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John DeShazier: Rookie linebacker Stephone Anthony ready 'to do whatever is going to help the team'

Saints rookie minicamp begins Friday

Associated Press photos of new Saints ILB Stephone Anthony.

In at least one way, being a member of the New Orleans Saints for rookie inside linebacker Stephone Anthony is reminiscent of his playing days at Clemson.

There, he played under the tutelage of Coach Dabo Swinney. And anyone who has seen Swinney operate understands that the energetic coach has a spedometer that begins at 100 mph and climbs from there.

With the Saints, there's assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Vitt, whose engine possibly could make Swinney's appear as if it's idling.

"Coach Vitt, he's wide open," said a chuckling Anthony, whom the Saints selected with their second first-round pick, No. 31 overall, in this year's draft. "(Vitt) does a great job. He's going to do whatever he has to do to help us, he tries to get us in the right position. He's all about his players and he's an awesome coach."

But many of the reflections of Clemson will end there for Anthony.

Now, he's a professional. He has a new, four-year contract (he signed Tuesday) and Friday, he'll take to the practice field with his fellow Saints rookies to begin their three-day rookie minicamp.

"I think you get a high-energy guy," Anthony said of himself, "a guy with a lot of want-to that loves to play the game and he's willing to do whatever is going to help the team."

There will be opportunities for the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder to do exactly that for the Saints. Likely, he'll have a chance to impact on special teams, where he might play on each unit. And possibly, he'll make his mark on defense at inside linebacker.

He was a four-year player in college, a team captain who in his senior season had a team-high 90 tackles (61 solo), 10.5 stops for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles in 13 games, with 12 starts. Anthony also led the Tigers with 131 tackles in 2013 as a junior.

With the Saints' release of last year's leading tackler, Curtis Lofton, Anthony could work his way into a prominent role in New Orleans as a rookie.

"I'm just thankful for the opportunity," he said. "But I do think this is a good fit for me, a really good fit. I think (defensive coordinator) Coach (Rob) Ryan does a great job with what he does with the defensive scheme. We have some guys here that we can get some things done.

"You can tell the playbook is going to have a lot of volume to it. This is your job now. You have to spend time with it, learn the different checks and all the little things."

And Anthony understands that it won't be an easy process. He was top-of-the-food-chain good at Clemson, a leader who garnered the respect of his teammates through his work and production.

"I think it comes natural to me," he said. "I think a lot of guys, especially back at Clemson, they respect the way somebody works, somebody that's not afraid to get out there and say, 'I'm going to be first,' or that's willing to challenge other people and work hard."

In New Orleans, beginning Friday, he starts the process over.

"You have to give respect to the best," Anthony said. "There are guys here that have played the game for a long time, so you definitely don't want to step on any toes. But you also don't want to be shy.

"It's a fine line, you've got to earn those guys' respect and there's only one way to do that, and that's to work hard and keep your head down and challenge people. Nothing is given. You've got to earn everything."

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