|One year later, Colston comes in as the leader|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 24 May 2007 22:02|
Still, no one had to prod the Saints' second-year receiver to call first-round draft choice Robert Meachem after Colston noticed Meachem struggling through the opening sessions of rookie camp.
``That major (psychology) doesn't help with this heat, so I just try to give him some words of encouragement because you can never have too many playmakers on your team,'' Colston said after an offseason training session.
Colston began participating in voluntary workouts for veterans more than a month ago. During one of those sessions he decided to take a peek at how the rookies were doing in their first minicamp. He saw Meachem breathing heavily and getting yelled at by coaches - an experience Colston remembered well.
``I saw him struggling a little bit, and it's not like I don't know that feeling,'' Colston said.
After spraining his ankle during the second day of rookie camp, Meachem sat in a room with reporters, berating himself publicly for being out of shape and generally performing below his expectations. He also mentioned that Colston called him twice to advise him on how to deal with it.
Colston said he alerted Meachem that ``there's going to be ups and downs. You just try to keep an even keel. It's a long season. It's a rough season.''
``You've got a good group of guys around (Meachem) that's going to keep him straight, so he should be all right,'' Colston added.
When Meachem got to practice with veterans for the first time several days ago, he leaned on Colston for advice of a more technical nature.
``I ask him a lot of questions,'' Meachem said. ``When I don't understand something, sometimes coach will be yelling at somebody else, so I ask one of the veterans, 'What should you do on this certain route?'''
In brief moments of reflection, Colston seems mystified by how quickly he went from a virtual nobody to taking a leadership role in the receiving corps of what was the NFL's best passing offense last season.
``This business goes so fast it doesn't really give you a chance to look at things in retrospect, but it has been a pretty good journey,'' Colston said.
Last year at this time, Colston showed up at Saints headquarters as a seventh-round project out of a Division I-AA program on Long Island. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he had the right build for an NFL receiver, but his coaches had little idea whether he had the requisite ability.
Coach Sean Payton often said that if he knew how good Colston would become in such a short time, the Saints would have drafted him well before the seventh round.
Payton also recalled during last month's draft, when the Saints picked several more small college prospects, that Colston needed a few months of offseason work before his potential began to reveal itself during training camp.
Anyone who watched the spring rookie camp in 2006 ``would have been selling their Colston stock,'' Payton recalled.
Colston said no one called him when he labored through his rookie camp, but he wouldn't have expected that anyway.
``Our situations are kind of different,'' Colston said, comparing himself to Meachem. ``Coming in as the first-round pick, there's a 99 percent chance he's going to make the team. In the seventh round, you're kind of straddling the fence.''
Meachem, the 27th overall pick out of Tennessee, is not only nearly certain to make the team, but also is expected to compete for a starting job. Like Colston, the 6-foot-2 receiver gives quarterback Drew Brees another big target with speed.
``They definitely look alike, and just from what I've seen and heard about Meachem is that the speed's there to run after the catch,'' Brees said. ``Now it's just a matter of getting him comfortable with this offense and really finding out where his strengths are.''
Payton said he was pleased to see Colston help Meachem adjust to the NFL.
``We've got players that aren't selfish and that want to help the team. So whether that's a guy like Deuce (McAllister) helping a young running back or Marques helping a young receiver or Brees helping a young quarterback, I think that exists on our team, and that's something that's important,'' Payton said. ``And certainly, the leadership on your team doesn't just have to come from players with a lot of years in the league.''
And if Meachem has the kind of season Colston had, the Saints could be even more prolific through the air.
Colston, despite missing two games with an ankle sprain, caught 70 passes for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught another touchdown pass at Chicago in the NFC championship game.
Then there's the additional weight of responsibility and expectations that comes with being the No. 1 receiver. Colston said he's not feeling any pressure in that regard.
``We've got a great mix of guys in our receiving corps to the point where everyone can kind of be themselves,'' he said. ``We have more vocal guys ... and guys that go out and kind of lead by example.''