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Saints visitor Pierre Desir feels arduous collegiate journey has prepared him for NFL life

Glancing over the names of the several defensive backs who visited the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, one jumped out at me more than the others: Lindenwood University corner Pierre Desir.

Pierre Desir

Pierre Desir

Desir was the only player out of that group who did not attend a Division I school. Yet at least one site that ranks draft prospects, CBSSports.com, projected him to be picked in the third round, earlier than two other bigger-school cornerbacks the Saints brought in.

I asked Desir via Twitter whether I could interview him but didn’t hear back. I also asked his agent, who suggested he’d prefer it if Desir spoke with me following the May 8-10 draft.

Nonetheless, I was curious about how a player who talent evaluators believe is fit for the NFL arrived from a place like Lindenwood, which is in St. Charles, Mo. And Desir, I learned, recently told the story to a podcast published on the site RamsAddiction.com.

Desir — who was born in Haiti but grew up in the St. Louis suburb of St. Peters, Mo. — couldn’t academically qualify to a Division I school after finishing up at Francis Howell Central High School. Having stood out as a defensive back and kick returner, he accepted a scholarship to Washburn University in Topeka, Kan.

He redshirted one season and played two years at Washburn, which was enough time to pick off the third-most passes in school history (12). He was all-conference twice and an All-American once.

However, he was also raising two daughters with the woman who’s now his wife. “It was very difficult to balance school, football and taking care of two kids” without help from family, Desir told Rams Addiction.

So the 6-foot-1, 198-pound Desir gave up his scholarship and transferred to Lindenwood, which is about eight miles away from his hometown and — like Washburn — is in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA).

“It had nothing to do with the team,” Desir said to his hosts on the podcast. “I decided to move closer to home where I could get some assistance.”

After walking on to the team and sitting out 2011, he intercepted 13 passes and broke up 30 in two seasons with Lindenwood. He earned All-American and first-team All-MIAA honors in both 2012 and 2013, and last year he won an award recognizing him as the best small-school defensive player in the country.

Desir led the MIAA in passes defended per game in 2013 despite the fact that teams threw away from him the vast majority of the time. He is the MIAA’s all-time leader in passes broken up with 52 and is No. 2 in career interceptions with 25.

But Desir wasn’t running on much sleep when he did any of that. He said he paid his way through school at Lindenwood by working “all types of odd jobs” when he wasn’t in class, studying or playing football.

“For me, my days started at 5 o’clock in the morning,” Desir said on the podcast. “They ended between 9, 10, 11 o’clock at night.”

He said he cleaned up shell casings at shooting ranges. He cleaned up the sides of highways. He painted. He picked up trash, restored houses — or cleaned them.

“There was no sleep,” said Desir, who was invited to the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl alongside prospects from larger schools. “My days were all scheduled down to a T.

“I didn’t have any extra time to go out with my friends. I had to do homework when I had time — whether it was an hour, hour-and-a-half, I had to do that, because I knew I had to get up six hours later to get to work.”

The routine was exhausting, but it delivered its rewards. Desir was on the MIAA Academic Honor Roll in 2012 and 2013, and he said he’s more than prepared to mentally thrive with whichever team might draft him.

“Because of what I went through and having to go through that hectic schedule, I was able to learn how to handle the stress and pressures that came with everything and figured out what worked and what didn’t work,” said Desir, who’s hoping to become Lindenwood’s first-ever NFL draft pick. “So I think it’d be an easy transition with going into the NFL with meetings, games and all that.”

Coveted Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert visiting Saints

Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, considered by pundits to be one of the top picks in the upcoming league draft, is visiting the New Orleans Saints, he announced on Twitter on Monday night.

Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert (4) intercepts a pass intended for Stanford tight end Coby Fleener (82) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert (4) intercepts a pass intended for Stanford tight end Coby Fleener (82) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After initially tweeting out only the words “New Orleans,” he sent out another message that read, “I mean … headed to New Orleans lol … #SaintsVisit” to his more than 10,300 followers.

He wrote a couple of hours later, “Hello New Orleans !!! #SafeLandings #BumpyRide”

The 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert posted the fastest 40-yard dash (4.37 seconds) and put up the most reps on the 225-pound bench press (20) among cornerbacks who participated in those events at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February. He was a Second-Team All-American and First-Team All-Big 12 selection as a senior in 2013, when Oklahoma State went 10-3 and appeared in the Cotton Bowl. He was tied for third in the country with seven interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

According to NFL.com, Gilbert is a top 15 pick in the draft. The Saints will pick 27th if they keep the first-round selection they have.

