Ahmari Huggins-Bruce grew up like most kids in South Carolina rooting for the Gamecocks. His favorite players to watch were Jaycee Horn, Hayden Hurst, Jadeveon Clowney, among others.
But one of his personal favorites was wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who played at South Carolina from 2014-18. And it’s not just because Huggins-Bruce loved the way he played the game. The two actually have had a personal connection dating back to when he was in high school.
“I really grew up watching the Gamecocks, coming to the games,” Huggins-Bruce said. “Me and Deebo have a tight relationship. So I know Deebo pretty well and he knows me.”
Huggins-Bruce, a transfer wide receiver joining the Gamecocks this year, played his high school football at Dillon (S.C.). Samuel was also an in-state product before committing to South Carolina as he played at Chapman High School.
“Ever since coming out of high school, we’ve stayed in touch with each other,” Huggins-Bruce said. “He’ll tell me stuff like just keep going, you feel me? He always told me I’d find my way back to South Carolina at some point.”
After his time as a Gamecock, Samuel moved onto the NFL, where he has played with the San Francisco 49ers since 2019. Nowadays, the two don’t communicate as often as they both would like. But it’s for a fair reason considering they’re on opposite sides of the country playing the game they love.
Not to mention Samuel has been preparing for one of the biggest games of his life. The 49ers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Sunday. It’s been a solid year for Samuel, who caught 60 passes for 892 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season.
“We don’t really communicate that often now ever since he made it to the league,” Huggins-Bruce said. “But back when I was getting recruited out of high school, he used to always tell me, ‘Once you get to the league, I would have you working out with me. You can be this, you can be that.’ He helped me get to where I am today.”
Still, it means a lot to Huggins-Bruce to have one of his heroes give him advice and go out of his way to talk to him.
“I mean, anytime you hear from one of those guys, the leadership he brings, leading by example, it’s just a blessing,” Huggins-Bruce said.