Rashid Shaheed works toward even better encore with Saints
At this time last year, Rashid Shaheed was just another number on the spring roster of the New Orleans saints.
An undrafted rookie trying to gain the attention of the staff back then, the Weber State product had confidence in his ability. He just needed a chance.
After not hearing his name called for the 2022 NFL Draft, Shaheed chose New Orleans, a team with a solid history of striking gold on undrafted free agents. The $220,000 deal was the sixth highest amount shelled out by an NFL team for an undrafted player following that draft.
Injuries including an ACL tear from his college days limited Shaheed to sideline workouts during last year’s minicamps and training camp. The wideout and return specialist was not elevated to the active roster throughout the first five weeks of the season. The Saints were 1-4 and needed a spark.
The young undrafted prospect introduced himself to a packed Caesars Superdome hoping for a big play. Shaheed delivered with a house call.
Tied at 7 early in the second quarter against the Bengals, the Saints faced a second and eight from the Cincinnati 44 yard line, Shaheed lit up the scoreboard on his first NFL touch.
“Jet sweep to the right,” Rashid recalled with a big smile. “I was thinking when they called the play that I had to get the ball and make something happen. First time touching the ball and making something happen. First time touching the ball in an NFL game. I wanted to make something special happen. It was a great play call. I got some great blocks on the play. I got outside and was able to turn the corner. That was a special moment and a special memory.”
The following week against the Arizona Cardinals, his second touch in his NFL career produced the same results. His first reception was a 53-yard bomb for a touchdown neatly placed over the shoulder by Andy Dalton on the game’s opening drive.
Nine weeks later against Philadelphia on New Year’s Day, Shaheed snared six passes for 79 yards, helping the Saints come away with a 20-10 win on the road against the eventual NFC representative in the Super Bowl a few weeks later. “It was a special day,” he recalls about the victory over the 12-3 Eagles. “They were on a hot streak. I was glad that I could make some plays to help my team.”
Despite a recorded time of 21.13 mph during an NFL contest, Shaheed is not entirely sure just how fast he really is.
“It’s funny, I’ve never run a forty,” he said. “I was rehabbing troughout the Combine last year. I ran track growing up as a 100, 200, 400 meter guy.”
Shaheed’s best times in high school were 10.7 in the 100, 21.3 in the 200 and 47.1 in the 400. Understandably, he is much faster now.
It’s not all about strictly speed when it comes to Shaheed’s ability on the football field. He is elusive and runs good routes currently.
Shaheed is participating in Saints OTAs, focusing on fine tuning a few areas of his game. “I feel like I’ve gotten bigger, faster and stronger. That is what I emphasized this offseason.”
His averages of 22.9 yards per kick return and 9.7per punt return as a rookie were impressive. Of course, that was the primary reason he was sought after by the Saints. At Weber State, he had an FCS record seven returns for scores in 53 contests and finished with 5,478 all purpose yards. He had 146 catches for 2,164 yards and 18 touchdowns and helped the Wildcats capture four consecutive Big Sky titles, earning All American honors four years in a row. His 29.1 yards per kickoff return was an eye opening stat for NFL scouts.
With a thin receiver corps opening the door on offense, the native of San Diego seized the opportunity and finished the campaign with 28 catches for 488 yards and two scores.
Like many of his teammates, Shaheed has been impressed with new Saints quartrback Derek Carr. “Great QB, but a better person,” said Shaheed. “He’s going to help this team a lot. He’s a valuable leader on the field and in the locker room. I’m excited to be able to work with him.”
Shaheed not only spent this offseason transforming his body but he wanted a fresh start in regard to his jersey number. After wearing #89 as a rookie, he traded it for a more familiar #22 in his football career to date. The number was unavailable while it was occupied by Saints veteran Mark Ingram.
“It’s always been a family thing,” he explained.” My father wore it growing up. I’ve worn it also throughout high school and college. It was a way of representing my family. My dad has been a big inspiration in my life. The number means something to me. It’s a way of honoring him.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to play football at LSU, developing a passion for the game in even greater fashion while in…