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Quotes: Houston head coach Dana Holgerson on Payton Turner | Saints Draft 2021

University of Houston head coach talks about Sean Payton, Saints draft pick Payton Turner

University of Houston Head Coach Dana Holgerson
New Orleans Media Availability
Friday, April 30, 2021

Opening Statement:

"I've been a Saints fan for a long time. During my time in West Virginia, the Saints came up to the Greenbrier and I got to know a lot of the guys, Sean Payton included. I've always been a big fan of Coach Payton and the New Orleans Saints, followed them for a long time. Drew Brees was one of my idols, so to have Payton Turner get drafted in the first round was pretty spectacular. I thought he had a chance to go in the first round. Everything I had been hearing was early second, so it got to a point, where if you wanted to get him you had to take him. He's a special young man. He's graduated. His mom and dad are phenomenal people. Well-structured household. He came from Westside High School in Houston and was recruited from the previous staff so I didn't recruit him, but I was fortunate to be able to coach him for two years and watch him be able to develop into a good football player. The young man didn't need much developing because that happened growing up by his parents. He was a first-class kid when I got here, got good grades, graduated in three and a half years. I was fortunate to be able to coach him. I think he has a lot of upside and his best football is ahead of him."

Sean Payton said you two spoke after the Saints made the pick. Is what you told him basically what you just told us?

"Well, it's funny. Everybody does their research. They had researched him. I had not talked to Coach Payton prior to them selecting him. When the Saints selected him, I called him. I said 'Coach why didn't you call me?' He said he didn't want the cat out of the bag on this one. 'If I start alerting people that we want to draft him in the first round, other people are going to catch wind of it and someone else might draft him in the first round.' I said 'you made a great decision. I'm not going to question anybody in what they do and who they pick.' This kid has such a ton of upside, he's going to be playing for the Saints for a long time."

The Saints were mentioning how impressed they were at his tape. If you were scouting him, what are some of the things that might jump out?

"So, he's big. He can play five technique, D-end. He can play in the three down front. He can play a three technique in a four down front as well. 6-5, 275 pounds and just keeps getting better. He's smart. He understands things happening prior to them happening. He's versatile. Unfortunately I only had him for five games this year, just based on COVID, the season being shortened, a small little injury he had. The previous year we played 12 games and he played in all 12. He's tough, he's durable. He's well-rounded. He can stop the run. He's physical. He's got great length, great wingspan. He's going to get his hands on you and get them off of you real quick. Good against the run, good against the pass. The Saints got a good one and here's the real thing. He played baseball his whole life, then he went to basketball for two years. Then he went to football for like two years. He's just getting started and he'll play for a long time."

How do you feel like the move to playing edge the last two seasons benefitted him and how there will be more room to improve?

"Good pass rushing skills. Our defensive line coach here is pretty special, Bryan Early. He does a good job with technique with developing the ability to rush the passer. He does a real good job with that, so we moved Payton around. He does a lot of different things. The main thing he's good at is being off the edge. When his pro day was here they worked him out pretty good and pretty hard and it's all about being able to use your hands and move your feet in a tight amount of space and then they put him out there to drop a little bit. As a d-end that drops, I think he caught like seven or eight in a row. When you're a baseball player and a basketball player your hand eye coordination is so good that translates into you doing things with your hands and eyes. He's a well-rounded young man that is incredibly intelligent."

Coach Payton mentioned his run defense ability. Is that something that's a great strength of his or something that he can develop?

"I would say if he's a better pass rusher or run defender I couldn't give you an answer. I think he's good at both. He's a great kid with great length, good hands and great hand-eye coordination that can get you to the quarterback quick. With great length and great strength at 6-6, 270 pounds or whatever it is, he can get his hands on people and shed blockers, TFL's. They go hand in hand. I can't say he's better at one."

You mentioned intelligence and he came across as a really smart person, we know he got 35 in the wonderlic. How does that show up and help him?

"Just his preparation more than anything. I haven't had a whole lot of people that graduate in three and a half years. He did that. He's a pretty intelligent kid. He knocks it out of the park when it comes to interviews and coming off as an intelligent person. He is an intelligent person. His awareness is good, he's bright-eyed. He's a yes-sir, no-sir type of guy, bright-eyed. He's a pretty impressive guy. The wonderlic thing is good, but just the social skills coming from a well rounded family. Mom and dad are awesome. I think that rubbed off for him for a long time and it will for a long time to come."

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