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John DeShazier: Saints receiver Marques Colston one catch from history

Quiet but exceptional receiver is one catch short of Saints all-time receiving record


Surely, today, The Quiet Storm will unleash some thunder.

No? OK. Maybe a distinct, discernible rumble?

No? OK. How about a nice, well-timed grunt?

No. Not even that. Not if it means Marques Colston will draw attention to himself, not if it means he will be seen as anything less than the humble, put-his-head-down, go-about-his-business man that he has been since the day he set foot on a field wearing a Saints practice jersey in 2006.

So teammates, coaches and fans will have to do it for him. And for certain, there'll be reason to do it for him.

Sometime today, Colston will line up on offense, run a route and catch a pass, likely from Drew Brees. Odds are he'll do that because in his previous seven seasons, it pretty much is what he always has done – Colston only has failed to record a reception in three of the 102 games in which he has played. The last time it happened was against Carolina on Oct. 19, 2008, when he was returning from a hand injury that had forced him to the inactive list for the previous five games.

And when he plucks the football from the air in his oversized hands, it'll be the 533rd reception of his Saints career, breaking his tie with Eric Martin and leaving him alone as the Saints' all-time leader in receptions.
He already is the franchise record-holder in total and receiving touchdowns (58) and if he has a typical Colston season, he'll become the all-time leader in receiving yards – he has 7,394 yards; Eric Martin's team record stands at 7,854.

But today, it's the franchise career receptions mark that is poised to crumble under his relentless pursuit of excellence. It's the next rung on a ladder that has more to climb for player who – as difficult as it seems to reconcile today – was the 252nd of 255 players chosen in the 2006 NFL Draft.

"Present day, it obviously means a lot but I think it's one of those things where a couple of years down the road, looking back, it's going to be one of those things that's really special," Colston said.
"At the moment, it's in the games and you're trying to do whatever possible to end with a win. But it's something that, postgame, you definitely think about and you kind of reflect on what it's taken to get to that point, and the amount of time and effort that has gone into it. But, really, it's going to be five, 10 years down the road and looking back, seeing a huge accomplishment there."

Typical Colston – move along, nothing to see here.

That muted style and grace is the only side of Colston that teammates have seen, because it's the only side he has to show them.

"He's the prime example, for any young player coming in, that anything is possible," Brees said. "He came in as a seventh-round pick and after OTAs, you didn't think he was going to make the team. And then he comes in, and all of a sudden he's our No. 1 receiver going into the season in '06.
"He does not get the credit he deserves. But he's a quiet, soft-spoken, come-to-work, get-the-job-done kind of guy. The story is yet to be written. I think he still has a bunch of good years left.

"Yes, he's about to break these records and it's significant, but I don't think he would want to even look back on that right now. I think his sights are set on what we're going to accomplish this season and at the end of his career he can look back and say, 'What was my legacy?' And we all can look back and say, 'Man, it was pretty impressive.' "

Impressive? Colston has a franchise-record six 1,000-yard receiving seasons, making him one of seven NFL players to do that in their first seven seasons. He has led the team in receiving yards five times, has 23 100-yard receiving games (second in team history) and his 7,401 yards from scrimmage is fourth on the list, 464 short of tying Martin's franchise record. And his 58 touchdown catches is second in the league since 2006, one behind Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald.

Still, there never has been a Pro Bowl invitation extended to Colston, who rates at or near the top of the list in terms of toughness among his teammates.

This preseason, he couldn't play while recovering from an injured foot. He suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery in 2011, but missed just two games. In 2010, he returned to the lineup 11 days after undergoing knee surgery that caused him to miss the regular-season finale.

A torn ligament in his left thumb in the 2008 season opener shelved him for five games; he had surgery, played most of the season wearing a protective brace and also worked through an injured knee.

"I want him to be healthy and pain free," Brees said. "He's a tough guy. He's battled a lot through his career. It seems like a guy who plays that big, that physical, gets the number of reps that he does, gets the number of hits that he takes, you are going to battle things. Some guys would shut it down.

"He hasn't done that. He is always showing up to practice, showing up in the game. He battled through a lot. Selfishly, I just want him to be pain-free and be able to do it without always battling through it, which is what he has had to do in a lot of cases. I am confident in his ability to come back and his ability to be there for us in the season and do everything he has done in the past."

Colston takes pride in being available.

"Accountability," he said. "That's something that we've preached from Day 1 and that's something that I think every guy in that locker room buys in to. The best way to be accountable is by being on that field and being able to produce.

"This is a tough game and you're going to get beat up. I think a lot of times, that's what separates guys from having those sustained careers and some of the shorter careers."

Certainly, it might separate players from having pedestrian careers from those who have decorated ones. While Colston's might not be decorated in terms of Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections, he's hard to miss in the Saints' record books. And his teammates' respect and admiration for what he has done is unmistakable.

"Just hearing that, it's kind of like, why?" running back Pierre Thomas said of Colston's absence from the Pro Bowl. "How is that possible? You see this guy and all the things he has done in his past and still what he can do. He should have been one of those guys selected to be in the Pro Bowl.

"He is a great player on and off the field. He is a teacher. He is a student. He is a great guy.  He is a quiet guy and most people don't see him talking too much, but he gets the job done. A lot of these young receivers are talking to him all the time and the coaches always use him as an example."

There aren't many better blueprints to follow than that of Colston. His good fortune is that he only has had one quarterback in his career, and it has been an outstanding one.

"It's been awesome, just playing with somebody who, more than likely, is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Colston said of Brees. "It doesn't get much better than that for a receiver. Just coming in as a young guy and him kind of taking me and molding me into the player I am now, I owe a lot of my success to him."
And Brees considers it his good fortune to have had Colston as a primary target.

"He's the big man," Brees said. "I've got so much trust and confidence in him. We've got so much time on task together. We've worked really, really hard together. We've got great chemistry – it's ESP for us out there in a lot of cases. We think alike, we react alike."

Consider it the Saints' great fortune to have landed Colston, who's poised to rise to another stand-alone position in Saints history.

The Quiet Storm, making noise in the places that really matter, on the field and in the record books.

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