<span>One of the questions heading into 2007 for the New Orleans Saints was whether Marques Colston could duplicate his sensational rookie season production.
It turns out, he couldn't.
Instead, he matched his scintillating level of play and in the process raised the proverbial bar of achievement even higher, and in turn, set an NFL record for most receptions (168) through the first two seasons of a player's career in the league's illustrious history.
All pretty heady stuff for the 252nd player selected overall in the 2006 draft, but Colston has proven one thing over his two years as a Saint, and that is that he remarkably grounded and humble.
When asked this morning about his accomplishments thus far in his career and if the desire to improve is what motivates him, Colston took the question in an entirely different direction.
"The only record I am aware of is that we are coming off a 7-9 season," Colston said. "Our goal is to get back to the playoffs and be a contender again. I look around our locker room and see players that have their confidence and believe in each other. We're pushing each other all the time. My motivation doesn't come from compiling statistics or setting records. My motivation is in finding ways to help this team win.
Colston's words, while consistent with his approach since arriving in New Orleans, are those generally reserved for savvy veterans of the league who have been around long enough to know that calling attention to oneself can often be akin to playing with fire.
The Harrisburg, Pa. native, who is entering the third and final year of his original rookie contract, said the specter of a new and long-term contract is not something that distracts him or occupies much of his time.
"My approach, I hope, is consistent in regards to the business side as it is to how I approach the game," he said. "I'm not about going to the press and talking about my contract status or anything little that comes up. I have an agent that I hired and his job is to talk to the front office. My job isn't to worry about that. It's my responsibility to come to work everyday and focus on getting better and helping our team win football games."
Colston is sporting a new look these days, eschewing his trademark short haircut for a nearly bald coif. "I kind of like it," he said. "It's different, but nothing radical."
The 6-4, 225-pound product of Hofstra, who led the team in receptions, receiving yards, touchdown receptions and first downs (64) last season, recorded a team record 98 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 scores. He ranked second in the NFC and tied for eighth in the NFL in catches, tied for third in receiving yards.
Thus as the Saints near the beginning of their organized team activities and a mini-camp the final days of May, Colston said the anticipation is something that he feels has taken over the locker room.
"It's exciting," he said. "A lot of what we've done up to this point has been in the weight room and conditioning work. So the opportunity to get out there and practice football is exciting. I'm looking forward to going out there and competing. There are some new players in our defensive backfield and I'm eager to work against them and see if I can learn some things from guys that are new to our system."
Colston is referring, of course, to a defensive backfield that has been infused with the veteran experiences of unrestricted free agent cornerbacks Randall Gay and Aaron Glenn, along with the addition of second round draft choice Tracy Porter. In addition, Colston and his teammates have seen the additions of several notable faces imported in the Black-and-Gold, such as linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Bobby McCray and quarterback Mark Brunell.
The moves, according to Colston, have been popular in the locker room.
"The new guys have fit in great," he said. "They came right in and fit in immediately by being here and working out next to the players that returned. They have come right in and I see that they are doing the things that they need to do to be successful. They're all team players and just enhance the good chemistry that is already in here."
The workouts, besides getting the players in top physical condition, have helped serve the team to cohesively grow and, according to Colston, been utilized as platform for members of the team to push each other.
"What I have seen this year is that we are really all competitive guys in our locker room," he said. "It's healthy. We all get along personality wise and we come together each day as a group and feed off one another and push each other."
Colston also mentioned the Saints' wide receiving corps and the talent that assembles each day to work out. "We all know that there is a lot of talent in our meeting room," he said. "That's good. Everyone knows that they are being pushed every single day. It's all about the competition."
With eight 100-yard receiving games over the course of his first two seasons, the sixth most in team history, Colston did allow himself a moment to look back at his two seasons with the Saints.
As temporary lockers fill the Saints' locker room, complete with new helmets and work-out clothing for the rookies that have been added to the team's roster, Colston was asked what he remembers about his first pro experiences, and more directly, what his journey has been like.
"It's been very fast paced, but it's been a lot of fun," he said. "I have found out a lot about myself. I think I have come a long way in two years, but I also think there is a lot further I can go and that is really my focus and what motivates me to continue to work hard."
Colston smiled and concluded, "One of the reasons I suppose I have tasted success early in my career, if you want to call it that, is because I walked into a great situation. I am blessed to have a great coaching staff that has helped me grow as a player and a person, and we have a great quarterback in Drew and I'm part of an offense that gives the players an opportunity to make plays. It's about learning something new every single day."
For Colston, it's as simple as raising the bar. Each and every day.