METAIRIE, La. — Quietly and in workman-like fashion, Andy Tanner has built a cult following among New Orleans Saints fans.
It may be that they can appreciate his blue-collar style.
Or it may be that, since he was first signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Midwestern State, he has shown a penchant for being able to make every pass thrown his way a completion.
Regardless why, he’s down with fans knowing who he is these days.
“You come out here and make plays day in and day out, people are going to recognize your number,” Tanner said. “Whether or not it was my name didn’t really matter to me.”
Yet, the 6-foot, 183-pound receiver hasn’t been able to parlay any of that into an active roster spot. Tanner has spent the past two seasons on New Orleans’ practice squad and several weeks at the end of the 2010 season on it, too. In fact, since he began this whole professional football thing, he has been waived or signed 33 total times.
Thought he has a year of practice squad eligibility left, he may very well be down to his last chance in the NFL, not that he’s worrying about that after just three days in camp.
“I’m not really focused on that,” Tanner said.
The only veterans with more than two years of experience returning are Marques Colston and Lance Moore. While Joe Morgan had a breakout season in 2012, that was his first year seeing playing time. And with Devery Henderson gone after nine seasons, there’s at least one spot open.
What he is focused on is making the best impression he can in a year in which he just might have a shot at sticking around.
“If that’s the way I have to stay around, that’s the way it’ll have to be,” Tanner said. “Hopefully it’s the 53. This is one of the best teams to make it a free agent.”
Just having a chance to make a 53-man NFL roster is a long way from Rockwall High School in Texas for Tanner. It was there that Tanner began to excel as a receiver even as his coach Phil Leone used sometimes bizarre means to help his players learn to catch the ball.
“Back in high school, the coaches tried a couple of things out with catching bricks and stuff,” Tanner said.
Bricks? Come again?
“If you can catch a brick, you can catch a football,” Tanner said. “The first time we did it, he didn’t tape them up so everybody’s hands were cut up. So we talked to him. He wrapped them up with tape the next time.”
Luckily, the bricks didn’t ruin Tanner’s hands and in 2013, he has a shot at earning his way onto New Orleans’ roster.
So far in camp, he has impressed, making diving catches and beating bigger defensive backs down the field for long completions during individual and 7-on-7 drills.
He’s trying to prove that he’s more than a one-skill player.
“A lot of people probably think I’m more of a possession receiver,” Tanner said. “So sometimes you’ve got to go out there and show you’ve got the speed and you can go make plays down the field."