Approximately 10 years ago, Lawrence Samuels was already an established player with the Tampa Bay Storm when he and his wife received word that their first, unborn child was forecasted to be conceived prematurely.
The news certainly arrived unexpectedly.
Samuels immediately feared the worst, he ruminated over the potential risks of having a child be born far in advance of its expected due date. As the days passed, so did the looming questions that often come with no satisfactory answers.
Why did it have to be me? How is this fair?
Then, help arrived from a trustworthy source.
“The March of Dimes intervened and helped us understand what we were about to encounter,” Samuels said. “They took care of us and got involved. We were so thankful, that I wanted to pay them back.”
Now, nearly a decade later, Samuels is actually paying it forward.
Samuels recently joined the Storm coaching staff and is primarily responsible for overseeing wide receivers and the special teams. He previously served in the same capacity at Central State University (Ohio), mentoring young football players much in the same way he was mentored when he entered the Arena Football League in 1994.
Even while playing football, new surroundings and environments can be daunting for a young player and finding a person to serve as a mentor can be and added bonus. The ability to impart wisdom on and particularly off of the field is what makes Samuels special.
“It was a great experience,” Samuels said about his time at Central State. “It was tremendous to be able to share my knowledge of football with kids and it was a great opportunity for me to give back on a personal level knowing that I could make a difference is someone else’s life off of the field as well.”
As it turns out, the experience was just one of many that also been made a difference in his own life.
After their first child, Landry, was born without complications following what had felt like a long and arduous ordeal leading up to her birth, Samuels became involved in volunteering in a number of charitable initiatives. Some of the organizations he worked with included, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and of course, the March of Dimes to which he felt so indebted.
Among his endeavors away from the gridiron, Samuels continues to serve as a mentor to Bay Area youth and spearhead a number of fundraising initiatives for numerous charitable organizations throughout the community. He even played an integral role in collaborating with other local standout athletes such as Mike Alstott and Carlos Pena in helping to launch a charitable program called Sports Buddies for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Through the program, in which each athlete would pair with an underprivileged youth and participate in recreational sports with them, Samuels became a than a spokesperson, he became Big Brother. Once again finding a way to pay it forward.
Samuels attributes his inclination to serving the community’s youth to the fact that he once was one.
As a rookie coming out of the University of West Alabama nearly 20 years ago, Samuels learned the intricacies of the indoor game under the tutelage of Storm legends Sylvester Bembery, George LaFrance, Andre Bowden, Jay Gruden and Stevie Thomas.
According to Samuels, each player had a huge impact in his overall development. As a result of growing under their guidance, he has fostered the ability to empathize with the large number of Storm rookies currently listed on this season’s roster and provide the role of mentor.
“Each of those guys brought something different, and that’s why I was able to have the success that I had,” Samuels said. “I really looked up to them. Now, it’s like the torch has been passed and it’s on me to help out. I try to give our guys a little background on the tradition of the organization, and to be there for them when they ask questions about how to improve their game. In a way, things have come full circle.”
On Monday, when the Storm hosts Legends Night against the Kansas City Command, Samuels will be honored at halftime for his illustrious career on the football field.
But, perhaps what at times goes unnoticed is the equally impressive impact he has off of the field.