Malachi Dupre may not wind up on the roster of the New Orleans Saints this year. But when the New Orleans native and former LSU standout is drafted, several members of the Saints will have contributed at least a small part to his success, he said last week from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
First, there's Michael Thomas, the most productive rookie receiver (92 catches for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns) in Saints franchise history.
"Michael Thomas is a really good friend of mine and he had a really good rookie season last year, the best of any rookie receiver," Dupre said. "I talk to Mike Thomas at least three times a week."
Then, there's receivers coach Curtis Johnson, back for his second stint on the Saints' coaching staff (2006-11).
"He's a really good family friend of mine," Dupre said of C.J., who went to school with Dupre's father from middle school through high school. "I've been knowing him since I was born. He's had a great impact on my career. He's responsible for me becoming the receiver that I am today, for the most part. When I was younger I used to work with him a lot, he's definitely taught me a lot of things in what to look for in defensive backs and taught me the game from a professional's aspect from a young age."
Dupre wasn't the only New Orleanian – and definitely, not the only LSU Tiger – reflecting on the road he has traveled, while looking toward the path ahead, at the Combine.
Ten LSU players were invited to participate in the process: Dupre, fellow receiver Travin Dural, running back Leonard Fournette, center Ethan Pocic, defensive end Tashawn Bower, defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley, cornerback Tre'Davious White and safety Jamal Adams.
While Dupre is not projected to be a Day 1 (first round) pick in the draft, at least two other teammates are: Fournette, a fellow New Orleans native, and Adams. Fournette and Adams possibly will be the first players drafted from their respective positions, and each has been projected to be a top 10 pick.
"I really never dreamed about being in the NFL," said Fournette, who measured at 6 feet 1, 240 pounds (he called it "water" weight and said he can trim to 225 pounds if asked by his NFL team) and ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash. "I always played the sport, never knew it would take me this far.
"I know my talent and my hard work. My hard work is going to pay off and show for itself."
Fournette said that coming from New Orleans, "out the 'hood, the Seventh Ward…it's a dream. It's a blessing."
He ran for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns on 616 carries in three seasons.
"(I'm a) north-and-sound runner, can make defenders miss, can run over them, can run past them, just like any other running back we have here right now," Fournette said.
Few, though, compared to Fournette physically and in terms of production.
If he isn't the first Tiger drafted, Adams likely will be. And Adams wasn't lacking for confidence at the Combine.
"I feel like I'm the best guy in the draft," he said. "I feel like I should be the No. 1 pick."
Adams is vying with Ohio State safety Malik Hooker to be the first safety selected.
"I'm pretty sure he feels he's the best," Adams said. "I know I feel I'm the best. I wouldn't respect him as a player if he didn't feel he was the best DB in this class."
Riley, a Buras native, hopes to follow a familiar path to the NFL. He was a backup for three seasons before starting and standing out as a senior; last year, Deion Jones had an identical background. Jones, a New Orleans native who was a backup linebacker at LSU his first three seasons before starting as a senior, was drafted by Atlanta in the second round last year and was a starter as a rookie as the Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl.
Riley said he impressed in his meetings with NFL teams.
"They love who I am," he said. "They love how I can write up the whole defense by position, not just one, but multiple defenses. They watch my tape and love my tape. Film don't lie. They love the things I can do and things I'm capable of."
Top shots from a busy NFL Combine weekend in Indianapolis.