Samuel Carbajal’s story is an important one to tell.
Yes, he’s one of the hundreds of campers that participated in the Dabo Swinney Camp this past summer and plans to do so again, but there’s more to him than meets the eye. The class of 2023 prospect out of California’s Citrus Valley High School is not just another linebacker who has a relationship with Wesley Goodwin.
Again, there’s an important story to tell here that goes beyond football.
From a young age, Carbajal dealt with some foot pain and was actually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS). He was dealing with nerve damage in his right foot, which prevented him from being able to walk correctly.
Carbajal was constantly in the hospital, just trying to get to a point where he could walk normally. When he was 11 years old, he underwent surgery that was going to determine whether he was going to be able to walk on his foot normally or not. The surgery went successfully, but he still had a little limp with him.
That didn’t stop him from wanting to play football.
“I’ve always had that mindset of ‘I want to play football,’ since I can’t even remember,” he told The Clemson Insider in a phone interview. “I’d say since birth I’ve always wanted to play football and definitely for a program. By the age of 11, once I got the OK to do recovery, I was instantly going at it. I started going through about six months of physical therapy and I started playing my first football in sixth grade.”
That was only the start of the adversity that Carbajal has had to face. He transferred schools this past season and was forced to sit out five games. Once he came back, he had one game and came away with a couple of sacks. And then, he got COVID-19 and missed another two weeks.
“Right now, I’m fighting through trying to gather film and trying to prove to these coaches that I have what it takes man,” Carbajal said. “It’s a lot of adversity that goes through me.”
He’s just used that as motivation, though.
“You start looking at all the greats,” he said. “Hunter Renfrow, the great Clemson wide receiver went through adversity. He walked-on, not a lot of people took him seriously, but he ends up getting the game-winning touchdown against Alabama.”
That’s what put Clemson on Carbajal’s radar. But, it wasn’t until he heard Clemson coach Dabo Swinney speak and formed a friendship with Goodwin, that he started to really like the school.
“I love everything about Clemson,” Carbajal said. “I love what they teach. Clemson is a place that I’d definitely love to call home.”
Carbajal’s first experience in getting to know Goodwin was before Clemson’s defensive coordinator was in his current capacity.
“When it was during the summer, I had Coach Goodwin coaching me and at the time, he wasn’t the defensive coordinator, he was the assistant to (Brent Venables),” Carbajal said. “He was coaching me as a linebacker and we grew a good friendship from there. He was giving me tips on certain things and we have a lot of similarities.”
After the camp was over, Goodwin told Carbajal that he liked the way he was working out. From there, they exchanged information and they’ve been texting back and forth ever since.
“That’s the defensive coordinator for Clemson football,” he said. “Clemson itself is a pretty big name and for the defensive coordinator to be constantly texting me back, to have normal conversations and just to invite me to come down this summer, that’s amazing, man. I thank Coach Goodwin 100%. He’s a great man and when we were talking last summer, he was an honest, down-to-earth man and I really appreciate that. He’s a great coach.”
Goodwin invited Carbajal to come out and visit for some of Clemson’s spring practices, but unfortunately due to the distance, he was unable to come out.
Goodwin told Carbajal that he would like to have him down at Clemson again this summer. Carbajal confirmed his plans to camp at Clemson on June 2 and is hopeful that after talking with Clemson’s defensive coordinator, he’ll be able to take a tour as well.
“The campus is very beautiful,” he said. “I love the coaching. They talked a lot about adversity and stuff. I know what adversity is, that’s been my whole story. It’s what I’m all about. That’s one thing they’ve preached — adversity — and it’s also a very faith-based university. I’m all for it, man. I love that place for sure.”
This summer will pay dividends for Carbajal, who will get the opportunity to be in front of college coaches on the camp circuit. He’s just someone who needs an opportunity to show that he can make an impact.
Carbajal’s just waiting for his chance and he’ll be as patient as he needs to be.
“If you look at all the greats, everyone that’s fought through adversity or didn’t have the opportunity, once that one opportunity came, they came and got it,” Carbajal said, “and I know I can do that. I’m waiting for one opportunity and once it comes, I’m gonna take it 100%. Like Clemson and Coach Dabo says, once I have my opportunity, I’m all in. That’s all I know.”
“I’m a go-getter,” he said when asked to describe his playstyle. “If I see the ball, I go get ball. That’s how I work. I’m doing everything I can. If you know me, you know my whole life revolves around God and football. That’s all I know. Football is something that I’ve been wanting to do since I was about maybe three or four when I started understanding the game. So anything I can do to get better, I’m all for it. I love this game. I know I want to do it for the rest of my life…I’m very eager for this game. I’m very eager to learn more. I’m eager to get better.”
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