Saints' Deuce McAllister taking NFL by storm in absence of Williams
I just want to go out and make plays for my team," the soft-spoken McAllister said. "I'm fine. I'm just taking it all in stride. You can never get too high or too low with all of this and everything will be alright."
Draft day blessing
Coming out of college, McAllister had a reputation among NFL scouts for being injury prone. That may have cost him a few spots in the 2001 draft. But fortunately for the Saints, he was there at the 23rd slot and Haslett and company got the player they wanted all along. It turned out to be a blessing both for his family and for the Saints family as well.
Haslett attributes his current level of play to improved conditioning, something that comes with the full-time job that is a pro running back. "It's much easier to get injured in college," he said. "When you are there, your focus and attention are on so many other different things, as it should be. Here, all of your attention is on football."
Eyebrows raising all over
That focus has lent itself to the current numbers being churned out. Over the first half of the season, big names have come calling to hold court with McAllister. After a 139-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers, McAllister was featured on the front page of the New York Times. He has been considered the surprise of the season and a breakout player by both ESPN analysts and USA Today, respectively.
It's been a steady flow (of interview requests)," he said, after a swarm of reporters slowly left his locker after a recent practice session. "But again, you have to just try to keep grounded and keep it all in perspective because one minute you could be the man and the next you might be the goat, so you never know. Dont ever get too complacent in where you are."
Comparisons to Ricky
The talent and deceptive speed of Deuce made the enigmatic former Saints back Williams expendable. And plenty of minds have been changed since the spring trade with Miami.
More than likely, whomever you ask around the league now would weigh in with the Saints being in a much better situation. While the offense has many other weapons, it's easy to see the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Month provides the impetus to opening up all forms of the attack.
He is only 164 yards away from become just the sixth Saint in history to run for 1,000 yards in a season. Moreover, his 30 catches rank second on the squad, and his 234 yards receiving come in as third. Horn also preaches the advantages of his locker room presence. As in easy going, and anything but a distraction or source of dissension.
Making teammates better
One person who may directly be positively affected by the talent is blocking fullback Terrelle Smith. Smith is also having a fine season and gives credit to the 6-1, 230-pound speedster for making his job a little easier.
Learning from Ricky
What did McAllister learn from the dred-locked enigma, now carrying the rock in South Florida?
So has he. It hasn't been all roses since he began tearing it up in Oxford in 1997. After dealing with the shocking death of his brother Demetrius several years ago, Deuce has had to take enormous strides to overcome, or rather, live with it.
At first, it did not appear as if it would be. McAllister held out for the first nine days of the 2001 training camp while getting his contract worked out.
But nearly 6.5 million dollars later, it has been all business and even a little misunderstanding such as an unpaid speeding ticket which surfaced when he was stopped on the way to practice 10 days ago, has not been a distraction.
Following in the footsteps of others
On a team that has seven players with ties to this area, and a myriad of past Saints greats from the state, Deuce says it's his desire to make his place among some who have preceded him. Namely one, with whom he draws many parallels.
Just as one of the greatest former Rebels and Saints players ever, Archie Manning, McAllister hopes his football career can be a distinguishable one in fleur de lis history.
Of course, growing up in the only house he ever lived, in east central Mississippi, McAllister was a Saints fan, watching them on television, hoping one day he would get a chance to help lift them out of mediocrity.
The humility is real and real refreshing. Still, it's a good bet a few outsiders are still wondering where this player came from, while opposing defenders wonder when he's going back there.