NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Kentucky Derby fever is captivating the entire city this week, but there's a similar buzz on the campus of Louisville thanks to this behemoth.
Sheldon Rankins can be found in his sanctuary, the weight room, most days of the week. It's one of the many reasons why the Saints drafted the 300-pound defensive tackle. Rankins went 12th overall in the first round, and remembers vividly when Sean Payton called him draft night.
"Soon as I picked up the phone my mom comes running over, and I'm trying to keep her quiet as long as I can, obviously to continue talking," said Sheldon Rankins. "Soon as I hung up the phone the house went crazy, everybody jumping all over me. It was a great experience, something I'll always remember."
Rankins played one game in his future home, the Superdome, his freshman year for Louisville. His Cardinals beat Florida convincingly in the Sugar Bowl, and Rankins registered his first sack of the season.
I remember it blatantly. I remember the play call, I remember how it all played out. I've had numerous sacks in my career, but that's the one I'll never forget," Rankins said.
Rankins isn't a rah-rah guy, never has and never will be. He lets his game do the talking for him.
"You ask a lot of guys, I don't say a lot, but when I say something everybody listens, I'm that guy. I'm over in the corner, and no one knows I'm over there. There's times when people say I didn't even know you were in here. That's just my personality, I've always been that guy, I'm going to be quiet, but I'm going to come to work ever day," Rankins said
Rankins starts work on Monday, reporting for Saints rookie minicamp. First day jitters, he admits, will be evident.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't nervous. Obviously going into a new environment, this is the professional level. We've always dreamed about as kids, and now here we are. Nerves are expected, all I can do is put my best foot forward every day, do what they ask me to do, and let God take care of the rest."
Rankins grew up outside of Atlanta, the Falcons were his favorite team and Michael Vick his favorite player. He said, luckily, he's grown out of all his Vick gear. It's been thrown away. The only red and black he has left is that of the Louisville Cardinals.