White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. – Maybe, Kasim Edebali is the happiest New Orleans Saint on the roster.
Officially, no poll has been taken and no scientific evidence has been offered to support the premise. But if there's a Saints player more likely to be wearing a smile, more likely to enjoy his work, more ecstatic with having an NFL job, it could be difficult finding exactly who that would be.
"I just enjoy life," Edebali said. "Every day is a blessing. I came from Germany, nobody gives you a shot, nobody tells you that football would ever be part of your life. So I'm blessed every day and I try to make the most of every day."
The Hamburg, Germany native didn't start playing football until middle school and even after playing 49 games at Boston College, he went undrafted.
But the smile on his face belies a passion that got him to the NFL in 2014, first as a special team player and rush end and now, perhaps, as the starting right defensive end for the Saints this season.
That's the position he has appears to have ascended to this offseason, part of which he spent sidelined while he recovered from injury.
Bali-wood (defensive end Cam Jordan gets props for coming up with that one) had five sacks, three passes defensed and a fumble recovery last season in limited time, and also six special team tackles. But an early competition for the starting position at right end between Edebali, Obum Gwacham and Davis Tull seems to have tilted toward Edebali, who tipped the advantage in his favor in practice and further laid his thumb on the scale with a two-sack performance in the preseason opener, against New England.
"I've seen some really good things," Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "Obviously, he's worked a lot on his pass rush in the offseason, he studied a lot of the top rushers and kind of expanded his repertoire of moves with which he can rush the quarterback.
"But I think probably when I look at it, I think his ability to play stout in the running game has been probably the most impressive thing to me."
Indeed, Edebali attributes a portion of his development to the film study of other, similar-sized players (he's 6 feet 2, 253 pounds) who have been effective NFL players.
"It's technique," Edebali said. "Just watch different guys. Not even specific guys, but I just watch different players play football. I feel like if you watch a guy, watch their technique, how they use their hands – just learning and watching football makes you a better player."
The visual has been put into application, and it's noticeable to teammates.
"That's a guy who has made strides in this offseason," said left tackle Terron Armstead, who often is matched against Edebali in one-on-one pass rush drills. "He's learning more about the game, a more experienced rusher. He's showing new challenges, he has incorporated some power into his speed rush. That's a guy I work with a lot off the field. He's improved."
Edebali's relentlessness matches his joy.
"That's him, that's his DNA," Armstead said. "He's a go-after-it guy. He's a high motor. Since he walked in, he's been high motor."
That motor has carried Edebali a long way. Having it be a joyful journey has been a bonus.