- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Dexter Samuels headed over to the rec center Monday night for his game in the local basketball league, figuring his older brother wouldn't be far behind. Chris Samuels had been sharing Dexter's Tuscaloosa, Ala., apartment for the past several weeks, and he made it a habit to stop by the games.

But Chris Samuels never showed. Instead, he was whisked away to the nation's capital, where the final touches were being put on his six-year, $47 million contract with the Washington Redskins. Samuels signed that contract yesterday and practiced in the afternoon with his fellow rookies and assorted veterans.

"We were playing video games that afternoon," Dexter, a student at the University of Alabama, said yesterday from Tuscaloosa. "He said he was going to come to my game. But before I knew it, he was coming to D.C."

And just like that, the Redskins cleared up one-third of their remaining contract questions before tomorrow's start of full-squad training camp. The team continues to wait on the signings of rookie LaVar Arrington and franchise player Stephen Davis, but at least it knows Samuels won't follow the dubious legacy of Redskins rookie holdouts Heath Shuler, Michael Westbrook and Kenard Lang.

"My agent [Jimmy Sexton] told me the whole time that he was going to get me in [camp] on time," Samuels said after practice. "I really didn't worry about it too much. I had confidence that I was going to get up here early and learn as much as I can."

The juxtaposition of locations from Tuscaloosa's rec-league courts to a practice field bordered by Dan Snyder's heli-pad was fitting for the down-home, easygoing Samuels. Once a fragile freshman who wanted to quit Alabama's football team after his first two-a-days, the 22-year-old left tackle now is expected to play a major role in the Redskins' anticipated run to the Super Bowl.

"He's excited," his mother, Shirley Samuels, said from Mobile, Ala. "This is a growing man's dream come true."

Samuels spent recent weeks in his home state of Alabama, staying at times in Mobile with his parents and the rest of the time in Tuscaloosa with his girlfriend, Eugena Samuel, and Dexter. Samuels worked out consistently in both places to keep his mind off contract talks and get in shape for when they finished.

"He really didn't know what to expect [of the negotiations]," Samuel said. "His main thing was wishing that it would get done. He wanted to get up there and start learning the plays and preparing for the season."

But Samuels wasn't all work. He also spent plenty of time relaxing, at one point taking a road trip to Nashville, Tenn., with Dexter to watch their brother Lawrence play in the Arena League and at another traveling to Nassau, Bahamas, with Samuel and Sexton.

And along the way, Samuels got a new hairdo cornrows and succumbed more than a few times to culinary temptation.

"When I see that food, I can't help myself," Samuels said with a laugh, admitting a weakness for seafood buffets.

Samuels' workouts in Alabama often took place in 100-degree heat and high humidity, and in Tuscaloosa he actually ran and lifted with current Crimson Tide players in the setting that almost led him to quit the game in 1995. But the effort barely prepared him for yesterday's first go in pads, when he showed flashes of dominance but looked seriously winded as practice ended.

"I hadn't hit since the SEC championship," said Samuels, who claimed to be 100 percent after a knee injury ended his senior season and a hamstring limited him in earlier Redskins workouts. "I felt heavy in the stomach area. But I'm OK. I got better as I went on."

Samuels still felt bad about Dexter's basketball game, wishing he could have done more than leave a phone message. But Samuels also knew his adult life had begun in Washington. In the moment it took Dexter to finish the layup line Monday night, Samuels boarded a plane to fulfill his dream, leaving the video games and rec-league courts behind.

"It's time to handle business now," Samuels said. "I enjoyed it as much as I could while I had time off, but now that I'm here it's time to get down to business… . This is a job, and I have got to go to work every day."

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