Jason Samuels is one of the smart ones of the bunch.
The Oak Ridge High School senior quarterback with a 4.0 grade-point average takes care of those who take care of him, specifically the offensive linemen: five big-body sorts who appreciate contact and a chance to belly up to the dinner table.
The line has provided protection for Samuels throughout a 4-0 start for The Bee's sixth-ranked Trojans, Oak Ridge's best team since moving up to Division I three years ago and perhaps one of the best in the 30 years of the varsity football program in El Dorado Hills.
Samuels has led the way with 731 passing yards, 10 touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 120. He's been sacked once with one interception both coming in a 42-6 season-opening rout of Vista del Lago.
Since then, his linemen have kept their quarterback's jersey clean.
"Oh, I reward those guys," Samuels said Tuesday before practice. "We have them over once a week for dinner. It's the bribe system tri-tip and good, hearty meals."
Good thing, too, since the Trojans sport an all-you-can-eat brigade of blockers including twin tackles Hekoti and Tuita Chapman, both 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, center Kareem Ballal (6-1, 255) and guards Jacob Proul (6-2, 275) and Cory Gregersen (6-3, 220).
Samuels has excelled like a player eager to make up for lost time. He missed the five-game Delta River League schedule last fall because of a collarbone injury. Watching his teammates compete while he wore a sling hurt more than the actual injury, Samuels said.
Since 1990, Oak Ridge has produced a number of fine quarterbacks, including Jon DeVille, Sam Clemons, Chandler Clemons, brothers Sean and Shane Steichen, Vinnie Miroth, Connor Benander and Will Tostenson.
Like Samuels, they all threw out of the pro-set in an era of wing-T and spread offenses.
At 6-3 and 185 pounds, Samuels could surpass all of them, said Mark Watson, former Trojans head coach (1989-99) who is now the quarterbacks coach. Friday, Samuels threw three touchdown passes in a 42-14 win over Grant, prompting Pacers coaches to suggest he may be the best passer in the Sac-Joaquin Section this season.
"Jason's so good, so talented, with great footwork, and he's smart out there not forcing things," Watson said. "Football means a lot to him."
Sometimes, Samuels concedes, it means too much. Football is a family way of life. His father, Doug Samuels, was a Utah State quarterback from 1978 to 1982, flanked by twin brother James, a tight end.
James Samuels has one son, Austyn Carta-Samuels, starting at quarterback at Vanderbilt and another, Kyle Carta-Samuels, starting at Bellarmine Prep High of San Jose.
Jason Samuels said he inherited his competitive drive from his father.
"I hate to lose," Samuels said. "Pingpong, video, cards, playing dad in hoops. I've gotten better with it over the years, not letting it bother me, but it's hard to lose. It's how I am.
"We have a basketball court in our yard, and dad and I go at it. He used to beat me until I was 15. Now I've got him. Now he complains about a quad or something when he loses."
Samuels is a perfectionist in shoulder pads and in front of a computer screen. He breaks down his own film. He critiques himself on incompletions, though he will force himself to appreciate success, too. Samuels also studies Tom Brady of the New England Patriots everything about him, from his approach to the game to his skills and results.
Samuels has a Brady poster on his bedroom wall, and he said he cherishes his "chalk talk" two years ago with the late Tom Martinez, the Bay Area coaching icon who helped groom and mentor Brady.
Samuels even resembles Brady with the short hair and smile. But unlike Brady, Samuels jokes that he does not have a supermodel on his arm to show off around town in his two-door Hyundai.
"Too busy with football for that," he cracked.
That Samuels was in good spirits days before another big game Vac-aville pleased Watson and head coach Eric Cavaliere. To know Samuels is to understand that he has to remind himself of the joys of the game.
Samuels said he has put a lot of pressure on himself since the spring to get on the recruiting radar. He understands a scholarship is a rare and treasured opportunity, with less than 1 percent of American high school athletes receiving a full ride. Despite his ideal size and strong pedigree, Samuels is still without an offer.
"I got caught up in the whole scholarship thing and pressured myself, but I'm in a better place now," he said. "My dad said to enjoy the season, and others said that, too."
"I pulled Jason aside after practices before," Cavaliere said, "and told him, 'You're not having fun out there, and if you're not going to have fun, then this will not be a good deal for you.'
"He's taken it to heart. He's relaxed, loosened up a little, but he's stubborn."
Samuels agreed. He said he wants to study psychology in college, joking he'd make a pretty good case study himself.
Editor's note: This story was changed Sept. 21 to add Chandler Clemons to Oak Ridge's line of fine quarterbacks.