Why doesn't Ohio State give Curtis Samuel more touches? Until recently, that question was asked so often that Urban Meyer smiled amusingly when a reporter started down that path last Saturday by noting Samuel only had nine touches (all were in the first half) during a 62-3 rout of Maryland.

"Doggone it, only touched it nine [times]?" Meyer said. "We've got to do a better job."

What's old is new again for Meyer, who once faced similar questions about how to utilize Percy Harvin at Florida. Samuel grew up in Brooklyn loving the gadget plays Meyer's Gators called for Harvin. Now Samuel has emerged as Meyer's best hybrid receiver-running back since Harvin, and in the process, Samuel is inspiring kids in the New York projects to love football.

New York is well-known for producing stars in basketball, not football. But Nicole Samuel, Curtis' mother, can't go a day at her job with the city housing authority without someone saying they watched her son play. Roy Armstead, Curtis' stepfather, had a New York youth coach tell him many kids want to shift from running back to H-back and be the next Curtis Samuel.

"I always felt like he was 'the one' and kids from Brooklyn need their own Jackie Robinson, so to speak, to look up and see anything is possible," said Danny Landberg, who coached Samuel at Erasmus Hall High School and met him when he was 7.

That's pretty heady stuff to be mentioned in the same breath with Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. While no one can quite live up to that name, Samuel is producing a breakout junior season. It's no coincidence the Buckeyes scored 62 points in each of their past two games since opening up the offense with Samuel, who averages 139.7 yards per game from scrimmage (15th nationally).

Samuel has 637 rushing yards and 750 receiving yards. If Ohio State goes deep enough into the postseason, he has a shot at becoming the first FBS player with 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving. The only FCS player to do both in one season was Villanova's Brian Westbrook in 1998.

Good luck guessing where Samuel might line up. Just his presence can cause disruption for defenses. He can run the ball out of the backfield with tailback Mike Weber as a lead blocker, take a handoff on a jet sweep, beat a cornerback deep on man-to-man coverage, or sit in the middle of the zone defense to move the chains with catches.

"There's not many like [him] that can do it all," Meyer said. "We've had tight ends before that are kind of dual-purpose guys, but that's a tough one to defend. He can run inside zone, outside stretch plays and then vertical and option routes."

The easy comparison in recent college football history is that Samuel resembles Harvin. But his high school coach prefers another player.

"I always thought he was more a Reggie Bush," Landberg said. "He's the exact same size as him, the exact same style as him. He's treating college almost like it's high school right now."

Samuel grew up with his sister in Kingsborough Houses, a housing project in Brooklyn. They lived in the same apartment where their mother and uncles were raised, a home that was "drug-infested, everybody had a habit," said Rasheem Samuel, Curtis' uncle.

"I was there when the crack epidemic hit in the 1990s," Rasheem said. "It's calmed down to a degree. But when you come from an epidemic like that, it's so easy to get in trouble on the streets if you don't have the right people to get behind you. He didn't have a choice whether to go left or right. He had to go right. Me and my sister, we broke that cycle so our kids would have it better than we had it."

Curtis was walking at seven months and talking not long afterward. The family thought he might get into gymnastics because he constantly performed flips, whether it's standing flat-footed, running off a wall or while riding his bike.

Curtis' older cousin, Rashaun Samuel, played football. Curtis often went to the games and wanted to play, too. He was on a youth football team at the age of 7 and identified early as a potential star.

Armstead, Curtis' stepfather, came into his life as his youth coach. He met Curtis' mom Nicole through football and they have been together 11 years. It was Curtis, at age 11, who encouraged Armstead to create his own youth football program, which became the Brooklyn Saints.

"I think he wanted me to have my own program instead of taking orders from someone else," Armstead said.

Landberg, a walk-on football player at Maryland in the 1990s, made the connection between Samuel and Meyer. As he started his coaching career, Landberg fell in love with Meyer's shovel passes and bubble screens used by quarterback Alex Smith at Utah. As Samuel got older, he fell "in love" with Harvin's play and the way Meyer used him at Florida, Landberg said.

Still, not many elite football players come out of New York. Of the top 750 players in the country currently ranked in the 247Sports Composite for 2017, only two come from New York (both from Brooklyn). Landberg took Samuel to visit Ohio State one summer on their own dime.

"Most kids from New York City don't get seen because they don't go anywhere," Landberg said. "We flipped the bill to go out there and meet them and let them know this was real."

Landberg said Meyer was initially skeptical if Samuel was more than a running back. That changed at a Nike camp as Samuel's entire film showed him catching the ball. Samuel became so coveted that an alleged NCAA secondary violation turned into a mini-controversy between Meyer and Florida, his former school.

