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John DeShazier: Saints rookie Arthur Maulet wants to prove that 'he's a diamond in the rough'

Former Bonnabel, Memphis player trying to make Saints as undrafted free agent

Arthur Maulet loves his family. Don't, for a minute, take anything said or written hereafter as an indication that he doesn't.

But the free agent rookie cornerback doesn't want all the levels of his family's love to show in the near future – at least, not in a few, select cases.

See, the Kenner native and former Bonnabel High standout is trying to earn a job with the hometown New Orleans Saints. And the reality for Maulet is that for the time being, the fewer distractions he has, the better.

So when New Orleans eventually has some open practices, during which family, fans and media can watch the team work during minicamp and training camp at the training facility in Metairie, Maulet might not want to see all of his family come marching in with the other Saints fans.

"I'll probably tell them to stay away from practice, because I need to focus," he said, laughing. "My family is kind of a loud family, let's put it that way. I'll probably tell them to stay away and on game day, you can come and make as much noise as you want to."

Kidding aside, there's a ways to go before he reaches the point of being on the field for the Saints on game day. But the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder, who played two seasons at Memphis after two years in junior college, believes the Saints will give him the fairest shot and best opportunity to make an NFL roster.

And that's fine by his family.

"It's kind of wild," said his father, Donald Cox, a New Orleans native who has served as the national defensive backs coach for Under Armour for more than a decade. Cox works with elite prep cornerbacks at Under Armour camps and combines, and he currently is coaching at a high school in the Washington, D.C., area.

"It's such an opportunity and a dream for him to be back home, playing in front of friends and family, playing for a New Orleans Saints organization that he grew up watching," Cox said. "You never really think that a kid will get an opportunity to play for the hometown; most of the time when he gets a chance to play in the NFL, most of the time it's away from their hometown. So it's really a great blessing."

Said Maulet: "I felt like this was the best opportunity for me to play right away."

He felt that way because he did his homework.

First, Maulet knows the Saints have proven to be a franchise that stocks its roster with players based on merit, rather than how they were acquired. Play well, and there's a really good chance you'll stick. Seven undrafted rookies – offensive linemen Jack Allen and Landon Turner, cornerbacks Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris, kicker Wil Lutz and receivers Jake Lampman and Tommylee Lewis – were on the 53-man roster at some point last season.

They joined the likes of former free agent rookies Brandon Coleman and Kasim Edebali (2014), Josh Hill and Tim Lelito (2013), and Travaris Cadet (2012) as players who made the most of the opportunity extended to them by the Saints.

And, second, Maulet understands that the Saints have a need at cornerback.

Partially, the need was addressed in the first round of the draft, when Marshon Lattimore was selected at No. 11 overall. It was strengthened in free agency with the re-signing of Sterling Moore, and will be boosted by the returns from injury of Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams. And, too, Crawley and Harris return, having received extensive and valuable playing time as rookies that should contribute to their rapid development.

But quality corners are hard to find, and Maulet figures he's a diamond in the rough.

"When I went to the Saints local (combine) day, (Coach) Sean Payton told us about (the team's history of keeping undrafted players), and I kept that in the back of my head," Maulet said. "That was something to think about.

"I just wanted to show that I can move really good. I'm a football player, and my 40 time (4.62 seconds at the NFL Combine) doesn't show how well I can move with my hips and my feet out of transition. I wanted to show them I can move and make plays with the football."

He did that at Memphis, finishing last season with two interceptions, 15 passes defensed, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and 73 tackles. Maulet had four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 24 passes defensed in two seasons at Memphis.

"He always was a corner," said Cox, who said he coached his son throughout high school and still trains him. "I saw that instinct in him. He was able to do things as a corner that most guys couldn't do. He always had fluid hips; his backpedal was always so smooth. But his aggression was something that most corners don't have and sometimes, people thought he would be a better safety because he's so aggressive.

"Now, he can run like a corner, fluid like a corner but he has the aggression of a safety. That's valuable. A lot of corners like to cover, but they're not as physical as they should be."

Maulet's coach at Bonnabel, Reggie Rogers, said he noticed soon after being hired that Maulet had pro potential.

"When I first got the job I looked at film, and No. 9, he stood out immediately as a kid that was making plays and looked like he had a lot of athletic ability," Rogers said. "We played him all over the place – corner, free safety. He was just a real athletic kid, kind of one of those kids who's able to do whatever they want athletically. And a very smart kid.

"Being around the game for a while and having coached some really good kids, I would have to say that Arthur was probably one of the most athletically gifted kids I've ever seen. At Bonnabel, he played some of everything. He can excel at anything – football, soccer, he could wrestle if he wanted to, boxer, baseball, track and field. He was just one of those kids that was well-rounded, very gifted."

Applying those gifts at Bonnabel, Copiah-Lincoln Community College (in Wesson, Miss.) and Memphis helped Maulet earn a chance with the Saints. His numbers and play ensured that even though he wasn't drafted, the Saints weren't the only NFL team that called with an offer. But New Orleans presented the offer he accepted.

"My phone was ringing (right after the draft) a lot, but the Saints were on me harder than anybody else," he said.

"It's a blessing that the Saints called me, but I just knew I wanted to go somewhere, play right away and try to have an impact. And the New Orleans Saints, my hometown, are the best opportunity for me."

It will present for Maulet and Cox the unique chance for the father and son to play on a coaching staff that includes Payton.

Payton, New Orleans' head coach, coached quarterbacks and receivers at Indiana State in 1990-91, the years that a speedy cornerback named Donald Cox started for the Sycamores and played his junior and senior years.

"He has the gift to be an NFL player because of the work ethic he has," Cox said of his son. "There were times when we were doing three-a-days (workouts), and a lot of guys weren't hitting it that hard.

"There were times that I said, 'Stop, Arthur, you trained too hard today. Let's stop training for today.' He has that drive. I played this game and I was good at it, but he has something more than I had to want to be in the NFL."

It has landed him at the Saints' door, one that he hopes to crack open with the support of a raucous family.

"They loved (the Saints extending the free agent offer)," Maulet said. "It's a one-of-a-kind thing, just to come home and play. It's a blessing, they really love the opportunity I have to play for my hometown."

A look at Kenner native and former Bonnabel High standout Arthur Maulet in action who joined the Saints for rookie mini camp.

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