In its secondary, New Orleans for now has cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Corey White, Champ Bailey, Patrick Robinson, Roderick Sweeting, Terrence Frederick and Trevin Wade. They also have safeties Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush and Marcus Ball.

But Saints coach Sean Payton in March said his team is always in the market for a defensive back who is talented at taking the ball away.

Gilbert at the combine told reporters, “Yeah, I think I’m the best corner in the draft. … I’m not going to let anyone take that from me.”

He expressed confidence in his ability to score off picks, saying, “I think I’m a dangerous return man with the ball in my hands and on an interception there is always a possibility for me to take it back to (the) house.”

Former East St. John standout set to participate in Saints’ workout for local prospects

Among the various players attending the New Orleans Saints’ workout for local prospects on Thursday will be former East St. John standout Alvin Scioneaux, an outside linebacker who earned all-conference honors throughout his career at Wofford College, an NFL source told The Advocate.

Alvin Scioneaux

Alvin Scioneaux

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Scioneaux, a native of Garyville, mostly attacked off the edge and got in on 75 tackles, 40 of which were solo and nine of which were behind the line of scrimmage. He also had 1.5 quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception in 2013 for Wofford, which finished 5-6 and competes in the Southern Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA.

Scioneaux landed on the first all-conference team last year and was chosen to participate in the second annual College All-Star Bowl in February, which put FCS standouts on display. Coaches also tabbed him for first-team all-conference recognition in 2012 (when he picked off a pass in a loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks), and media did the same in 2011.

Scioneaux clocked around 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash in training, according to the source. At South Carolina State’s Pro Day, he registered a vertical leap of 39.5 inches, 32 reps on the 225-pound bench press and 10.2 feet on the broad jump.

Before arriving at Wofford, which is in Spartanburg, S.C., Scioneaux was All-District 5-5A for East St. John as a senior. He also received an award for posting the Wildcats’ highest GPA.

While Scioneaux might not get drafted and isn’t as heralded as many other NFL hopefuls trying to enter the league this year, his opportunity with the Saints is a good one. The team under coach Sean Payton has never been reluctant to give roster spots to small-school prospects they think can contribute, even if it’s in free agency after the draft.

Film of Scioneaux’s play is available on YouTube.

Other notable tidbits:

– Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron wrote to USA Today about his visit with the Saints. He has gotten second- to third-round projections.

– Free-agent wide receiver Sidney Rice, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, announced via Twitter on Monday that he’s been cleared for football activities. The Saints were reportedly among a handful of teams who were to some degree interested in his services.

– Saints safety Jairus Byrd will visit Harahan Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon as part of Rotolo’s Pizzeria’s Literacy Program.

– Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, who visited the Saints, went on Twitter late Monday and said, “Hands down; New Orleans has the best food in America, no question” Colvin is projected to be available in the late rounds of the draft after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament at January’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Despite heavy investment in safeties, Saints visiting with Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, source says

The Saints may have already invested heavily in the position of safety, but that hasn’t discouraged them from meeting with one of the best prospects at that position in the upcoming draft.

Calvin Pryor

Calvin Pryor

Louisville’s Calvin Pryor set up a visit with the Saints for Monday, an NFL source confirmed for The Advocate. NFL Network’s Gil Brandt first reported Pryor would visit the Saints on Monday as well as the Jets and the Bengals this week.

The Saints possess the No. 27 pick in the first round of the draft, which starts May 8. The Jets have the 18th selection, and the Bengals have the 24th.

The 5-foot-11, 207-pound Pryor attracted round one projections after amassing 69 tackles (5.5 behind the line of scrimmage), three interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2013, good enough to land him on the All-American Athletic Conference’s First Team, according to CBSSports.com’s draft profile of him.

He anticipates plays well and has explosive closing speed, but he might be “almost too physical in an era in which heavy hitters often draw penalty flags,” CBSSports.com said in its evaluation of Pryor, who the site compared to the Giants’ Antrel Rolle.

Pryor told reporters at the scouting combine in February that he admired the hard-hitting playing style of Kam Chancellor, the 6-foot-3, 232-pound safety for the defending champion Seattle Seahawks.

“To play the game of football you have to be tough, and it’s a thinking game,” Pryor said.

He later added, “My father really instilled it in me at a young age. When I used to fall on the ground and I think I hurt myself, he would just tell me to get back and just keep going and it caught up with me later in life.”

