Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS ― When Curtis Johnson was announced as Tulane’s latest head coach for their beleaguered football program, his local ties were much talked about.
Wednesday, he proved his local ties were more than just talk.
Tulane signed 16 players, of which nine were from the New Orleans metropolitan area and 11 of which hail from within an hour of the Green Wave’s Uptown campus.
If you don’t think he understands the significance of that, think again.
“It is very important right now,” said Johnson, who grew up in St. Rose, La. “I know that the NFL has more players per-capita from Louisiana than any other state, with Mississippi being a close second.”
He added, “If we can continue to keep the good Louisiana kids in the state and at our university we can be successful. How we do that is by putting a good product on the field and with the new stadium, this can be a good place.”
If success is dictated on keeping home-grown talent, Johnson is off to a good start.
And the class’ gem is defensive back Darion Monroe, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound athlete from East St. John who originally committed to Texas A&M but changed his mind hours before signing day.
Wednesday morning, his was the first national letter of intent Johnson received.
“The thing with (Darion) Monroe was that he is a guy that should have aspirations of going to the NFL,” Johnson said.
Monroe wasn’t the only signee to change his mind in favor of Tulane.
Cornerback Jordan Batiste originally committed to Ole Miss only to pledge his allegiance to Tulane. The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder already is enrolled.
Johnson said the two will prove to be cornerstones on a revamped team.
Throughout Johnson’s more than 16-minute news conference, he related what’s going on Uptown to what he was a part of in Metairie the past six years – the image change of the Saints from a patsy to a winner.
For that to change, the incoming freshmen will have to play immediately, including McMain running back Josh Rounds (whom Johnson compared to Saints running back Pierre Thomas), Newman offensive guard Alex Paul (whom Johnson compared to Saints interior linemen Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans) and O. Perry Walker quarterback Devin Powell (whom Johnson compared to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick).
And as of now, Johnson plans on playing all of his new recruits.
“I am not redshirting anybody,” Johnson said. “This is not a redshirt university. Everybody who is coming in, they are playing. I am telling them right now, they are playing, so just get ready.”