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John DeShazier: New Saints receiver Xavier Rush feels he belongs in NFL

Posted Aug 12, 2017

Former Tulane standout getting his chance with Saints

Xavier Rush hit the ground running Saturday morning.

Literally.

The New Orleans Saints’ newest receiver said he participated effectively in his first practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center before he even had a chance to attend a meeting because Rush, who joined the team 16 days after players reported for training camp, enjoyed an advantage that most late additions do not.

The former Tulane standout (2011-14) played collegiately for Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson, the Green Wave head coach from 2012-15. And Johnson, who also was Saints receivers coach from 2006-11, took with him to Tulane much of the offensive philosophy that was used by the Saints during his first stint, and still is being utilized today.

“It’s familiar," Rush said. “Even though it’s my first day, it feels like I’ve been here the whole training camp because looking at the script, knowing the offense, knowing the formations, knowing these things without even going to meetings yet, it’s a sigh of relief. I’m not out here like a chicken with my head cut off. I’m actually functional.

“Terminology and all (are familiar). And how to read it, the route concepts. The only thing that’s different is the splits and everything, because of the field.”

That made Rush, who finished his Tulane career with 99 catches for 1,349 yards and 12 touchdowns, a prime candidate to add to the training camp roster as the Saints brought in some depth at the position. That, and the fact that Rush appears fully recovered from a torn ACL that he suffered as a senior at Tulane.

“I just feel I can play on this level,” he said. “At the end of the day it matters what the coaches and the organization think. Anybody else outside of that, it doesn’t matter as long as I go out and play and do my thing.”

Rush, who was with the Eagles from February through the end of training camp in 2016, worked out for the Saints last week, then got the call to sign a contract about a week later. He said he was eating wings at a local restaurant, stopped mid-meal, paid his bill and rushed to the Saints’ training facility to sign.

He also had seen the Saints live at an open practice during training camp.

“I felt like I did great in the workout,” he said. “Not getting the call or not getting signed right away, it was a bummer but I knew I did well enough to where if they needed me, they would call. I just kept my head up, kept working out, worked out the next day and the next day and just waited by the phone.

“I’m going to go out here and play my game, control what I can control, show my talents that I can play inside or outside, show that I know the offense, and just have a positive play every time the ball comes my way, every time I’m blocking, every time I’m doing anything – have something positive come out of the play.”

Rush said he’d kept in contact with Johnson even last year, when Johnson was receivers coach with the Bears and Rush was with Philadelphia.

“(We) have been back and forth…wishing me luck, telling me to keep working,” Rush said. “He knew I had been working, so somebody put my name in and allowed me to come do this tryout.”

Despite the late date, Rush doesn’t doubt his ability to make an imprint.

“Like my position coach in college told me, ‘This is like a golf game. It doesn’t matter what everybody else does, as long as you handle your business, do what you’ve got to do, keep improving your game, then you’ll stand out where you need to stand out,’ ” he said.

“I’ll encourage my teammates, I want them to make every play just like I want to make every play. Because at the end of the day if I continue to work hard and focus on my game, it’s going to work out.”