Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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METAIRIE, La. Isa Abdul-Quddus came to New Orleans as an unknown entity as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011 and quietly earned his way into becoming a Gregg Williams favorite.

But a season later, Abdul-Quddus appears to be in the same position he was when he first arrived in the Crescent City.

'I've got to make this team again,' Abdul-Quddus said. 'I've got to learn this new defense. It's pretty much being a rookie again.'

Keep doing what he did last season and he won't have anything to worry about.

He was a special teams mainstay, finishing with 11 tackles and two forced fumbles. And when he started playing more with the regulars towards the end of the season, he played well. He had nine tackles, two passes defended and a forced fumble.

And whether he knew it or not, he already had made an impression on new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo before even playing a down in the NFL.

'Andre Curtis with us (in St. Louis) actually tried really hard to sign him up there after the draft and didn't get him,' Spagnuolo said.

Abdul-Quddus (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) went to Fordham, a small school in the northeast not known for football. He was a two-year starter there, finishing his career with 193 tackles, including 12 for a loss. He had three interceptions.

Yet, despite his past experience, he always thought had had a chance to play in the NFL. His first practice with the Saints in 2011 training camp confirmed that belief.

'When I came and practiced, I knew I could play with everybody,' Abdul-Quddus said. 'That's the first thing I thought. I was like, I can play with these people so I'm not going to be nervous. I know this is the big leagues but I've got to play big.'

While it wouldn't be safe to say Abdul-Quddus is firmly entrenched on the roster, he's leading the pack as a backup safety.

He said he learned a season ago that players don't make the game purely on athletic ability, instead earning spots by studying and being smart.

He's taking advantage of his opportunity by learning from starters Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, saying of them, 'They know that you've got to learn the defense first and then know what the offense is doing. I know they've got the defense down pat already.'

Talk to Spagnuolo and it sounds like he thinks the youngster has a bright future.

'He's got a lot of tools and played small college football and still has a learning curve,' the coordinator said. 'But all his arrows are pointing up because of the potential he's got.'

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