Media Day can be intimidating for even the most season veterans on a team, so when it’s your first time to be surrounded by 20 media members in a new town, it’s easy to get some nerves.
But, K.J. Carta-Samuels, the elder statesman of Colorado State football and the likely starter at quarterback, came in calm, cool and collected.
When I asked Carta-Samuels – who joined the team only in May – on a scale of 1-10, where he’s at in knowing Mike Bobo’s offense he responded, “I would say I’m about a nine.”
Now, that’s confidence!
Is he surprised he’s so well versed in the offense already? “Because I put in the work, no,” he explained. “If I didn’t put in the work, I’d be at like a four or five. I’ve put in a lot of time into it and still am every day. I don’t have much time [left], so, every day I have to spend as much time as I possibly can to learn the offense.”
Before we talked to the probable starting quarterback of the Rams, we talked to Colorado State’s head coach Mike Bobo, who may also not be surprised with how far along Carta-Samuels is.
“He really acclimated himself into the team,” Bobo explained, even though he’s been on campus just since May. “Worked extremely hard in workouts…He’s a grinder. He’s constantly in that film room, constantly calling Coach Letson [QB coach] at night, asking him questions because he’s watching film on his iPad. You see him get better every day.”
A lot of kids come in and brag about their work ethic, but Carta-Samuels let his actions speak for him first. Then, he decided to become more of a vocal leader, not wanting to step on any toes too quickly. Bobo said that after the 4th of July, the graduate transfer started being more vocal and earning the respect of his teammates with that incredible work ethic.
Speaking of wonderful work ethics, senior receiver Bisi Johnson is considered “the standard” by Bobo. His attention to detail and consistency in terms of going all-out even in practices has earned him that nickname, and even “the standard” himself has grown to quickly trust Carta-Samuels due to his hard work.
“He has really good poise, in the huddle and in the pocket,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “He’s an older guy, so that’s something that definitely helps. A lot of guys look up to him and that’ll help him going into the season just because we know we can trust him.”
For Colorado State, this is the second year in the last three that Bobo’s brought in a graduate transfer at quarterback, with Faton Bauta from Georgia being the guy in 2016. Bauta competed with Nick Stevens and Collin Hill, earning a start but was pulled before that game was completed. Hill eventually took over, and he then gave way back to Stevens when Hill tore his ACL.
This year, Hill re-tore his ACL playing basketball in February, creating the need for the Rams to go out and get someone with a little experience, and Carta-Samuels picked Fort Collins over Los Angeles and UCLA of the Pac-12.
Without a doubt, having a graduate transfer quarterback come into a team – with an extremely limited time to learn the offense and learn his teammates – is not a guarantee for success. He may have more experience – Carta-Samuels in particular is 23 years old – but without working diligently, success is unlikely.
Luckily for Rams fans, they seem to be in good hands with this, particular graduate transfer quarterback.
“Five days, I feel like he’s had a good camp so far,” Bobo said. “Might have got a little frustrated there early, everything wasn’t clicking. But that’s part of it. He’s learning a new offense.”
Bobo said he felt like Tuesday’s practice earlier this week was a “big jump” for the graduate transfer quarterback, and Dave Johnson, the team’s new offensive coordinator, agreed.
“He’s a smart guy,” Johnson said of his likely starting QB. “I thought yesterday he turned a corner on a lot of things we’ve been emphasizing…[Tuesday] was a critical day for him in terms of technique. The assignment stuff, he’s been really good. He has not had any problems…He’s an older guy, he understands whatever the scheme may be.”
At 23 years old, Carta-Samuels is certainly older than many of his teammates, but that doesn’t mean he has a ton of game experience. At Washington in the Pac-12, he played in 25 games, going 27-47 for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
For years, he’s been overlooked. That seems to end now.
“I’m so excited,” he said of getting back on the playing field. “I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this. I think about it every night when I go to bed. I think about running out there against Hawaii. Just having a chance to win and just to play.”
Who is K.J. Carta-Samuels? He’s a young man, excited to be given the chance to play a kids’ game in a new place. And he’s not taking the opportunity lightly, working his butt off to be the best he can be.
The graduate transfer QB, who’s immediately become “big man on campus” wore a wrist band to Media Day that said, “Humble over Hype.” Maybe that’s who he is.