Pryor’s visit with the Saints will be with a team that in March signed safety Jairus Byrd to a free-agent contract worth up to $54 million ($28 million of which is guaranteed) over six years. The Saints chose safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first-round of the 2013 draft, and they just signed restricted free-agent safety Rafael Bush to a two-year deal with a maximum value of about $4.5 million.

Other prospects the Saints have either had in for visits or were planning to meet with include Southern California receiver Marqise Lee (first round projections), Wyoming wideout Robert Herron (third to fourth round), Oklahoma defensive back Aaron Colvin (late rounds), Central Arkansas tight end Chase Dixon (undrafted), Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (second round), Southern California center Marcus Martin (second to third round), Florida State center Bryan Stork (fourth round) and Sam Houston State running back Timothy Flanders (undrafted).

They had dinner plans with Odell Beckham Jr. (first round) and Jarvis Landry (second to third round), both receivers from nearby LSU. Tulane on Friday held its pro day at the Saints’ training facilities — prospects there included Green Wave kicker Cairo Santos and wide receiver Ryan Grant, who could be available to NFL teams in the latter portions of the draft.

The Saints have only one receiver (Marques Colston) who has played more than one NFL season. Their only center as of Monday was Tim Lelito, who started two games at right guard as a rookie in 2013.

Nonetheless, the Saints have repeatedly said their intention is to draft players who best fit the team, regardless of position.

Saints linked to 2nd center available in upcoming draft: Weekend notes

The Saints on Saturday were linked to another center who will be available in the upcoming draft.

Marcus Martin

Marcus Martin

Southern California’s Marcus Martin recently visited New Orleans, and he did the same with the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers, wrote Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun and National Football Post. He’s drawn second- to third-round projections.

Previous reports had Florida State center Bryan Stork visiting with the Saints on Thursday and Friday. Stork has received fourth-round draft projections, and he has been compared to Brian de la Puente, who started at center for the Saints from 2011 to 2013 but left for the Chicago Bears in free agency.

The first-string center on the Saints at the moment is Tim Lelito, who started two games in 2013 as a rookie at guard in place of an injured Jahri Evans. The Saints have said he would be given the chance to win the starting job at that position in camp but would have competition either from an NFL free agent or player coming out of college.

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Martin played two seasons at guard and one at center for USC prior to declaring for the draft. He suffered ankle and knee injuries in the Trojans’ regular season finale and missed their victory in the Las Vegas Bowl, but he’s since posted 23 reps on the 225-pound bench press at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

He’s also run the 40-yard dash (5.22 seconds) and a 4.93-second shuttle run in another workout, per CBSSports.com.

CBSSports.com’s draft analysts believe Martin can develop into a player that’s comparable to Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack.

Other prospects the Saints have either had in for visits or were planning to meet with include Southern California receiver Marqise Lee, Wyoming wideout Robert Herron, Oklahoma defensive back Aaron Colvin, Central Arkansas tight end Chase Dixon and Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. They had dinner plans on Wednesday with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, both receivers from nearby LSU.

For the record, earlier in April, Wilson reported that the Saints were going to visit with Sam Houston State All-American running back Timothy Flanders. Flanders is the all-time leading rusher in the history of the Southland Conference, which is in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). He had 5,664 ground yards and 66 touchdowns from 2010 to 2013 after transferring to Sam Houston State from Kansas State, where he red-shirted his freshman year.

Small-school tight end draft prospect calls visit with Saints ‘a success’

A 6-foot-4, 238-pound tight end who was reportedly on pace to be a small-school All-American in 2013 on Thursday declared a visit with the Saints “a success,” suggesting New Orleans might be interested in grabbing him either late in the upcoming draft or in free agency if he’s not chosen.

Chase Dixon

Chase Dixon

Central Arkansas’ Chase Dixon on Wednesday announced via Twitter he was flying to New Orleans to visit the Saints the following day. He then tweeted, “Visit with the Saints was a success! Ready to head back home.”

Before his flight to New Orleans, Dixon played 32 games for Central Arkansas from 2010 to 2013, catching 33 passes for 379 yards and 10 touchdowns for his career at a school that competes in the Southland Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).

He hauled in 22 of those grabs, 262 of those yards and six of those TDs last season. But he broke his leg in October and played in only six games for the campaign. He had scored once in each outing, causing at least one local paper to speculate that he was en-route to an All-America selection.

