“Turning heads”. In Pro Football terminology, it’s a phrase used to describe a player who constantly or repeatedly continues to make a favorable impression.
It’s a phrase that also accurately depicts the undrafted player who in the recent past few weeks, has garnered plenty of attention after earning an invite to try out for the Saints at the team’s Rookie Mini-Camp last month — before he quickly turned that opportunity into a full-fledged chance to not only make the team’s Practice Squad later on this Summer, but perhaps even shock the world and land a spot on the Final 53-man Roster.
The young man being referenced is none other than former LSU track star and UDFA (undrafted free agent) wide receiver Cyril Grayson Jr., who made an immediate impression last week when he blew right past Saints veteran safety Justin Hardee and 4th-Round rookie pick Saquan Hampton for what would have been a 75-yard TD pass from 4th string QB J.T. Barrett, during a Practice at the team’s OTA’s that began two weeks ago.
Grayson, who is a native of the NOLA suburb of Kenner and who was a star at local Jefferson Parish learning institution Archbishop Rummel High School: (and just a few minutes away from the team’s suburban Metairie Training Facility), told the local media that it was a great experience being in the Saints’ locker room but quickly turned his focus to taking advantage of the opportunity he’d been given.
“My goal is just to present myself be the best player I can be,” he said. “And try to show who I am and be coachable so that I can have a chance to try to make the squad.”
Grayson is a former four-time NCAA Track & Field national champion, and he was an integral part of four different championship 4×400 relay teams during his tenure in Baton Rouge, where he was an incredible seven-time All-American and became one of the most decorated athletes in Tigers sports history.
— Cyril Grayson Jr (@thec1_) May 10, 2017
— Brandon Adam (@badam___) April 4, 2018
Even though he never played for the LSU football program or head coach Ed Orgeron, Grayson can run a 4.33-second 40-yard dash; and undoubtedly, neither Hardee or Hampton were prepared for his blistering ability to virtually FLY down the sidelines and get open during that initial week of OTA’s (Organized Team Activities, which is basically working out and practicing in the off-season but with only helmets, t-shirts, and shorts but without pads) at the team’s Metairie Training Facility last week,
Then this past Thursday during the final Practice of the 2nd Week of OTA’s, Grayson continued his impressive showing from the previous week before as he beat more than his fair share of various DBs that were lined up directly across from #83 in pass coverage on several deep-ball passing plays.
If he continues this level of performance into Training Camp and then subsequently the upcoming Pre-Season, it will be very hard for the coaching staff to not at least keep him on the Practice Squad. The young man has elite-caliber speed and if he can master route-running, he has all the potential in the world to emerge as a special player later on down the line.
Will Grayson make the team’s Final 53-Man Roster at the end of the Pre-Season?
That would seem unlikely given all of the players that Grayson will be competing with for what will likely be the tram’s 5th and final WR spot, among other players at the position such as current 5th WR Keith Kirkwood, along with young veterans Austin Carr and his fellow LSU graduate and former Tigers WR Travin Dural.
And clearly, Payton has his own thoughts about that; based on his comments to the local New Orleans media after that OTA practice during the 1st Week had ended.
(QUESTION FROM WWL NEW ORLEANS-TV SPORTS ANCHOR DOUG MOUTON): What are you seeing from Cyril Grayson Jr., the LSU wide receiver so far?
(Payton): “Yeah, he’s a guy that can run exceptionally well. He was a little bit limited relative to the experience he’s had, but he’s been in a few camps now. So, I think the first thing is speed. We will have a chance to look at him in the return game as well. But, he is someone that runs exceptionally well, but he seemed to pick things up again quickly. He’s been with a few offenses already now, and I think this is his third (offense) in this league. So, we’ll take a look at him.”
Q: I know he (Cyril Grayson) was a track guy. What would you call it? Is it elite speed, even for this level?
“Well, it would probably be a little too early to say, but he runs well, which in our league is important. He runs exceptionally well.”
Q: You need to see him in pads too though?
“(Need to see) all of these guys. But look, he is behind (in football development). Just when you look at snaps played prior to coming into this league, and yet there is a trait there that other teams have seen and we too have seen the same thing. So we will look at them.”
While Payton and the coaching staff that includes WR coach Curtis “Coach CJ” Johnson obviously will need to see much more from the diminutive, 5-foot-9 inch, 183 pound Grayson while he;s wearing full pads, it still would seem that the 25-year old appears to be a “shoo-in” candidate to earn a spot on the team’s Practice Squad.
And to be totally honest, who knows what could happen between now and Labor Day weekend (when the team makes its final Pre-Season roster cuts)? Certainly the young man who is practically “faster than lightning” and who already has been on the Seattle Seahawks Practice Squad two Summers ago (2017) and was briefly with the Chicago Bears last year before he was released in January.
“Once we saw him for a second, we knew he had a lot of speed,” Coach Johnson told New Orleans Advocate writer Nathan Brown. “All of a sudden, he’s getting behind people in rookie camp, so we decided to sign him and see ‘Okay, let’s see if he can do it to the veterans.’ ”
As the Saints begin their 3rd and final week of OTA’s in advance of the team’s annual 3-day Veteran Mini-Camp next week and then eventually the start of Saints 2019 Training Camp at the end of next month (July), Grayson will get more than one opportunity among a handful of them, to pull off what almost seems to be an impossible task.
But for the young Kenner native who grew up as a life-long Saints fan right here in the franchise’s proverbial back yard, you’d have to imagine that the elite-caliber speed which nearly makes him almost as ‘fast as lightning”, should give him a legitimate chance if nothing else. And especially if he continues “turning heads”…..