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John DeShazier: Football great Marcus Dupree drops by New Orleans Saints practice

Covington resident is the cousin of Fred McAfee, the Saints’ director of player development


The horse owner and Covington resident stood behind a barricade at the New Orleans Saints' first training camp practice Friday, unassumingly taking in the action in the team's Friends and Family area.
But when you're Marcus Dupree, it's kind of hard to totally escape undetected.

Dupree, a former Oklahoma star (1,393 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman in 1982) and New Orleans Breakers standout in the USFL (684 yards and nine touchdowns in 1984), also happens to be the cousin of Fred McAfee, the Saints' director of player development.

Dupree said he fell in love with New Orleans when he signed with the Breakers. Then, Covington drew his attention on his drives home to Philadelphia, Miss.

"I always used to go through (Covington) going back to Mississippi and I said if I ever chose somewhere to stay, I've always loved horses and that's a horse area," he said. "I have horses and I love it out there."

He also seems to have an affinity for a certain NFL team, even though his two NFL seasons were spent with the Los Angeles Rams, in 1990-91 (Dupree severely injured his knee in the Breakers' season-opening game of 1985, retired from the USFL and made a comeback with the Rams five years later).

First, there's the McAfee connection. Then, there's the proximity to Covington. And, too, there's the fact that the franchise has been successful the last several seasons, which include the three he has resided in Covington.

"Since Sean (Payton was hired) it has been a totally different change," Dupree said. "You could see it last year, when he wasn't around. The year they won the Super Bowl, I knew they could win it."

Dupree said today's NFL is significantly different than the league in which he played. Running backs were bigger; Dupree stepped in at 6 feet 2, 220 pounds and one of his contemporaries,  Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, was 6-3, 220.

By contrast, the Saints' main three runners are Pierre Thomas (5-11, 215), Mark Ingram (5-9, 215) and Darren Sproles (5-6, 190).

"The NFL doesn't have a lot of big backs anymore," he said. "(But) Mark does a good job. Pierre does a great job running between the tackles. It's a little different because we came from the era when they did a lot of power running."

Dupree, in fact, was so prolific that he was the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary. "The Best That Never Was" chronicled his journey from the nation's best high school running back, to a freshman sensation at Oklahoma, to his leaving the program and going to the USFL, to his knee injury and comeback.

It theorized what might have been if Dupree had stayed at Oklahoma rather than depart after a season and five games, and what he might have become if he hadn't injured his knee.

Dupree, meanwhile, looks ahead. With few regrets, he looked at the Saints and reminisced about the dog days of training camp with the Rams.

"Hot!" Dupree said. "Hot. Hot. Sore. And (you) forget what day it was. Especially when you go through those three-a-day practices. We had those with the Rams – go in, go to sleep and forget what day it was."
But not everyone has forgotten who he was, and is. Even tucked away in a corner of the field at an NFL training camp, Marcus Dupree still is Marcus Dupree.

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