Dixon earned second-team, all-conference honors at the end of the year. In a news release touting Dixon’s recognition, Central Arkansas coach Clint Coque said, “I’m especially happy for Chase …, that the voters recognized what kind of year he was having, even though it was cut short by injury.”

It does not appear that any outlets expect the bulky Dixon will be drafted. But, under coach Sean Payton, the Saints have never been shy about bringing in unheralded college prospects and putting them on the roster if the team thinks they can contribute.

Other prospects the Saints have either had in for visits or are planning to meet with include Southern California receiver Marqise Lee, Wyoming wideout Robert Herron and Oklahoma defensive back Aaron Colvin. They had dinner plans on Wednesday with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, both receivers from nearby LSU.

(H/T Canal Street Chronicles, who highlighted Dixon’s tweets).

Source: Saints among many interested in Demarcus Lawrence

The Saints have set up a visit with Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, an NFL source confirmed to The Advocate on Friday. But, NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport reported, he’s already visited the Falcons; and he will do the same with the Patriots, Jets and Cowboys, among others.

The 6-foot-3, 251-pound Lawrence has drawn second-round draft projections after leading the Mountain West conference with 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 2013. He is relatively quick for a defensive end, having clocked a 4.8-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and another one of 4.69 seconds in another workout, per CBSSports.com.

Demarcus Lawrence

Demarcus Lawrence

On the flip-side, the site judged, he seems to have less than ideal speed for a linebacker and does not have the same bulk typically seen in defensive linemen.

The Saints have good pass rushers in defensive end Cameron Jordan (12.5 sacks in 2013 and a Pro Bowl appearance) and outside linebacker Junior Galette (12 sacks last year). Other solid defensive linemen on the roster are Glenn Foster and Akiem Hicks.

Their pass-rushing depth should be helped with the expected return of outside linebacker Victor Butler, who missed the 2013 season with a knee injury.

However, 2014 is the last season in Butler’s two-year deal. Another outside linebacker, Parys Haralson, is also only under contract through 2014.

At the annual NFL owners meeting in March, coach Sean Payton said the Saints always place a premium on pass rushers, which makes Lawrence a logical candidate for a job in New Orleans.

Saints linked to 4th receiver that could be taken on draft’s 2nd day

It’s four weeks until the NFL draft, and the Saints have been linked to a fourth wide receiver many think will be taken in the first two days of the event.

The Saints hosted Wyoming wideout Robert Herron on Wednesday, and he was with them for a pre-draft visit on Thursday, the NFL Network reported. Herron has drawn third-round projections, and he’s meeting with a team that had Southern California’s Marqise Lee in for a visit earlier this week and had dinner plans with LSU duo Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry following the Tigers’ Pro Day on Wednesday.

Lee and Beckham are projected as first rounders. Landry is pegged as a second rounder.

Like Lee and Beckham, the 5-foot-9, 193-pound Herron is speedy, having clocked 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Indianapolis. He had 72 catches for 932 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games his final year at Wyoming, showing impressive straight-line speed as well as vision to set up blocks, CBSSports.com wrote in their draft prospect profile of him.

He also displayed toughness while taking big hits attacking the middle of the field and catching bubble screens; but, like any NFL hopeful, he isn’t without his perceived flaws.

CBS Sports said Herron’s height was not ideal for an outside receiver. The site questioned the level of competition he faced throughout most of his career; his ability to run routes since most of his big plays were reportedly made on verticals, drags across the middle and quick screens; and his track record on special teams, because he only returned three kicks for 39 yards and did not field any punts.

Pundits believe the Saints may pick a wide receiver early in the draft because their only player on the roster at that position with more than one complete season under his belt as of Thursday was Marques Colston. The team, however, has said it feels it’s set itself up this offseason to draft the best player available without regard to position.

Saints $3.6 million under salary cap after Bunkley, Bailey, Bush deals

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, and general manager Mickey Loomis are seen during NFL football pro day, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, and general manager Mickey Loomis are seen during NFL football pro day, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

With new deals for nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley, cornerback Champ Bailey and safety Rafael Bush on the books, the Saints were about $3.6 million under the 2014 salary cap on Thursday afternoon, according to the NFL Players Association website.

Bunkley recently cut his 2014 pay by nearly $2.9 million. He was originally owed $4.5 million in salary and bonuses for the upcoming season, but he’s due to make $1.65 million after slicing his compensation, information from both the NFLPA site and various media reports indicate.

