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Quotes: Payton Turner shares New Orleans Saints Draft 2021 reactions

Defensive end shares his Day 1 NFL Draft experience in his first Saints interview

New Orleans Saints Defensive End Payton Turner
2021 NFL Pre-Draft Media Availability
Thursday, April 29, 2021

What were your expectations coming into this night? Do you have any idea where you might be selected?

"I've heard from GMs, coaches, everything, they try to keep it low key. But I figured I was somewhere in the range of 20 to 40. So I was really excited to get that call at 28 with the Saints, just crazy (to be picked by that) organization. But yeah, I mean I had expectations to go between 20 to 40."

I'm just curious, growing up in the Houston area, you have any connections with New Orleans or anything like that?

"I mean, obviously, there's a bunch of people from New Orleans here in Houston. So, growing up, I know a bunch of guys from New Orleans, Louisiana, playing at U of H, I'm always in contact with people from Louisiana, but just like me personally, not really. But I mean I watched them growing up, you know, you watch football, you're going to be a fan of the Saints."

Do you feel like you have room for growth potential as a defensive end after transitioning from defensive tackle?

"I think I have a lot of room to grow. And that's the only way I can go, especially with where I'm going at the Saints. I got good guys who want me to learn from the guys around me, to learn from the coaches and everything. So yeah, I played D-tackle and I think it really helped me just being more physical on the edge when I did transition to the edge and obviously there were things I needed to learn. There was a learning curve going from my junior to senior season. I think I improved a lot and then kind of showed what I could do my senior season in this past year 2020, even though there were a couple of bumps in the road, but I think I showed a glimpse of what I can do with just one offseason learning the position."

What was it like getting the phone call being drafted?

"Oh, it was crazy. I can't even describe it now, ecstatic, just relief. It's a dream come true. It doesn't really happen to too many people very often that their dream comes true. And then just for me to have my dream come true like that. It's just really special for me, I'm on cloud nine. I can't put it any other way besides that."

Do you remember who you talked to you?

"Yeah, I believe it was the area scout. I talked to Coach (Sean) Payton and then the GM (Mickey Loomis) and the D-line coach (Ryan Nielsen). I talked to about everybody. My head is spinning though. It's just (a) crazy experience. I'm just enjoying it."

Did it come up that you had a small sample size of work in 2020?

"Yeah, so I missed one (game) because of a calf strain, a high calf strain. That was my Cincinnati game. I had that (happen) in UCF. Then I got pulled for a contact tracing for Covid in the hotel before my South Florida game and then I popped positive for it then next Monday, so I was out for those two games and then I came back for Memphis for just situational. So really, I played about three and a half games, if we're looking at like snaps wise I played like 10 maybe in Memphis. But those are the reasons I was out, but I mean everything's going to come up. It's NFL they're going to search for everything. They want to answers for everything. So sample size came up, but I was confident in everything I put on film. Everything I showed and I went in confirmed that at pro day. So I was confident in my abilities and what I did do on film."

How much contact have you had with the Saints in the last five months and did you realize that they liked you and that this might be one of your spots?

"Yeah, the Saints talked to me a handful of times, I wouldn't say that they talked to me the most, not that I was surprised when I called. I was happy, to say the least. But they were not (who I expected to pick me), I did not know. If I had to put a top three together (of clubs), top five together that was going to pick me in the first round. I wouldn't have put the Saints in it, but I am excited that they did pick me though. I wanted to play for the Saints. They have a lot of guys there similar to me, but I was shocked, but excited and surprised more so than shocked. But I'm just happy to be in this position I am."

2021 NFL Draft photos of New Orleans Saints first round draft pick Payton Turner, defensive end out of Houston.

Did you feel like you would get drafted today as the day went on?

"Yeah, like I said I expected to go 20 to 40. So, when 20 came up you know, my heart was beating a little bit faster. And just as we went on through the draft, just throughout the night, I was getting a little more excited, more anxious, just for a moment and the Saints didn't upset me that they called me. I'm just super excited. But yeah, I knew once 20 came up I was in that range. So I'm just thrilled."

How satisfying is this moment going from when you tore your ACL in high school to this moment now?

"I wouldn't say validating, because I wasn't really having to prove anything to anybody else, more so to myself, to prove myself right in this situation. So I'm extremely happy if that's the question. I'm extremely happy with the way everything turned out. Of course, there's going to be bumps in the road. But that just builds character. So the things I went through that I experienced throughout my recruiting process that was just part of the journey, to get me at this point where I'm at. So I wouldn't really change much, wouldn't really change anything that's happened to me in my lifetime."

How much have you watched Cameron Jordan play and what do you think about his play?

"Versatility is the first thing that comes to mind when I watch Cam Jordan. He's one of the guys that I do watch. My coach, I got a pretty good coach here at Houston in coach Bryan Early so he puts film together, he makes comparisons, he makes his own comparisons and just like gives us tips on guys to watch. But Cam Jordan can do it all. He can rush off the edge, he can apply pressure up the middle, he's got good hips, he's got good feet, he's got good hands. So just to be able to be around him and everything that he's experienced. I think that's pretty invaluable for me. So I'm excited to get over there to Nola and just see what's happening."

Who do you compare yourself to? Is there somebody you'd compare yourself to?

"I mean I think I fit in that same category as the Saints defensive ends, bigger DEs, obviously, they have more experience and everything but I'm a big athlete, I'm a big DE that can bend and rush the passer. So I would compare myself to Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport to guys like that. Just longer, bigger DES that can be physical, but are also versatile."

How would you describe yourself as a player and as a person?

"The first thing as a player, I'm violent, I'm going to be violent on the edge, I'm going to set the edge, I'm going to get out to the quarterback, wherever it is. Whether I'm lined up in a three tech or I'm lined up on the defensive end or in a nine technique. So I'd say violent and relentless is the way I play. Every time I'm on that field I'm going to give everything I got. And as far as a person, I'm going to be a leader. I'm going to be a high character, dude. It's coming in the building, same dude every day. That's the mentality. That's the way you got to go about it. That's the way I go about my work. So that's (the) kind of dude I am. I'm just ready to play. I'm ready to get in (and) play."

How do you use your length to your advantage?

"In the run game it's definitely like a pretty supreme advantage. I think just to be able to keep blockers off you and those tackles and just disengage and make a play to gaps whether you play on the outside on the defensive end Sunday and then coming up under the beat up and making a play or you know, getting off the rock and setting the edge, keeping the blocker off you getting vision of the quarterback or the ball. So in that in that sense, it's really the advantage that you want, especially from an edge defender and then in the pass game, there's so many things you can work with your length. That's why it's so coveted and so important. That's why you hear them talking about tackles having length is so important just because defensive ends are such long athletes and being able to play on the edge and keep the blockers hands off me. I think those are those are pretty essential for edge defenders. So I'm glad I have those traits."

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