Marques Colston to be inducted into Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Saints Legend to Join Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Hall of Fame for New Orleans Athletes
Colston arrived in New Orleans as a seventh-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 2006 – the 252nd player selected.
The realistic expectation was that his time in New Orleans would be measured simply in weeks.
Instead it was measured in years, records, a Super Bowl championship – and now induction into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
Colston played his entire 10-year NFL career with the Saints and is the franchise’s all-time leader in receiving yards (9,759), yards from scrimmage (9,766), receiving touchdowns (72), total touchdowns (72) and total receptions (711).
It would be difficult to find any NFL player with a greater disparity between the lowly expectations based on his position of entry into the league and the historic productivity he showed in his career.
Initially Colston thought he might have been better off not being drafted at all. The draft selection bound the Hofstra wide receiver to New Orleans, which had finished 3-13 the previous season, was returning to a city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina and was being guided by a 42-year-old rookie head coach named Sean Payton.
“When you get drafted in the seventh round, you’re not really super excited to still be on the board,” Colston said. “You’re really not super excited to go to a 3-13 team. You know, for me, I was (four picks) from being able to find what I thought would be the best destination to go and try to make a roster as a free agent.”
In retrospect it’s difficult to believe Colston could have found a better place than the one he was assigned to.
The level of competition at Hofstra as an FCS program automatically called into question whether Colston was worthy of being drafted even as low as he was.
But the Saints saw something.
Payton recalled that the Saints scouting of Colston was limited to “somewhat grainy” film from Hofstra. When jersey numbers were indecipherable, the Saints had to look for some other uniform detail that would identify Colston.
“You do look for traits,” Payton said. “So we’re not in that room just throwing darts at names in the seventh round. He had these traits. Now the route tree was limited, the offense he played in, you didn’t get to see a lot of what we were going to see for the next (10) years that he excelled at here. In fact, we weren’t going to see that at the rookie camp either.”
Both Payton and Colston acknowledged that Colston’s performance at rookie mini-camp called into the question whether he was capable of earning a roster spot in the NFL.
Colston said he was in “survival mode.”
“There was this point with Marques where he was thinking, ‘man, is this it, am I in the NFL and do I belong?’” Payton said.
Colston belonged, all right.
He accepted the struggles he had during rookie mini-camp not as evidence that he couldn’t play in the NFL but as a guide to how hard he had to work in order to earn a place in the NFL.
When the Saints reconvened for preseason camp several weeks later, Colston was a different player.
“The light was turned on,” offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said.
Payton said that during training camp in 2006, “each day (Colston) kept making pars and birdies.”
In other words, every day he did what was expected or exceeded it.
Gradually the evaluation of Colston went from whether he was deserving of a roster spot to just how high on the depth chart he belonged.
“I remember that first week, and then that second week and at some point into that first month of training camp feeling like, ‘hey, we got our starting split end,’” Payton said.
Payton was so confident in what he had in Colston that the Saints traded away starting receiver Donte Stallworth late in the preseason.
Colston, at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and not possessing outstanding speed, was seen by some evaluators as being not fast enough to be an effective wide receiver and not strong enough to be an effective tight end.
The Saints astutely saw him as someone whose size as a wide receiver would create difficulty for defensive backs trying to guard him. He was fast-enough and his hands were outstanding. “His catch rate was phenomenal,” Payton said.
“Marques was a guy that we used to say that one on one was like one on none because you could throw it up to him and he was going to make sure that nothing bad happened and come down with the football,” Carmichael said.
In Colston’s first NFL regular-season game he caught a 12-yard pass from Drew Brees for the game’s only touchdown in New Orleans’ 19-14 victory over the Browns in Cleveland.
“If you were expecting a fun end zone dance or anything,” Payton said, “you were just going to get a flip (of the ball back to the referee). He was very humble in how he played, very respected as a teammate.”
Colston would go on to catch 71 more touchdown passes from Brees, making the pair the sixth-most prolific duo in terms of touchdown passes in NFL history.
The 2006 Saints won the NFC South and advanced to the NFL Championship Game for the first time while Colston earned all-rookie honors after catching 70 passes for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns.
“You knew exactly what you were going to get (from Colston),” Payton said.
Colston finished his career with six 1,000-yard seasons and 28 100-yard receiving games, both of which are Saints records. He caught seven passes for 83 yards in the Saints victory over Indianapolis in the Super Bowl XLIV win.
“He was just such a big piece of what we did,” said running back Reggie Bush, who was drafted 250 spots ahead of Colston by the Saints in 2006 and joined him as a 2019 inductee into the Saints Hall of Fame.
Bush recalled teammates giving Colston the nickname “Quiet Storm.”
“He just didn’t talk a whole lot,” Bush said. “He led by example and that is what you want out of your players – somebody that’s going to punch the clock every time he steps on the football field, whether it’s practice, whether it’s in the film room, in the weight room, during games.
“He said a lot on the football field with the way he played a game.”
Colston is one of six standout local sports figures who will be added to the Hall of Fame this year. Each year’s Hall of Fame class is selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, a group of current and former media members who annually recognize a variety of annual award-winners, as well as the Hall of Fame, the Corbett Awards and the Eddie Robinson Award. The group also selects the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month each month.
Overall, 26 individuals and four teams will be honored this year for their achievements at the Committee’s annual awards banquet on Saturday, July 30. Honorees are currently being announced over a month-long period, wrapping up with the Corbett Awards for the top male and female amateur athletes in the state on July 25 and 26.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl will continue announcing its annual awards tomorrow (Wednesday) with the next member of the 2022 Class of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
Jimmy Collins Special Awards: Loyola Men’s Basketball and St. Charles Catholic Athletic Department
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Inductee: July 13 (Wednesday)
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Inductee: July 14 (Thursday)
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Inductee: July 15 (Friday)
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Inductee: July 18 (Monday)
Corbett Award – Female: July 25 (Monday)
Corbett Award – Male: July 26 (Tuesday)
The Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee began in 1957 when James Collins spearheaded a group of sports journalists to form a sports awards committee to immortalize local sports history. For 13 years, the committee honored local athletes each month. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the creation of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends from the Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting Hall of Famers, the committee has continued to recognize the top amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month – the honors enter their 66th year in 2022. To be eligible, an athlete must be a native of the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metropolitan region.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 100 Hall of Fame players, 51 Hall of Fame coaches and 20 Heisman Trophy winners in its 88-year history. The 89th annual Sugar Bowl Classic is scheduled to be played on Saturday, December 31, 2022. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards, scholarships and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors thousands of student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.2 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit www.AllstateSugarBowl.org.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s 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. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…