching those guys up. They play hard. They play tough. They pass protect well. And when they run block, they punish guys. I watched [Brandon] Scherff the other day, he got a penalty but I loved the finish on the block, just dumping a guy on his back. A few weeks ago Scherff didn't have anybody to block in the passing game, a linebacker was stunting from the other side and he totally went and cleaned the guy's clock. They play with passion up front and they dominate up front and that's what it takes.
When you see Scherff mauling someone like that, and you're on the couch, what goes through your head?
I wish it was me. I've heard so many guys retired that used to come to talk to us and they said I wish that I could still just clean somebody's clock. But now that I'm working in an insurance firm, I can't do that, I'll go to jail, I'll get sued. You have a free opportunity to clean somebody's clock. I took it for granted when they kept telling me that, but now looking at myself, every now and then I just want to clean somebody's clock again and I can't do it, so I'm living through those guys. I'm rooting for those guys. It makes me want to jump off the couch.
So that's your catharsis.
*This interview has been condensed and edited. *