Former LSU kicker Cole Tracy grateful for Saints tryout in pursuit of NFL dream

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METAIRIE – Sean Payton didn’t know who Cole Tracy was.

The second day of a three-day rookie mini-camp had just concluded Saturday and the New Orleans Saints coach was asked for his impressions of Tracy.

“From?” Payton said.

“LSU.”

Payton then offered a standard reply for offensive and defensive players.

“I think the one thing you see is the (adjustment to the) speed (of the NFL),” Payton said of the Tigers’ former kicker. “I think most importantly, the difficult thing for the tryout players is, ‘How did they make an impression without pads on?’ How did they jump out? And so part of it is how they’re learning in the meeting room and then how they’re handling what we’re asking them to do during the course of practice.”

Of course, the speed of the game, the absence of pads and even the learning in the classroom have nothing to do with a kicker such as Tracy, who’s job this weekend is simply to kick a football between the uprights with an occasional kickoff thrown in.

But it’s understandable that Payton wouldn’t have a lot of name recognition at a rookie mini-camp. Other than a handful of players who were on New Orleans’ practice roster last season and another five draft choices, the roster for this camp is filled with names of players who just appeared on the front office’s radar in the last couple of weeks.

Tracy was among 48 tryout players that comprised the majority of the 75 players participating. Most will be gone after this weekend.

When Payton was asked a follow-up question on Tracy that revealed the kicker’s position, Payton said. “I think it’s going to be difficult for a kicker (to make this team with Wil Lutz on the roster).”

Tracy knows there’s virtually no chance of him making this team this season.

“Wil Lutz is a great kicker,” Tracy said.

Lutz recently signed a five-year contract after a season in which he set a Saints record by making 27 consecutive field goals. The holder of the previous record (26) is Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen, who has worked with Tracy during this off-season.

Tracy, who has worked with Andersen this off-season on “the mental side of it,” has communicated with his mentor this weekend.

“They have his pictures everywhere and I texted him a couple of his that they have in the hallway,” Tracy said. “He and I sat down basically an entire weekend (recently) and just talked the mental side. We went out on the field and kicked a little bit, but he said, “I’m not going to change much. You’ve got a lot of things going for you and I don’t want to mess that up.”

Tracy didn’t mess up much in his only season at LSU in 2018, making 29-of-33 field goals while completing the most prolific kicking career in NCAA history.

He made 68 of 84 field, including 27 of 29 in his final season at Division II Assumption before joining the Tigers as a graduate transfer.

The leap Tracy made from Division II to the SEC was excellent preparation for the leap he is trying to make into the NFL.

“It’s the best league in the whole world especially at our position,” Tracy said. “There’s only 32 spots. It’s obviously very difficult.

“Some people stick right away and some people it seems like it takes forever, so it’s all about finding the right fit and making sure that it’s a good opportunity. I’m just trying to show what I’ve got.”

Tracy participated in the Green Bay Packers’ rookie mini-camp, but left without getting a contract offer. While he was there he visited historic Lambeau Field.

“I walked through it and it felt like the first time I walked through Tiger Stadium,” he said. “The history and the size of it reminded me of Tiger Stadium.”

Tracy is likely to leave New Orleans without a contract as well. But the guy who is entrenched with the Saints got his current job in part because of the impression he made on Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh even though he was unable to earn a roster spot.

Harbaugh’s recommendation to Payton helped open the door. Tracy knows he’s in the initial stages of a process that might take a while.

“This league is a lot smaller than people think,” Tracy said. “Every opportunity that you have you try to make the most of it and put your best foot forward.

“I’m a firm believe in there’s a plan, there’s a path. You don’t know how it’s going to work out. I would have never believed that I was going to wind up at LSU. You just keep practicing and grinding to get better every day.”

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Les East

Les East

CCS/Times-Picayune

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…

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