As an undrafted free agent last spring, Travaris Cadet had some options following a three-year career as a versatile football player at Appalachian State.
Cadet’s college coaches used him at several positions from 2009-11: quarterback, wide receiver, running back and kick returner.
As he looked ahead to the pro level, the options were all his.
Cadet didn’t really expect to play quarterback in the NFL. So when he sat down to figure out which free-agent offer he would accept, it didn’t matter that the New Orleans Saints were stacked at running back and wide receiver.
The Saints viewed Cadet, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, as a running back. They put him behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory.
“Regardless of where I would have gone, there would have been four, five, six running backs,” said Cadet, who noted how the Saints used the versatile Sproles in a variety of roles in 2011 and liked how they did it.
When Cadet got to training camp, he still wasn’t fazed by the competition, and he never showed it in earning a roster spot after leading the Saints in preseason rushing yards, receiving yards and receptions.
Surprisingly, the Saints kept five halfbacks when they usually keep only four, and Cadet saw spot duty with one carry for 5 yards and five catches. But he proved to be valuable on special teams, averaging 26.5 yards per kickoff return with a long of 75 yards. He also covered kicks.
Armed with confidence after getting his feet wet, Cadet returned this season to a thinned herd at running back after the Saints dealt Ivory to the New York Jets in April.
That moved him a notch higher on a veteran-laden pecking order. But to him, nothing has really changed this summer — even though he’s a year into his pro career and Ivory is gone.
“It just makes it easier because you know the transition,” Cadet said. “It was not like coming from college (this year), and trying to learn the ropes. Once you get that year under your belt, you know how things go, you know how the system goes, how the coaches are, and you can go out and execute instead of having to think.”
Then again, he said, it’s not necessarily easier because Ivory isn’t around.
“From Day 1, I’ve seen this would be a hard team to make,” Cadet said of joining one of the NFL’s elite offenses. “In life, you want something that’s going to push you to your fullest potential and is going to bring everything out of you.
“You’re going to get knocked down 10 times,” he said, “but you’re going to get up 11 times.”
It’s that kind of attitude, and versatility, that have had coach Sean Payton and his teammates talking about Cadet since he arrived.
Safety Rafael Bush is beginning to appreciate the things Cadet can do, even though Bush didn’t get to see them last summer after joining the Saints just before the regular-season opener.
“He is a threat offensively; a threat in the return game; a threat in the kicking game; he can catch the ball well out of the backfield; he can run in between the tackles; he has speed; he has vision for our kickoff returns; and he can also cover kicks,” Bush said. “The more you can do, the better.”
Said Payton, who was suspended last season and is getting his first extended look at Cadet: “He had good ball skills. He’s smart, and some of the things I have seen him do are encouraging. I think in the return game, he is going to improve.”
But at this point, Cadet knows he can’t afford to limit himself to just one aspect of his game.
“I try to go out every day and give it my all,” he said. “I try to separate myself from the average player. I’m around a great group of leaders, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be successful in New Orleans. I’m just proud and blessed to be in a system like this.”
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