Down the road to the Big Easy
Updated: Monday April 23, 2001 11:08 PM
Former Mississippi running back Deuce McAllister was the second running back taken in the 2001 NFL Draft. McAllister was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the 23rd overall pick. This is the eighth and final in a series of Draft Diaries from McAllister.
I was a little frustrated that I didn't get drafted earlier, but this may be a blessing in disguise for me being picked up by New Orleans. Saturday was a dream come true for me despite the fact that I fell a little bit from where I was projected. I'm still getting an opportunity to play in the NFL and with a good team. Now it makes the road to the Super Bowl that much shorter.
From a guy starting his senior season as the No. 1 prospect in the country and not being picked until 23rd, it leaves me with something to prove as a player. Losing money is the only thing that really happens by dropping down in the draft. But I'll trade in a couple of million dollars for a Super Bowl ring anytime. If you go out and perform, you'll make the money up later.
My decision not to go to New York was based on the fact that I couldn't get a definitive answer on when I would be picked. I'm glad that I decided to stay home in Mississippi at my parents' house. We had a great turnout and I was excited to see all of their expressions when I got picked. There were probably between 75-100 people there. It was so loud that I had to go outside and talk on my cell phone because I couldn't hear. They started cooking around 8:30 in the morning and we had a DJ out there to play some music, so we had a pretty nice little time.
I still think I should've been the first running back taken in the draft because of my versatility. I think overall LaDainian Tomlinson is a good running back, but I don't think his talent matches up with mine. I think San Diego went with a safe pick. He's been durable over his career and he has some skills in the Chargers' opinion. It was a safe pick judging on our past histories injury-wise, and San Diego has to win now and it has to have somebody who is going to be there. You can look at the situation with Ryan Leaf not panning out and they went with a safe pick.
I kind of figured the Saints might be interested in me a few weeks ago. Once Kansas City traded its 12th pick Friday night, I knew a team had to either move up or I would fall into the early- or mid-20s to get drafted. There were only three or four teams up high in the draft that I had either visited or had a lot of contact with. Then after Kansas City, there were like six or seven or eight teams that had established running backs.
The Saints called me before I got picked, probably right when Indianapolis traded its 22nd pick to the Giants. And right before New Orleans called, Minnesota had called and told me if I got past the Saints, they would pick me at 27. And then the Saints called me back and told me they were leaning toward picking me. And five minutes later, general manager Randy Mueller and head coach Jim Haslett called and asked me what I thought about being a Saint. They said they had sent the pick into the commissioner and I was very pleased by it.
I went to New Orleans on Saturday night. It was kind of odd because I had to fly to Memphis to connect to New Orleans because there is no direct flight from Jackson, Miss. So it ended up being like a 3 1/2-hour deal. I didn't get there until about 10:30.
I know the Saints are a team that works hard and wants to win. And in New Orleans, there is no major league baseball, no professional basketball -- so the city loves its football. Once they got into the playoffs last year and won that first game, the city was just thriving on football. I can't wait. I've probably been there seven or eight times. It's a party city, but I have a job to do. Once you get that city behind the team, they are going to be there for you. I don't like to go out and hang out at clubs a lot because I'm trying to focus on what I have to do. But obviously there is something always happening there.
I went to the Class AAA New Orleans Zephyrs baseball game Sunday and got to throw out the first pitch. It made me think I was in Little League again. I got an opportunity to meet a lot of the defensive players on the Saints at the team headquarters. I just saw a lot of my future teammates. I visited the facilities, got to meet the coaches and went into the war room and saw a lot of things they were doing. I spent all day Sunday there and drove back late Sunday night because it didn't make sense to fly.
My parents will be able to make it down to watch our home games and that's the icing on the cake for them. That's the blessing of falling in the draft a bit. They won't have to go to San Francisco or Chicago or Cleveland to see me play. It's only about 2 1/2 hours from their house, so it's just like going to Oxford, Miss., but the other direction. I followed the Saints a little bit growing up because they are always on TV in Mississippi. So you always know what is going on in New Orleans with their team.
The Saints have three former first-rounders on the line. They are not expecting me to come in and be 80 percent of the offense, because they already have playmakers there. I can just step in and add my little sprinkle to their offense.
I'm comfortable splitting time with Ricky Williams if need be, because both of us are very talented. If we both get our touches, it's going to make the team that much better. I don't need to carry it 30 times a game. If I can touch it on kickoff returns, punt returns and receptions, I will get some big plays. I expect to make some big plays even if I don't get a lot of playing time as a rookie.
I just want to help the team win. All the defensive guys when I met them yesterday told me that they just need me to come in and help the team win and take them to the next level. After talking to quarterback Aaron Brooks, they want to get to the next level and I just want to help them do so.
I don't think they'll have a quarterback controversy. It will be a very competitive situation between Jeff Blake and Brooks. I haven't been there to see the two of them personally, I can only tell you what I've seen for myself. The running back and the quarterback situations are both going to be very competitive. Ricky is the starter right now, because he knows the offense and has been there. But I'm coming in to push him and obviously I want the starting job. It shouldn't create tension between us because I'm a competitor. I don't play to be the backup -- I play to play. But if he is better than me and it's obvious, then he'll be the starter. I split time at Ole Miss with Joe Gunn, so sharing the job isn't uncommon to me. It's not about myself, it's about the team. As long as the team is doing well, I don't care about my individual stats.
I can't really say what would happen if Ricky gets traded. You never know what may happen. It may be me getting traded. But whatever happens is going to be for the best. I think Ricky skipping the offseason workouts was just his personal decision. They wanted him to be there with the team, but he had to do what he had to do for himself. But I know that a lot of the players would want him there because he's the starting tailback and he's one of the stars on that team and he has to try to be a leader for that team.
I don't think they were trying to send a message to Ricky. I just think the Saints couldn't pass up on my talent as a returner and a receiver and a runner. We both have different styles of running and I think they believe there are enough balls in that offense for both of us to be happy. I expect they'll put me in the slot and split me out wide to create mismatches. That way they can utilize me and Ricky in the game at the same time. I talked with offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy a little bit about different schemes and some things they like to do personnel-wise. I don't have a playbook yet, but we did go over some plays just to familiarize myself with different things that they do.
I know several players on the Saints. They have three Ole Miss guys -- Tutan Reyes, Norman Hand and Fred Thomas. Fred has No. 22, so I'm probably going to have to try and buy it from him. I got one of the trainers who is real good friends with him to give him a call today, so I'm starting negotiations. I don't know what the starting price will be -- I guess I'm going to let him set the asking price. I haven't set a maximum price that I'd pay yet, but I can't get ridiculous with it.
I definitely expect the Saints to be in the playoffs again this year. They just added players to the roster and they didn't lose a lot to free agency. I think their roster looks pretty good right now. They have a pretty good nucleus there. They've always had a great defense and the offense was very productive last year.
The Super Bowl is being played in New Orleans next year. I didn't know that before, but somebody mentioned it to me this weekend. Tampa Bay didn't do it last year, even though they had a great team and were supposed to do it. So it would be a great honor for me to help the Saints do it this year. We have our first minicamp already this weekend. I'll head to New Orleans on Thursday morning. The minicamp runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I'll probably look for a place to live and then return home Tuesday and then fly to St. Louis and meet with my agents for a couple of days before heading back to school. I'll move to New Orleans full-time after I graduate May 12. I'm looking forward to getting done with school and getting my football career started.