What Deebo loves about new wide back role on 49ers


Deebo Samuel is the most unique weapon in the NFL.

His versatility to line up anywhere on the field -- at wide receiver or at running back -- and make plays with the football gives coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense flexibility not seen elsewhere in the league.

Now, the “wide back” position is getting the national attention it deserves. The third-year star out of South Carolina was asked what position he plays during the 2022 Pro Bowl on Sunday.

“We’ve got a new position,” Samuel told sideline reporter Lisa Salters on the ESPN broadcast. “It’s called wide back. Wide receiver playing running back.”

When asked what he enjoys about the wide back role, Samuel’s answer was simple.

“I can get the ball. That’s what I really like -- the ball in my hands all the time.”

In 2021, Samuel was one of three wide receivers named to The Associated Press 2021 NFL All-Pro first team. He hauled in 77 receptions for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns, leading the league with an average of 18.2 yards per catch. Samuel also rushed 59 times for 365 yards and eight scores.

Entering Week 10, Samuel had six rushes for 22 yards to his name. But the 49ers made an effort to get him involved in the running game in Week 11 and he saw at least five carries in San Francisco’s final 11 contests, including 10 rushes apiece in the 49ers’ pair of playoff wins against the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.

Samuel was one of seven 49ers players to be named to the 2022 Pro Bowl, joining Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk, Laken Tomlinson, Alex Mack and Trent Williams.

While Bosa and Williams opted out of playing due to injuries, Samuel and his 49ers teammates contributed in the NFC’s 41-35 loss to the AFC at Allegiant Stadium.

Samuel caught three of four targets for 26 yards and had one rush for -5 yards. Kittle grabbed four receptions for 43 yards, including a 20-yard reception late in the fourth quarter.

RELATED: Can 49ers keep using Deebo so much as wide-back next season?

The fullback Juszczyk had the biggest impact in the game, catching a 14-yard touchdown pass from Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in the first quarter.

The first NFC teammate to congratulate Juszczyk on his touchdown was Kittle. 

The AFC has now won five straight Pro Bowl contests, the longest winning streak for either conference since the annual matchup began in 1970.

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