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Saints program cover story: Marques Colston

Veteran receiver a prime-time player for Saints

Photos of Marques Colston from the 2014 regular season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)

Marques Colston doesn't like attention, but he loves the lights.

An explanation may be necessary.

See, Colston, the New Orleans Saints' all-time leader in receptions (677), receiving yards (9,384), total yards from scrimmage (9,391) and touchdowns (68), almost is as renowned for his numbers as he is for his unwillingness to call attention to them, or anything else he does.

Look up the phrase attention-seeker, and his name probably will appear among the antonyms.

But put New Orleans in a prime-time situation – Monday, Thursday or Sunday night, as will be the case in tonight's game against Dallas in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – where the eyes of the football world are focused on it, and few Saints have handled the situation better, or produced more under the national glare, than has Colston.

In nearly a regular-season's worth of "Monday Night Football" games (15, to be exact), he has 72 catches for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 15.2 yards per catch.

In 11 Sunday night games, his numbers are 64 catches for 802 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 12.5 yards per catch. Thursday (36 catches for 421 yards and a touchdown in seven games) and Saturday (five receptions for 86 yards in one game) night appearances have been less frequent, but not much less productive.

Colston's prime-time totals of 177 receptions, 2,405 yards and 20 touchdowns account for 26 percent of his catches, 26 percent of his receiving yards and 29 percent of his touchdowns.

"The preparation is the same," Colston said. "It's just something that kind of clicks in everyone when you know all eyes are on you. It's something that we emphasize around here, and we're proud of the fact that as an organization, the amount of prime time games has increased since this group got here."

That would be the group that arrived in 2006 – notably, Colston (as a seventh-round draft pick), right tackle Zach Strief (also a seventh-round pick), right guard Jahri Evans (a fourth-round pick) and quarterback Drew Brees (as an unrestricted free agent).

Before 2006, the Saints played in 43 prime time games from 1972-2005 and produced a 16-27 record. Since '06, New Orleans has played 35 prime time games, with a 24-11 record – 12-3 on Monday, 9-2 on Sunday, 3-4 on Thursday and 0-1 on Saturday nights in games Colston has played (he missed one Monday night game, on Oct. 6, 2008, against Minnesota with an injured hand).

And Colston, whose calling card has been his reliability, hasn't been any less reliable in those games.

Sure, there have been a few where the personal numbers haven't stacked so well – a 2-yard catch for a touchdown in a 28-17 win at Seattle on Oct. 14, 2007; two catches for 21 yards in a 17-14 victory in Atlanta on Dec. 27, 2010; four catches for 27 yards in a 34-7 loss in Seattle on Dec. 2, 2013.

But there have been several of these, too: nine catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-24 home win over San Diego on Oct. 7, 2012; nine for 92 yards and two scores in Atlanta against the Falcons in a 34-14 win on Dec. 10, 2007; and nine for 125 yards and two scores in a 31-13 drubbing of Carolina at the Superdome on Dec. 8, 2013.

Whether the statistics fall in line with the former or the latter, trust that Colston stays level headed.

"It's just really a matter of putting in the work throughout the week and going into the game prepared, knowing your opponent and knowing your gameplan and what you want to accomplish," he said.

Given all the experiences, the one that sticks out is the one that you'd expect to stand out, the Saints' 23-3 victory over Atlanta on Sept. 25, 2006, when the Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina.

"That's really the only one that sticks out, because of the significance off the field," he said. "I'm sure at some point I'll be able to look back and some of them will stick out. But right now, they just all run together."

Reflection time is nearing for Colston, though.

This is his 10th NFL season. The pounding takes a toll – Coach Sean Payton and his staff takes precaution to manage Colston's work in training camp and preseason. The Quiet Storm already has lasted about seven years longer than the average NFL career spans.

Quietly – with him, there isn't any other way – he began preparing for life after the NFL, becoming a minority owner of the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul.

"It's been a great experience," Colston said. "The ownership group that I've been able to join is just a really good group of men, accomplished businessmen in their own right. I've kind of been in indoor football for the last three, four years, kind of got my feet wet and this was an opportunity to move up and take some of the weight off my shoulders but in the same respect, be able to learn a lot more.

"It initially started as something in my hometown (of Harrisburg, Pa.), as a way to give back in a unique platform. Once I got into it, it kind of shifted toward more of the business aspect and really being able to put some skill sets together that will probably help me as I transition out of football."

But, still, there is football to be played. The Saints (0-3) are looking to blast into the win column, tonight against the Cowboys (2-1). Colston and the offense aren't off to their typical, Saints-like start (he has 11 catches for 145 yards), but the belief is that the corner to turn is in sight.

"We still feel really good about the preparation that we put in in the offseason," he said. "Obviously, we haven't gotten off to the start that we would like but we've got to keep grinding. It's a long season.

"It's just a matter of stringing some weeks together here and kind of hitting our stride as a group.

"I think we have a really great group of offensive coaches that put in a plan every week that allows us to succeed. I think we've been able to go out and get guys that can really help us in a lot of different areas. There's obviously some merit to the system but ultimately, the players have to make plays and I feel like we have some really talented guys in this locker room that make it go."

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