All I can do is control what I do and that’s to make the sacrifices and gain the trust and faith of the coaches and players.” Travaris CADET, Saints running back
During a productive three-year career at Appalachian State, New Orleans Saints rookie running back Travaris Cadet did a little of this and a little of that for the Mountaineers.
Add it all up, however, and it was a lot.
If Cadet wasn’t playing quarterback, he was flanked out at wide receiver or lined up as a running back. And in his spare time, he returned punts and kickoffs — piling up 3,929 all-purpose yards in his career.
Throw in decent size and 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash and it’s easy to see why the Saints, who aren’t exactly short on halfbacks, signed him after he was passed over in the draft this spring.
“I really don’t think about the depth too much,” Cadet said of trying to make his mark with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory stacked in front of him. “I know that we have a loaded backfield. I just try and go out every day and execute my assignments the best that I can.”
That kind of attitude certainly served him well in college.
No matter where the coaches put him, the Miami native was eager to do whatever was needed to gain positive yardage for one of the nation’s elite Football Championship Subdivision programs.
As a sophomore, he played quarterback before switching to wide receiver late in the season because of an injury there while also returning punts.
In his junior season, he was moved to running back after breaking his thumb while playing wideout and also played some as a Wildcat quarterback.
Then, as a senior, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Cadet played all five positions and led the team with 1,703 all-purpose yards.
But with the Saints, he’s being asked to concentrate on one position although he has returned some punts and kickoffs in the first three exhibition games.
It’s at running back that Cadet, an undrafted free agent, has turned some heads.
While he has only 51 rushing yards, he leads the team in receptions (19), receiving yards (171) and touchdowns (2) going into Saturday’s 7 p.m. exhibition game against the Houston Texans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It begins a six-day stretch in which the Saints will play their final two preseason games, which will determine if Cadet emerges from a crowded backfield to earn a spot on the 53-man regular-season roster.
Despite the long odds, Cadet isn’t giving up because he knows the versatility he has doesn’t come along very often in the NFL.
If one guy can do five things — return punts and kickoffs, run the ball and catch the ball, and cover kicks — and do them all well, it’s a bonus.
“It’s like you’re taking a position of five guys,” said Cadet, who admires Sproles for what he did last season in setting an NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards. “I feel like I have those talents and can do all those things at once. I really think it gives me a chance to make this football team.”
You can count Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and quarterback Drew Brees among his admirers.
“He brings uniqueness to that position,” Carmichael said. “He’s a guy you can split out as a receiver and he’s also a guy that we feel good about having him in the backfield — like Darren as well as a couple of these other guys.”
“Yeah, he’s been great,” Brees said. “What I’ve been most impressed with is it never seems to be too much for him. Our offense can be complex, and we do a lot of things and ask a lot from the running backs.
“It never feels like it’s too much for him. He is always in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing and you can count on him.”
Like when the Appalachian State coaches asked him to play anywhere they needed, Cadet didn’t shy away from the competition he was going to face in the Saints’ backfield.
“No matter where you go, there’s going to be competition,” Cadet said. “If you don’t like competition, you shouldn’t be involved in sports. Period.
“Regardless of where I would have gone, there would have been four, five, six running backs.”
So when he and his agent sat back after the draft and considered their options, the Saints simply were the best fit.
“The system fits me perfect, it’s perfect for versatile guys,” Cadet said. “You see Darren Sproles, he’s a guy that does a lot of things. You see it in this offense and those things fit me perfectly.”
Another plus for Cadet is that the Saints coaches don’t care where a player comes from or what division he played in at the college level.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” he said. “Once you get here with all these veteran guys, you have to bust your behind every day and gain their respect and the coaches respect.”
Still, Cadet knows it’s going to be hard to keep five halfbacks on the roster.
“I’m in the mix, and they say I can do a lot of things,” he said. “All I can do is control what I do and that’s to make the sacrifices and gain the trust and faith of the coaches and players.”