The Saints signed Champ Bailey to a two-year deal that became official Wednesday and guarantees him only $500,000 but offers millions more in incentives. His deal will cost $1.25 million against the cap, via ESPN.

As for Bush, he signed a restricted free-agent offer sheet from Atlanta on April 3. The Falcons offered Bush a contract worth up to about $4.55 million over two years, but the Saints matched it to retain him.

The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson on Thursday reported that the Saints gave Bush a $3.8 million deal that includes up to $750,000 in incentives for a Pro Bowl selection as well as interceptions in 2015. It has a full guarantee of $850,000 and a base salary of $1.85 million in 2014.

Some $350,000 are deferred to March 31, 2015, Wilson reported. Wilson added that Bush’s 2015 base salary is $1.95 million.

Pro Football Talk says it erred reporting Jimmy Graham only has until April 22 to file WR grievance: Saints notes

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ--  New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) dunks the ball over the goal posts after his first quarter touchdown as the New Orleans Saints defeats the Tampa Bay Bucs 42-17 in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ– New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) dunks the ball over the goal posts after his first quarter touchdown as the New Orleans Saints defeats the Tampa Bay Bucs 42-17 in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

Pro Football Talk on Thursday corrected a report that erroneously said Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had until April 22 to file a grievance arguing he should be paid $5 million more, or like a wide receiver, under the franchise tag New Orleans handed him in late February.

Graham actually has until 2017, Pro Football Talk is now reporting.

During the annual NFL owners meeting in March, the site published a report citing an anonymous source saying that Graham had 50 days to file a grievance through the NFL Players Association. April 22 was 50 days from when Graham was tagged.

Furthermore, the site reported that it was “likely” Graham and the Saints would reach a long-term deal before April 22.

But April 22 is actually irrelevant. If he went that route, Graham would not be filing a non-injury grievance but for a system arbitration, Pro Football Talk said.

Players have 50 days to file non-injury grievances. Players have three years to file for a system arbitration, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, per Pro Football Talk.

The site apparently began going over its reporting after Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis told reporters at LSU’s Pro Day on Wednesday that he didn’t view April 22 as any kind of meaningful deadline in negotiations with Graham.

The Saints tagged Graham as a tight end after he led the team with 1,215 receiving yards and the NFL with 16 touchdown catches in 2013, the last season on the rookie deal he accepted from New Orleans in 2010.

But Graham, whose tag is worth about  $7 million, spent most of his time last year lining up out wide for the Saints. A franchise tag for a wide receiver is worth about $12 million, and it’s believed he could file a grievance through the players association to be classified as a wideout, given the massive boost in pay that could result in, depending on the decision of a third party.

Yet Graham would not even play under the tag if he and the Saints can agree on a long-term deal to replace the one he accepted from New Orleans as a rookie in 2010.

Loomis restated his desire for that long-term deal Wednesday. He said he hoped one was reached by the start of training camp but did not commit to a firm timetable.

“Lots of us would rather have things done sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t always happen like that,” Loomis said. “We want to have Jimmy Graham on our team when training camp begins, and I am sure he wants to be with us.

“So we’ll just keep plugging away at the process. He has a great agent (in Jimmy Sexton). All his people … know what they’re doing; so do we.”

Other tidbits:

-Florida State center Bryan Stork’s visit with the Saints will be Thursday and Friday, the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson reported. Stork has drawn fourth-round draft projections as well as comparisons to Brian de la Puente, who started at center for the Saints from 2011 to 2013 but left for the Chicago Bears in free agency.

-After cornerback Champ Bailey’s two-year deal went on the books Thursday morning, the Saints are about $4.01 million under the salary cap, the NFLPA site showed. That figure does not account for safety Rafael Bush’s new two-year deal.

Saints notes: Draft prospect tears ACL in N.O. workout; Saints attend Towson Pro Day; CFL team holds Metairie workout

Offensive lineman Brandon Thomas, a senior draft prospect from Clemson, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a non-contact drill during a private workout last week with the New Orleans Saints, according to reports Tuesday from The National Football Post’s Aaron Wilson and ESPN’s Mike Triplett.

The 6-foot-3, 317-pound Thomas received second-, third- and fourth-round projections from various outlets prior to his injury, for which he will have surgery as the May 8-10 draft is fast approaching. The Saints worked him out after Charles Brown (who started the season at left tackle for New Orleans in 2013) and shortly before Brian de la Puente (the starting center since 2011) left for other teams in free agency.

