It was with a bit of uncertainty that the Carolina Panthers approached their game against the Miami Dolphins on Monday. After recently losing their best wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, the question loomed of who, if anyone, would step up and make things happen with quarterback Cam Newton’s passes.

The former Buckeye steps up

Enter rookie Curtis Samuel. Although the Panthers weren’t necessarily worried, since trading Benjamin in the first place indicated confidence in their roster, wide receiver Samuel seemed to solidify the decision.

The 21-year-old Ohio State graduate started in the home game against Miami alongside fellow WR Devin Funchess. Samuel caught five balls for a total of 45 yards, averaging nine impressive yards per catch in a game that ended up being a Panthers victory, 45-21.

Newton praised Samuel’s performance, saying, “For him to step up and make crucial catches for us and to get the momentum going, it’s big,” according to The Charlotte Observer.

The Panthers site reported offensive coordinator Mike Shula as stating, “There were a lot of good things” that Samuel did in his time on the field. “He had a couple of third-down conversions, and his awareness is becoming better and better as far as finding holes in the zones.

He’s doing a better job on releases – just all the little things on route running. He made a tough catch when he got hit hard on a deep cross and held onto it.”

Down and out

All seemed to be rolling along well for Samuel, whom OSU head coach Urban Meyer once alluded to as being Heisman worthy, according to ESPN. Then, in the third quarter against the Dolphins, Samuel’s momentum came to a sobering halt.

He was down in the end zone after dropping a touchdown pass when the weight of Miami safety Reshad Jones came down on Samuel’s left ankle.

After being assisted off the field and sitting out the remainder of the game, Samuel was later seen on crutches with thick bandaging around his leg. “It’s bad. It’s real bad,” Newton later told reporters.

“A person that was on the cusp, it felt like.”

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Samuel would be undergoing surgery on his injured ankle, bringing his rookie season to an abrupt close.

Is Samuel bummed about the whole shebang? No doubt. But wallowing about it? Nope. Uninterrupted tweeted a video of the athlete at an event surrounded by kids from the Boys and Girls Club the day after his injury.

Although it’s unfortunate that the best game of Samuel’s career came with a season-ending injury, at least he was able to show plenty of promise in 2017, giving fans something to look forward to next year.

Meanwhile, the Panthers await the return of WR Damiere Byrd, who’s been out since last month with a forearm injury, but will return for the game against the Saints in December.