NEW ORLEANS - Football isn't the "city game" in New York, which is what makes running back Curtis Samuel's freshman year at Ohio State all the more impressive.
Samuel, who comes out of Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School, was the only player from New York on either the OSU or Alabama roster in the Sugar Bowl, which was a semifinal in the first College Football Playoff Thursday night at the Superdome.
"It's very exciting for me to compete with these guys on such a stage," Samuel said this past week. "I'm not sure how much I'll play. I just know when my number is called, I'll go and compete. I feel like this has been a good year for me, playing as a true freshman. I came early, and that gave me an edge to be able to play. I'm proud to be out here and able to compete with my brothers. I feel things are going great."
Samuel returned two kickoffs for an 11.5-yard average and gained a yard on his only carry in Ohio State's 42-35 win over Alabama.
Although his playing time was limited, Samuel was the third-leading rusher for the Buckeyes behind starting running back Ezekiel Elliott (1,402 yards) and injured quarterback J.T. Barrett (938). Entering Thursday night, Samuel had rushed for 376 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, and scored six touchdowns, including the final two in Ohio State's 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. He also caught 10 passes for 87 yards and returned nine kickoffs an average of 22.2 yards.
Samuel got his biggest opportunity in a 66-0 romp over Kent State, carrying 15 times for 100 yards and two TDs. "That was very exciting for me," he said.
Samuel is just keeping his head down and working hard to learn the ropes. He describes Elliott as a "brother" and says he has learned from him how to handle the demands of the offense and the video room.
With the Buckeyes down to third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, it's natural to assume there was more pressure on their running backs entering Thursday night. But Jones has a strong arm and proved he could use it against Wisconsin, throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He passed for 243 yards and a touchdown against Alabama.
"We all believe in Cardale," Samuel said. "We don't see him as the third-string quarterback. We see him as the starting quarterback. He's going to do a lot of good things."