As the longest tenured Saint on the offensive line, T Terron Armstead’s role has shifted this season.
Entering his seventh season, he’s been primed and groomed for this.
Armstead learned from former veteran Saints Zach Strief, Max Unger, Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs. Ever since Armstead entered the lineup late in the 2013 season at left tackle, he has started every game he has played in.
“Ever since my third or fourth year, I've kind of taken that step into controlling the room, a lot more last year with controlling the offensive line and then even more so now with Max (Unger) being gone,” Armstead said. “Being a leader is just part of my job.”
“I've become more vocal as the years have gone on. I am mostly a lead by example type or a one-on-one pull you to the side kind of guy. I show it on the field when it comes to leadership.”
Now, Armstead has to set the standard. He explains what the standard is for the Saints offensive line, and he shows it by his performance on the field. He shows it every day in the meeting rooms, in the weight room, at practice and when it is game time.
In 2018, playing just 10 games, Armstead picked up his first All-Pro honor after several productive years despite injuries.
Armstead hasn’t played a full 16-game season, but his drive and motivation is stronger than ever.
“I believe you find out who you are when you are faced with adversity,” Armstead said. “Anybody can be great or all smiles when everything is going well. I think you really tap into who you are when you're faced with adversity.”
“I've been through a lot. I have had a lot of injuries, but I know that I am blessed to be in a position that I am in. God put me in this position for a reason and any injury I just take it as a ‘I have to grind even harder to shake back.’ I have had my fair share of injuries for sure. And it's frustrating, you know, especially when I just get over one thing and something else big happens. It’s frustrating but I can't stay down because that only makes everything 10 times worse.”
Even before Armstead dealt with injuries in his professional career, he dealt with a different type of adversity.
“The college recruiting process was kind of tough where I was from,” he said. “I wasn’t as familiar with it as other places.”
It was not a normalcy for athletes from his high school in Cahokia, Illinois to automatically go on to college. What his school was known for was track and field.
Therefore, his first focus was knowing how to run. It didn’t matter that he was one of the bigger guys on the track team. Everybody ran.
“We always just ran sprints with the smaller guys and I just got my running style together and I did not know I was like really, really fast for a big guy until I went to college,” Armstead said.
Armstead’s talent on the gridiron and on the track didn’t go unnoticed despite the unfamiliarity in the recruiting process.
He was initially offered scholarships from some of the bigger football programs, but those offers stopped coming. Then the track and field programs started to come around, but those programs wouldn’t let him play football.
So, he ended up at to Arkansas-Pine Bluff where he could play football and compete in track and field.
Armstead was eventually an eight-time champion in track and field while earning All-American honors his senior season and earning All-Conference honors in football.
When it came time to try and make that next step in his football career, he knew the odds would be stacked against him coming from a smaller college. However, he had one thing that many linemen don’t have: he could run fast.
“I knew coming out of a small school I needed ways to grab attention to get more scouts to look at my film,” Armstead said. “Anything I could do positively to get more eyes on my tape, I had to do it.”
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Armstead ran the fastest 40-yard dash time by an offensive lineman in the history of the combine.
After Armstead was picked up by New Orleans in the third round of the 2013 draft, he quickly became involved in the community.
He started his own foundation, the Team Armstead Foundation, which is run by his sister, Kimiante Brown.
“We put a lot of different events on all year,” he said. “We just bought a building; 40,000 square feet and it's going to be the Team Armstead Center. We're doing things constantly to make it happen.”
Armstead saw what DE Cameron Jordan was doing to be involved in the community and admired that.
“When I got here, Cam was like the most active person in the community and I just tried to do the same,” Armstead said.
The two try to do something in the community every Tuesday.
“This is just natural,” Armstead said of giving back to the community.
When he is on the field, he is simply one of the best. This season is no different for him as the team faces new challenges and obstacles. Despite the loss of quarterback Drew Brees for a large chuck of the season, the team has rallied around Teddy Bridgewater, put all they can into each unit whether it’s offense, defense or special teams and remain atop the NFC South.
“It’s been a fun journey,” he said.