Saints general manager says organization has much respect for Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson
“He has credibility with us, so when he tells us about a particular (person) having an opportunity to be successful in the NFL, we listen.” Mickey LOOMIS, Saints general manager, on Tulane football coach Curtis Johnson
INDIANAPOLIS — Within the past several months, the Saints have nabbed a former quarterback and QBs coach from Tulane, and they’ve evaluated a Green Wave kicker and wide receiver who participated at the 2014 Scouting Combine this week.
There’s clearly a pipeline of talent established between New Orleans’ NFL franchise and its most prominent university, and Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis grew quite buoyant when discussing the relationship his organization had fostered with the school across town.
Of course, Loomis said, the man at the center of the bond is Curtis Johnson, who coached the Saints’ wide receivers for six seasons under Sean Payton before leaving to take charge of Tulane’s football program in 2012. It was on Johnson’s recommendation that the Saints signed ex-Green Wave quarterback Ryan Griffin as an undrafted rookie in 2013 and hired Tulane’s former QB coach Mike Neu earlier this month.
Countless Saints fans who root for Tulane hope Green Wave kicker Cairo Santos and wide receiver Ryan Grant — who worked out for NFL scouts in Indianapolis — follow Griffin and Neu over to the Black and Gold.
“We have a ton of respect for (Johnson) as a coach, as a person, as an evaluator of talent,” Loomis said during a lull in activities at the combine. “He has credibility with us, so when he tells us about a particular (person) having an opportunity to be successful in the NFL, we listen.”
But that’s not all. Loomis said he’s known Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson since Loomis was executive vice president for the Seattle Seahawks from 1992-98 and Dickson was the A.D. at Washington State from 1994-2000.
In 2000, the Saints hired Loomis, and Dickson went to Tulane.
Loomis enthusiastically listed other examples: Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle, live near Tulane. They donated $7.5 million to help finance the construction of Yulman Stadium on campus.
“There’s a relationship that precedes football,” Loomis said. “Tulane’s important to the Saints, and vice versa.”
Vets get continuity
Not one who often comments on his team’s transactions, Loomis this week said re-signed Saints kicker Shayne Graham, backup outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson and backup cornerback Trevin Wade earned the chance to prolong their tenures in New Orleans for a number of different reasons.
Graham, for example, booted four field goals to help the Saints win the first road playoff game in franchise history, a 26-24 wildcard round victory in Philadelphia. One of the kicks was a last-second winner. Brought on in Week 16 after the Saints dismissed Garrett Hartley, Graham missed two kicks in a playoff lost at Seattle, but the weather conditions were inclement.
As others in the Saints’ brain trust have done, Loomis lauded Dawson’s forcing a red-zone fumble that New Orleans recovered late in a Week 12 win at Atlanta.
And Wade played on special teams and lined up on 54 snaps of defense over four games in 2013, including the playoffs. He was credited with a special-teams tackle and a pass break-up, and that was enough to prompt the Saints to see more of him during the upcoming offseason.
“They’re each different, and yet those guys were on our active roster, performed nicely for us and deserved the opportunity to continue their career with us,” Loomis said.
Barrow’s got wheels
On Monday, former LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow proved himself to be one of the fastest players at his position invited to the combine.
The senior clocked an official time of 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash, third-fastest among the 27 linebackers that ran at the combine. He trailed only Boston College’s Kevin Pierre-Louis (4.51) and Florida State’s Telvin Smith (4.52).
Barrow and teammate Anthony Johnson participated in drills for linebackers and defensive linemen at the combine Monday. So did Louisiana Tech’s IK Enemkpali and Justin Ellis, who, like Johnson, are defensive linemen.
LSU’s Ego Ferguson, a junior defensive tackle, sat out Monday’s drills because of an ankle tweak, according to reports from the combine.
In the 40, Johnson, a junior defensive tackle, had a 5.24. Enemkpali — a senior defensive end — and Ellis, a senior defensive tackle, had a 5.01 and 5.27, respectively. The best time among defensive linemen was a 4.79 from Kasim Edebali of Boston College.
On the vertical leap, Barrow recorded a jump of 35 inches, Johnson of 24.5, Enemkpali of 34 and Ellis of 28. The highest vertical leap for linebackers was 42 inches by Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, whom some Saints fans covet for their team. Shepherd’s Howard Jones had the highest leap for defensive linemen.
On the broad jump, Barrow recorded 123 inches, Johnson 102, Enemkpali 112 and Ellis 92. Shazier had the best broad jump at 130 inches for linebackers. North Carolina’s Kareem Martin was the best broad-jumping defensive lineman (129).
On Sunday, Ferguson put up 24 reps on the 225-pound bench press. Barrow had 22, Johnson 20, Enemkpali 28 and Ellis 25. The high in the bench press for linebackers was 30 reps, by Michigan State’s Max Bullough. For defensive linemen, it was 36 by Boston College’s Kaleb Ramsey.