Photos of Saints wide receiver Marques Colston over the years. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints Photos).
Maybe it was the South Louisiana heat and humidity, or perhaps it was NFL-level conditioning.
Whichever was the case – or if there was a third, fourth or fifth option – receiver Marques Colston didn't know what to expect upon his arrival at the New Orleans Saints training facility back in the spring of 2006.
The Hofstra product wilted in that rookie training camp, so much so that Coach Sean Payton and his staff contemplated not even bringing the seventh-round pick – No. 252 overall, the fourth from last pick in the entire draft – to training camp.
Ten years later, that still is a story worth telling because months later, Colston not only improved his conditioning enough to withstand the hell-on-earth training camp that was held in Jackson, Miss., but he also became a starter as a rookie.
It's worth retelling because in 10 seasons, few players in franchise history ever became more reliable than Colston, few ever played to such a level so consistently that we knew exactly what to expect of them game after game, season after season.
So it's not easy to come to the realization that Colston no longer is a Saint, officially having been released Monday after 146 games played, some through injuries that should've sidelined him and would've shut down lesser competitors.
No matter how detached we try to be, or maybe should be, because the inevitability of sports is that likely either a player will leave on his shield or he'll be told to leave – mostly, even the ones who retire on their own are being nudged – some guys get to you.
Some, you feel better for having known. And that's a status Colston occupies.
Sure, his the numbers will and should be emphasized and celebrated, given that they make him a lock for the Saints Ring of Honor and Saints Hall of Fame, and establish him as one of the best draft bargains in franchise history, and arguably in league history.
Colston, who barely was drafted, is the Saints' all-time leader in receptions (711), receiving yards (9,759), receiving touchdowns and total touchdowns (72), and he's tied for first with 28 100-yard receiving games (and another 12 games in which he had between 90 and 99 receiving yards). Toss in another 58 catches for 788 yards and four touchdowns in 10 playoff games, and there's ample evidence that Colston unequivocally was Drew Brees' most reliable, productive target in their decade together.
In seven seasons, Colston had at least 70 receptions. Six times, he topped the 1,000-yard mark and twice more, he posted seasons of at least 900 yards. He had six seasons of at least seven receiving touchdowns and never had a season of less than five until 2015, his worst statistical year as a pro (45 catches for 520 yards and four scores).
But, perhaps, what equally will be missed is the sound of silence.
He never bragged. He never thumped his chest. He never danced after a touchdown. He never publicly demanded the ball or yelled at a teammate.
He never got into a fight (unless you count the concrete wall that he punched on the walk to the locker room after the divisional playoff loss in Seattle in 2014). He rarely granted weekday interviews, not because he was prickly and unapproachable but because, genuinely, he loathed spewing clichés and repeating tenets that already had been shared by teammates and coaches.
All Colston did was show up for work, practice after practice and game after game, month after month and year after year.
True, the production slipped his last two seasons; the combined 104 receptions for 1,422 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014 and '15 were the lowest consecutive-season totals he posted at any time during his Saints career. Clearly, Brandin Cooks has emerged as the Saints' new No. 1 receiver, and Willie Snead looks to be a solid No. 2, with Brandon Coleman emerging as a viable No. 3.
But whatever Colston lost in production he likely gained in stature as a mentor and tutor. Whatever he no longer could do on gamedays, he still was able to do in terms of setting a tone for practice, and establishing a bar and an example for his fellow receivers to strive to clear and attain.
At his best and in his prime, he was a 6-foot-4, 225-pound rock of a player, seemingly invulnerable to the vicious hits he absorbed, able to torque his body and make those "trust me" catches off throws that Brees might've been reluctant to make if the target hadn't been Colston.
At his worst and perhaps past his prime, he was a rock of a person and man, as understated in his 10th year as he was in his first, still setting the tone through his actions more than his words.
The Quiet Storm always was more about what he did on the field than what he said off of it, and he stirred up a collection of memories that will ensure he's unforgettable to the Saints fans that bore witness to his work.
Saints coaches, players and fans came to know exactly what to expect from Colston. More than anything else, he might be most proud of that.