(WVUE) - The Saints' newest member, Sheldon Rankins, has already had success in New Orleans and is looking forward to his return to the Crescent City.
The Louisville defensive tackle was selected 12th overall Thursday night and shortly thereafter, spoke with the local media. He mentioned that he had played with the Cardinals in the Sugar Bowl as a freshman and that he grew up a fan of the Atlanta Falcons. The following is a copy of his teleconference, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
What kind of contact did you have with the Saints in the last few weeks and months of the NFL Draft process? Did you think that there was a chance that you might end up here?
"I visited them obviously and (I have) seen mock drafts, but it was just a blessing to be picked where I was. I didn't really go in with any expectations. I am just blessed to be picked where I was."
A lot of mock drafts had you going to the Saints; after looking at mock drafts, did you take a harder look at the Saints? Did you watch film of them or anything, considering that you might go there?
"No, not necessarily. I am pretty much a football junkie so I just studied about any and every team. Looking at mock drafts didn't have any effect on how I went about looking at this whole process."
Were the Saints one of the teams that you studied?
"Not necessarily. Like I said, I kind of just watch football. I kind of analyze to myself just kind of for fun. It is just something that I did (and there weren't any) specific teams, and not the Saints in particular."
How do you see yourself fitting into the Saints defense?
"However they need me to. I don't know any specifics on what they want me to do or anything like that. They're going to get a hard worker and someone who is going to come, try to pick up the defense, and try to gain the trust of the veterans and the guys that have been busting their butts in that locker room. Then, we'll go from there."
If you were trying to describe your life story to Saints fans, what would you tell them about yourself?
"I come from a big family. I am a quiet kid and I am really reserved. I am pretty much laid back (and keep) to myself. I have always been that way. I have always been a very observant kind of guy. I'm just a hard worker and I come from a hard-working family. My mom is a teacher. My grandparents work hard. That is just what I have been built on. (Work hard) and good things will follow. That is pretty much how I was raised."
What are your experiences about the city of New Orleans?
"I have been to New Orleans once. In my freshman year, we went to the Sugar Bowl. That was my one and only visit to New Orleans. I love the city. Obviously, we were confined to a small area but I have heard good things about it. I am looking forward to getting out there and seeing the rest of the city."
How would you describe your game? What are some of your strengths?
"First thing that I would probably say is versatility. That is one thing that I have always hung my hat on, is being able to do multiple things on a defense. Obviously, what comes along with that is intelligence. I am able to understand schemes and what offenses are trying to attack. Then, I would probably say my quickness and my hand usage. I worked a lot on that over my four years in college. I am looking forward to improving on that as I move on to the next level."
Did they run a 3-4 (defense) at Louisville?
"Yes, we were a base 3-4 but we sprinkled in some 4-3 as well."
You played some three-technique there?
"I played three, zero, shade, and just about anything."
Do you have a preference?
"No, I can come in and play wherever they need me to play. I don't have a preference"
Is it exciting coming to a team that is going to expect you to contribute right away?
"It is exciting to come to a team, period. Growing up with this dream to play in the NFL, and then being selected as high as I was, or just being selected at all was a dream come true (for me). Being able to come to any team is a dream come true. Obviously, if they need me to contribute early, I'll be looking to come in and help in any way that I can."
Where did you watch the draft from?
"I watched the draft with family and friends at my brother's house. It is in Covington, Georgia."
Did you have the opportunity to come to Chicago? If so, why did you decide to stay at home?
"I did (but) I declined my offer. I just wanted to be around everyone who has been with me throughout this entire journey. My grandparents are older and they wouldn't be able to fly. Being able to have them close by, (as well as) a bunch of family and friends that have helped me, maybe it was one little thing, but throughout my entire football career I have had a lot of people help me, so being able to have everybody in the same room and witness this moment is really something that I always saw myself having. I took advantage of the opportunity."
Was it your birthday today?
"No, I actually turned 22 on April 2. That was a typo (where it was previously listed)."
Do you remember anything about your senior bowl or NFL Scouting Combine interview with the Saints?
"I think it was a pretty general meeting. Obviously, talking about how I grew up and then just wanting to see some football knowledge and different things like that. It was a pretty general meeting."
Did it surprise you to get picked in the draft by a team that you hadn't talked to since February?
"If you would have asked me that question probably four months ago I would have said yes, but after going through the process and talking to the guys that have been through it, you can never pay attention to different things like that. You just go in with no expectations and be happy wherever you land."
What was your major?
"I was an exercise science major."
Were you a big (Atlanta) Falcons fan growing up?
"Yes, I was a big Michael Vick fan. I grew up in that era so I was a Falcons fan by default. I definitely watched a lot of battles between the Falcons and Saints."
Has there been things that NFL teams have asked you to do once you get to the NFL such as add weight?
"No team has expressed anything along those lines. I'm sure if a team asks me to do something I'm sure they will express that to me over the next couple days."
Do you have any NFL guys you really watch or study or try to take after?
"Obviously Aaron Donald is a great guy, Geno Atkins, Gerald McCoy. My favorite guy is probably Jurrell Casey, similar body types, similar movement styles. I think he is more of a natural comparison just based off those things. I watch a lot of guys even defensive ends and different guys like that. I'm always just trying to take any tidbits from all great players and apply it to my game."
Does it help that you played under a coach like Bobby Petrino who has been an NFL head coach?
"Definitely, he ran his program like it was an NFL team as far as what the coaches expected of you, types of installs we would get and different things like that. I think that helped a lot, me and coach Petrino had talks about the next level. He explained certain things to me that have helped me a lot throughout this process."
What do you remember about your trip to New Orleans other than football?
"Not too much really. We were a college team, so they kind of had the reigns on us so to speak. For the most part, all I remember is seeing a little bit of Bourbon Street, playing football and winning the game."
What did your family members say when they found out you were coming to New Orleans to join the Saints?
"They screamed, obviously for me to go anywhere would have made them scream, but just to see my name go across that TV. New Orleans isn't too far from where I am so they will be able to make trips down there. They are extremely happy and they were extremely happy to see me get drafted wherever it may have been."
A lot of Falcon fans in your family as well?
"A couple, they were saying I guess I am going to have to be a New Orleans Saints fan now. We definitely gained a couple fans tonight."
Who is the one that called you tonight?
"The GM (Mickey Loomis), I was on the phone with the GM."
Did Sean Payton call you as well?
"Yes, Sean Payton got on the phone as well."