Karney Elated Following First Pro Contract

The former Sun Devil fullback admits that life on the bayou and learning the west coast offense can be quite the challenges. Nevertheless, he told DevilsDigest in this exclusive interview that he could not be more pleased with his progression as a rookie in the NFL.

The 5-11 258 Mike Karney, the New Orleans' second pick in the fifth round (No. 156 overall), was the first 2004 draft pick on his team to sign a contract. According to the Times-Picayune, he agreed to a three-year, $1.3 million deal last Thursday, which is expected to include an $113,000 signing bonus.

"It was short and sweet," said Karney about the negotiation process. "That's exactly how I wanted it. I wanted this to get done before camp, so I can concentrate on football. That's why you hire an agent. I'm not too big on the business side of things, and I was kinda oblivious to it."

"I was told that it probably wasn't gonna get done before the end of this week," Karney continued, "and we got this accomplished a week prior. That's nice, because not a lot of the drafted players have been signed…we knew what we wanted, and both sides agreed on it."

The former ASU standout, who played in 10 out of the 12 team's games in 2003, has had a busy off-season ever since being drafted in late April. "We had a six-week on the field practice sessions, and one mandatory mini-camp," he remarked. "It was definitely a shock to you in the begining coming from college, especially when you have to learn a difficult scheme like the west coast offense. The transition is everything that it's hyped up to be. But it was good getting in there and learning it. I started out on the second unit, and when the workouts ended I was on the first unit because Sam Gash was out with an injury. It was a lot of fun."

With the departure of another former Sun Devil, Terrelle Smith, and an aging Gash, it was crucial for the Saints to find a capable starting fullback. Trying to unseat a veteran, especially when it's done by a rookie, is a task no one envies. However, Karney commented that Gash has helped to make this transition a smooth one. "Sam is a very classy guy," explained Karney. "When I first got there, he called me out and gave me a big ‘ol hug. He told me that ‘I'm kind off on my last leg (smile)…I'm here to play, but I'm also here to help your career get going.' He has been a great influence on me, and very instrumental in my success here."

While Karney is getting more and more acclimated to his team and the pro game, it seems that nothing could have prepared him for life in Louisiana. "I tell you what, that has been a bigger shock than the NFL (laughs). It's a different culture. It's hard to explain, and you definitely have to experience it for yourself. But the area that the facilities are in is very nice. It's just as hot as Arizona, but just more humid." And what is his take on the local cuisine? "The only Cajun food I tried down here was trout, and that wasn't too bad. But I'm not too big on spicy food. I think I'll have to ease myself into that (smile)."

The fullback is currently in the Phoenix area, and will head out on Thursday for the team's training camp. Overall, Karney expresses confidence as he heads into a new stage of his career. "I feel real good about where I'm at," he remarked. "The off-season program really helped me, and being around the guys I know what to expect. I know how practices are, what the coaches expect…I'm able to take play sheets home and learn the offense. I'm gonna be in better shape and in less of a shock when camp starts. I can really show what I can do in full pads. Everybody looks good in pads and shorts (smile)."

One reason for his confidence is the feedback he's getting from his new coaches. "They're telling me to keep on doing what I'm doing, because they need to count on me. I don't know if that means they plan on starting me or just splitting time. But as of now, I know I'm second string."

During his current stay in the valley, Karney has been around many of his old teammates as they prepare themselves for the 2004 season. He told us that he has a good feeling about the prospects of the 2004 Sun Devils. "The guys look in good shape and good mental preparation for the season," he said. "The veterans are hoping that the young guys, like Zach Miller, will come in and contribute right away. Only time will tell, but I think we'll be better this year."

Karney remembers his years in Tempe with much fondness, and vowed not to lose track of his former teammates. "I'll be keeping my eye on ASU," he promised. "I heard there are a lot of friendly bets that go on the team when certain colleges play each other. I won't be part of that, but I'll check the box scores every Sunday to see how the guys are doing." Undoubtedly, the maroon and gold faithful will do the same and follow Mike Karney's career in the NFL.

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