In 2013, ESPN reported that Ohio State turned in Florida for impermissible contact between Gators running backs coach Brian White and Samuel. Meyer publicly denied that he turned in White, though ESPN reported he was aware of the decision and endorsed it. The SEC investigated the allegation and ruled no violation had been committed, according to ESPN.

Samuel served as Ezekiel Elliott's backup running back on the Buckeyes' 2014 national championship team. Last year, Samuel was a hybrid back slowed by nagging injuries. Now, Samuel is averaging a touchdown every 10.7 touches, which ranks him 13th out of the country's 32 players who have scored at least 13 touchdowns. Washington's John Ross is the leader by averaging a touchdown every four touches.

Meyer has said Samuel is the first true hybrid he's had since Harvin, a player big enough to handle the pounding of a running back and the route-running of a receiver. Samuel's 197-pound frame isn't without vulnerability. He broke his ankle as a high school sophomore, and he's gotten nicked up through the years with a pulled hamstring and pulled groin.

"There's a lot of wear and tear on him, even seeing how they use him at practice," Landberg said. "It's funny people talk about touches. I only gave him the ball seven times a game, but he was averaging a score every seven times. I kind of protected him a little bit. He always had this stuff [minor injuries] even as a little kid, but he always bounces back. Sometimes, people don't realize not touching the ball is almost as much a threat. When he's 197 pounds and you're used to Ezekiel Elliott at 225 and (former Ohio State running back) Carlos Hyde at 230, you have to remember the season is a marathon."

Questions about Samuel's workload peaked after Ohio State lost to Penn State, a game that could cost the Buckeyes the Big Ten East Division. Samuel had 10 touches (two rushes, eight catches) on Ohio State's 83 plays and totaled 139 yards. One of Samuel's carries was a 74-yard run on a night when he was the Buckeyes' best option.

"He probably should have carried the ball more in the Penn State game," Landberg said. "I don't think they deny that. You want to save him, save him, but when it comes to the big game, all bets are off."

In recent weeks, there's a more concerted effort to get Samuel touches, and in different ways, too. Samuel gives Ohio State a receiver who can get separation from defenders to stretch the field.

"I don't think [the offense] changed very much," Samuel said. "I just felt like coach felt like he had to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers -- not just me -- and when he does give me the ball, I just got to go out there and make plays, and when he sees me making plays, that just gives him confidence to keep feeding me."

The value of Samuel may be needed the most on Nov. 26 against Michigan, which is by far the top-rated pass defense in the country. Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling have been lockdown cornerbacks and are rated among the best at their position by Pro Football Focus.

Samuel thrives because he "creates mismatches all the time," Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett said. "He exposes those one-on-ones, understanding that sometimes teams are going to play man against us and we're probably going to have to take our shots."

Where's his future position?

"That's a good question," Samuel said. "See, if I actually put the time in, I feel like I could be a true receiver, and if I put the time in at running back, I could be a true running back. I just open myself to so many doors by being able to do both. I think I could do either one if it comes down to it."

Landberg tells Samuel his best spot in the NFL is as a third-down back, such as Shane Vereen, Darren Sproles and Bush (at times during his career). Run the ball some and catch passes in the slot.

"I try to explain to him the safest type of person in the world is the guy second in charge," Landberg said. "He's always got the better life. Look at Joe Biden. He doesn't have to take s--- like Obama has. Be the guy behind the scenes, but have a 12-year career because your body won't get beat up the same way."

At some point, Samuel must decide whether to leave early for the NFL Draft. Nicole Samuel said she's been thinking about that question a lot lately, and the family will have that conversation over the holidays. "Of course I want him to get his degree," she said.

Said Armstead: "It's his decision, and we'll support him either way. My personal opinion is I see him coming back and go top three in the draft the next year."

Landberg hopes Samuel returns because he thinks he can win the Heisman Trophy in 2017. "My concern is the scum on the street giving him advice," Landberg said. "But one of our conversations is, 'You do nothing without speaking to me.' He knows I have his best interest at heart."

Now the kid from Brooklyn who grew up with positive role models to stay straight is admired by New York children. When Samuel comes home, he speaks to kids about keeping their head straight since he's a fortunate one to thrive out of the projects.

More are coming. Samuel's high school sent freshman safety Jahsen Wint to Ohio State. One current recruit from the high school has been offered by the Buckeyes, and another is being evaluated.

How many touches does Samuel get at Ohio State? Perhaps there's a better question: How many people are getting touched by Samuel?

The next Percy Harvin may just end up being the first Curtis Samuel.