Despite knee injury, Carta-Samuels stayed positive, productive for Vanderbilt

Austyn Carta-Samuels wants to put his best foot forward at Vanderbilt’s pro day in the spring.

At the same time, the senior quarterback did not want to walk away from his college career any sooner than he had to.

He, Commodores coaches and the team’s medical staff believe they struck the proper balance with the combination of rehab and a brace that allowed him to play the final three games of the regular season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Then came surgery that will keep him out of the BBVA Compass Bowl against Houston, Jan. 4 at Birmingham.

“He had surgery right when the season was over to try to get ready for his pro day,” coach James Franklin said Monday. “So that guy made the ultimate commitment to this team. … He put the team above himself. We took a while to wait to see if he could do it. He wanted to do it. The doctors cleared him. He’s one of those guys that was able to do it.”

And he did so in a manner that belied the severity of the injury.

He threw the ball, on average, just as often in the games after he was hurt as he did before – and he completed a higher percentage. His yards per game decreased slightly as did his touchdowns and interceptions, which suggests he opted for more conservative throws.

CARTA-SAMUELS STATISTICS
Pre-injury

(Seven games)

Totals: 129-197 (65.5 percent), 1,672 yards, 10 TDs, 7 INTs
Per game: 18.4 completions, 28.1 attempts, 238.9 yards, 1.4 TDs, 1 INT

Post-injury
(Three games)

Totals: 64-84 (76.2 percent), 596 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Per game: 21.3 completions, 28.0 attempts, 198.7 yards, 0.3 TDs, 0.7 INTs

Most importantly, Franklin said, there was no difference in his attitude or approach whether or not he was on the field.

The Commodores rallied with redshirt freshman Patton Robinette and beat Georgia in the game Carta-Samuels was hurt. They also defeated Florida in Robinette’s second start.

When Carta-Samuels returned, Vanderbilt won all three games and finished 8-4 for the second consecutive year.

“You saw us have success with him,” Franklin said. “You saw us have success without him. And when we were doing it without him there was nobody that was more excited than Austyn Carta-Samuels.”