THIBODAUX â€“ An unrelenting rain pelted John L. Guidry Stadium on Friday. It simply didnâ€™t matter to Randall â€œBlueâ€ Gay, whose smile never wavered, even for an instant. The game of football was calling, and he seemed ecstatic to have a chance to answer.
Gay, the Super Bowl and college football national champion defensive back, was one of several National Football League players who descended onto the campus of Nicholls State University last weekend to serve as an instructor in the fourth annual Pro Football Combine Camp.
Despite the miserable weather, Gay was in high spirits. And why not? After suffering a concussion early in the 2010 season which led to his eventual placement on injured reserve by the New Orleans Saints, the Brusly native and fan-favorite has a clean bill of health once again.
Now, with the NFL lockout apparently in its final days, Gay was genuinely joyful to be back on the field, teaching local high school athletes with big dreams what itâ€™s going to take to reach the level he has and, just as importantly, how to do it the right way.
â€œIâ€™m not superhuman. Look at me,â€ said Gay, who is officially listed at 5â€™11â€ and 190 pounds. â€œIâ€™m just a normal looking guy. I think itâ€™s important for these kids to understand that itâ€™s the work youâ€™re willing to put in that matters most. I love being able to be there for them and deliver that message.â€
Gay, along with fellow LSU alums like Jarvis Green, Howard Green, Richard Dickson, Rudy Niswanger, Clarence LeBlanc and Travis Daniels, took part in the camp, which was hosted by hosted by Orthopedic Sports Specialists of Louisiana, Elias Sports Management and Velocity Sports Performance. The event, which also featured instruction from area high school coaches, drew a record 220 participants to take part in high-level workouts and combine-related drills to prepare them for the next level.
Despite the months-old lockout, Gay insists that he has continued a vigorous workout regimen on his own.
â€œI didnâ€™t think I had a choice,â€ Gay said. â€œIf they told us the lockout was going to end in September or next year, mentally, you could let yourself slack off. But, we simply didnâ€™t know, and the last thing I was going to let myself do was to walk into training camp and be the only one who wasnâ€™t ready to go. I wasnâ€™t going to be â€˜that guy.â€™ In a lot of ways, though, the lockout helped me. That extra time allowed me to heal.â€
When Gay was still feeling recurring symptoms from a week-two concussion all the way through late October, some speculated that the seven-year veteranâ€™s career was in jeopardy.
Gay, 29, is out to not only disprove that, but to earn a long-term stay with the Saints.
â€œIâ€™m ready to go. This is the last year of my contract. I need to go show them why they should keep me. Iâ€™m healthy and I plan on being a big part of the Saintsâ€™ success this year. The truth is that I donâ€™t want to play anywhere else.â€
On Friday, as he helped coach the defensive backs in two-on-two drills, one of his pupils bit early on a pass route, slipped on the damp turf and got burned.
â€œThat was terrible coverage, man,â€ Gay shouted, as his voice grew higher. â€œGet over here. Let me show you something.â€
As Gay turned around, with his armed draped on the young manâ€™s shoulder, one expected to see the scowl of a battle-tested football veteran. Amazingly, though, even as Gay chided the novice for his mistake, he was still smiling. Heâ€™s hoping he can make Saints fans do the same this season.
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