Wilson speculated that Thomas could still do well in the draft, though his hurt knee would likely affect his draft stock.

Multiple Saints personnel attend Towson Pro Day

Multiple representatives of the Saints attended Towson University’s Pro Day in Maryland, according to CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora on Monday. The school’s highest profile draft prospect is running back Terrance West, and the program boasts a couple of ties to the Saints: it’s the alma mater of linebackers coach Joe Vitt and former left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who helped New Orleans win Super Bowl XLIV and was a two-time Pro Bowler before leaving for Chicago last year.

West stood out in the positional drills he participated in, La Canfora wrote. That should only boost the stock of West, who set Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) records for rushing yards (2,509) and rushing touchdowns (41) to help Towson reach the national title game last year.

CBSSports.com projects West might be taken in the third round of the upcoming draft. He clocked 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash at February’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, which La Canfora called an impressive time for a player with a 5-foot-9, 225-pound frame.

Calgary Stampeders hold open workout in Metairie

The Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League will host an open workout at East Jefferson High School’s football stadium for 9 a.m. to noon on April 12.

John Murphy, the Stampeders’ assistant general manager, will be in attendance alongside two full-time coaches at East Jefferson’s campus, which is at 400 Phlox Ave. in Metairie.

“We have found numerous players on our roster from open workouts and have signed a prospect from the New Orleans region every year since 2008,” Murphy, who resides in Metairie, said in an email about the event.

Prospective players can sign up online at www.stampeders.com as well as at the event itself. They can email any questions to the Stampeders’ front office at kcarson@stampeders.com.

The Stampeders have won the Grey Cup, the CFL’s championship trophy, six times. Their last title came in 2008.

Alums include defensive lineman Tom Johnson, who was with the Saints from 2011 to 2013 and left for Minnesota in free agency in March; cornerback Derrius Brooks, signed to New Orleans’ offseason roster on a futures contract in January; and cornerback Brandon Browner, who joined New England in March after three seasons with Seattle, the defending NFL champions.

Johnson was with Calgary from 2009 to 2010. Brooks was there in 2012 and 2013. Browner was there from 2007 to 2010.

Gayle Benson joins Tulane’s board

Tulane on Tuesday announced that Gayle Benson, a philanthropist and former interior designer who is the wife of Saints owner Tom Benson, joined the university’s board of administrators.

Gayle Benson’s appointment comes after she and her husband jointly donated $7.5 million to the construction of Yulman Stadium, Tulane’s new on-campus football stadium which is set to open for the 2014 season in the fall.

“Gayle is one of New Orleans’ most beloved figures,” Tulane President Scott Cowen said in a statement. “Her wisdom, devotion to the community and steady leadership will be indispensable as Tulane welcomes a new president (Michael Fitts, named in February) and continues its journey of enhanced impact, quality and distinction.”

Benson, for her part, said in a statement: “As a New Orleans native, I have always been proud of Tulane’s role as one of the country’s leading universities. I now cherish the opportunity to help shape its future.”

Among other things, the Bensons have donated millions of dollars to religious, educational and medical institutions in New Orleans and San Antonio, another city where the family’s patriarch has a number of business interests.

Gayle Benson began her professional career managing the New Orleans branch of a New York-based custom jeweler. She then became an interior designer and in 2004 married Tom Benson, who also owns the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

Lagniappe

– USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, who told Pro Football Talk Live last week that he was going to meet with the Saints, visited New Orleans’ facilities on Tuesday. Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro informed the public he had spotted Lee via Twitter, writing, “Hopefully we can get him in the draft! Explosive playmaker.”

– Speaking of Vaccaro: Falcons owner Arthur Blank said it bothered him that members of his team barely reacted when the Saints’ safety was flagged for a hit on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in a Week 1 road loss to New Orleans.  Via ESPN, Blank told Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan that none of Ryan’s teammates said anything to Vaccaro about it, and that the Falcons need to be tougher than that.

“That play really bothered me, sincerely,” Blank reportedly said. “It bothered me that none of our players, they all complained, but none of them went to the safety on the Saints and did anything.”

– At a luncheon Wednesday, the All-State Sugar Bowl Chapter of the National Football Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame will honor longtime Saints radio announcer Jim Henderson as well as team president Dennis Lauscha for their contributions to New Orleans as well as the sport of football.

Henderson will be presented with the Contribution to Amateur Football Award, and Lauscha (also the president of the Pelicans) will receive the Distinguished American Award at the Hilton Riverside hotel.