Drug money talks

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

He was once a highly-touted baseball prospect who used sports to keep himself out of trouble on the mean streets of Miami.

But that did not stop Stanford Samuels from accepting cash from local drug dealers for helping his high school football teams win games.

"I had to stay out of trouble in order to play," said the Winnipeg cornerback, who also played basketball. "That's what I loved doing, especially when I started getting paid to play. We grew up thinking about money all the time and that's why a lot of my friends got into trouble ... (Sports) became my way to make some money. I actually took a pay cut to go play for Florida State.

"I didn't get paid by the school but we had neighborhood drug (dealers) and they made sure we were taken care of because they used to bet big on our games when we were in high school. So, they would meet up with us after the games and show their appreciation for us."

They weren't gangs, just individuals, he added. Although Samuels and his teammates were never asked to throw a game, it never bothered him to pocket drug money.

"No, because that's the environment we were raised in, man," said Samuels, 26. "And if you're raised in that environment, that's not something you should look down upon. That's what you do. There were no doctors and lawyers where I grew up ... We weren't at the bottom of the barrel but we weren't the suburbs either."

Samuels declined to disclose how much he and his teammates would have gotten.

"We only lost three games our whole high school career so we had incentive," he said.

Yet, Samuels was not drawn into that drug underworld.

"It was a little rougher in Miami but sports stuff helps keep you away from a lot of the crazy stuff with my friends and other family members got into so, I was fortunate," he said. "If I did (get drawn in), I got straightened out real quick by everybody. I had uncles who were doing the wrong thing and if they heard anything about me doing the wrong thing, they would get on me. They saw that I had talent early and they wanted me to capitalize on that talent."

His father, Stanford Samuels Sr., also played played a big role in keeping Samuels from joining friends and family in the slammer. Samuels has one friend now serving 15 years in jail for drug-related offences, another with a 20-year sentence for theft and an uncle serving up to 18 for narcotics.

"That's the way it is in Miami," Samuels said. "Either you're playing ball -- baseball, football or basketball -- or you're selling drugs. So, I was able to stay away from it because of the talent that I was blessed with."

Samuels, a centre fielder and leadoff hitter, was actually offered a baseball scholarship by the University of Miami while in his high school sophomore year. But he suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder (left) while playing football in his senior year and had surgery to remove bone chips when he joined the Florida State football squad. But he could no longer throw a baseball decently.

Samuels starred at Florida State, then had a tryout with the NFL Indianapolis Colts before signing with the CFL's Blue Bombers as a free agent last year. But he returns to Miami whenever he can to visit his son, Stanford III.

"My son is seven going on 21," he said.

He is already playing football and, no doubt, baseball and basketball will soon follow.


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