NFL combine notebook: Tulane to Saints for Ryan Grant?

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Tulane receiver Ryan Grant scores on a pass from Nick Montana as UTEP defensive backs Nick Gathrite (7) and Dashone Smith (21) cannot keep him out of the end zone during the third quarter Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Tulane receiver Ryan Grant scores on a pass from Nick Montana as UTEP defensive backs Nick Gathrite (7) and Dashone Smith (21) cannot keep him out of the end zone during the third quarter Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

INDIANAPOLIS — If the Saints end up making Tulane their college farm system, that’s just fine with Green Wave wide receiver Ryan Grant.

The senior Friday told reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium — site of the NFL Scouting Combine — that he “would love to play for the Saints,” who for years have shared their Mercedes-Benz Superdome home with Tulane.

Not to mention Grant played his final two years in college under coach Curtis Johnson, who oversaw the Saints wide receivers for six seasons until he was hired by Tulane in 2012. Johnson brought with him the offense the Saints ran under coach Sean Payton.

Payton has since made former Tulane signal-caller Ryan Griffin the Saints’ No. 3 quarterback. And he recently hired ex-Tulane quarterbacks coach Mike Neu to handle the same duties for the Saints.

Grant hopes he can become the latest to move from the campus off St. Charles Avenue in Uptown to the Saints’ headquarters on Airline Drive in Metairie.

“It would be easy for me to just go in there and pick up the offense with ease and just gel with those guys,” the soft-spoken Grant said.

Grant had 77 catches for 1,039 yards and nine scores in 2013, helping the Green Wave reach its first bowl game since 2002. The 6-foot, 197-pounder surprised scouts at the Senior Bowl in January with his burst, and he impressed them during workouts by outplaying higher-profile receivers with his clean route-running and sure hands, NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang wrote.

“I went into the Senior Bowl with a chip on my shoulder, and I left leaving my best on the field,” Grant said. “I think it showed for itself.”

NFLDraftScout projects Grant as a fourth-round pick. He said he has been working on his 40-yard dash speed to boost his stock, and he has repeatedly told reporters that he aspires to emulate pros Reggie Wayne and Michael Crabtree.

Grant said he had several official interviews lined up for Friday night. Many players at the combine have said they don’t know with whom those meetings are; they’re only informed of where and when to show up.

Grant’s not shy about saying which team he hopes is among those that want to sit down with him.

“I’m familiar with a few of (the Saints) coaches,” said Grant, who was seen speaking with New Orleans offensive assistant Carter Sheridan at the end of a Senior Bowl practice. “I wouldn’t mind staying in New Orleans and playing for the Saints.”

Grant’s words echoed those of teammate Cairo Santos, the Green Wave kicker who was the only other Tulane player invited to the combine. On Thursday, Santos — whose last name in Spanish and Portuguese translates to “Saints” — said it’d be “ideal” to play for New Orleans and at the Superdome.

Eastern Illinois greats

First, Jimmy Garoppolo broke the records Payton set at Eastern Illinois. Now he’s going to meet the Saints coach — again.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound Garoppolo said he had a formal appointment with the Saints set for Saturday night. The senior shattered career records Payton set at EIU for passing yards (13,156) and completions (1,047), and he also surpassed the school career mark for touchdown passes (118) posted by Tony Romo, now with the Dallas Cowboys.

Garoppolo on Friday said he already has met Payton, though the Saints coach may not recall. When EIU retired Payton’s jersey in 2010, he shook hands with each member of the school’s football team — including Garoppolo, then a freshman.

“He may not remember, but it’s etched in my mind,” Garoppolo said of meeting the man who coached the Saints to their lone Super Bowl title.

Garoppolo is projected to be a second-round pick.

Something to talk about

Informed that many Saints fans would leap for joy if they selected him May 8 with the 27th pick of the draft, Kelvin Benjamin — the 6-foot-5, 243-pound receiver out of Florida State — laughed and said New Orleans had indeed spoken with him.

But, he added, so had every other team in the NFL.

NFLDraftScout projects Benjamin, a redshirt sophomore, will be the No. 25 pick.