McAllister - a Rebel and a Saint - part two

JACKSON - Deuce McAllister is entering his seventh season of football in the NFL. The Saints are the only professional team he has played for after New Orleans selected him in the first round of the 2001 draft as the 23rd overall pick.

One of the "faces" of Saints football this century, Deuce missed the final 11 games of the 2005 season with a serious knee injury, a 3-13 year for New Orleans when the team was displaced following the storm and head coach Jim Haslett was fired after the season.

But the former Ole Miss Rebel player bounced back with a banner season in 2006, becoming the first running back in club history to record a fourth 1,000-yard season, rushing for 1,057 yards on 244 carries, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. He scored 11 touchdowns, rushing for 10 and scooping up a fumble and running into the end zone for another.

Deuce and the Saints are currently in training camp in Jackson at Millsaps College, where they have trained for two consecutive years under head coach Sean Payton. This Sunday night they will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL's Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

This weekend Ole Miss has its second inductee ever into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in former Rebel lineman Gene Hickerson, who had a long and productive professional career with the Cleveland Browns. Bruiser Kinard is the only other Rebel inducted to date.

Deuce, now 28 years old, met with the Ole Miss Spirit and other media members after a training camp workout this week, and here's what he had to say.

Q: Are you looking forward to the trip and the game at the Hall of Fame this weekend?

Deuce: Yes. This will be my first time to go there. I'm looking forward to checking it out. Obviously it's every player's dream to make it that far. So it will be a good opportunity to go up there and see what it's like.

Q: Next to a title, is this the ultimate for a player, to make it into the Hall of Fame?

Deuce: Yeah, you obviously want to win as many titles as possible and then be able to have your name called out and be inducted into that.

Q: You've been in the league seven years now. Talk about what the rookies and newcomers will be going through as the game approaches this weekend.

Deuce: They'll be nervous just because of the opportunity to play. Some of them will get extended time. One thing about it, it's still their first NFL game. I remember mine. I had like three muffed punts and two kickoffs that were dropped. It moves faster than you think. You know what's going on, but at the same time you just have to relax and go out there and not make the big picture out of it to get so nervous.

Q: Last season with your offensive line patched up and some guys moving around during the season, were you worried about having to make your own holes for yourself?

Deuce: Nah, I had enough troubles myself worrying about whether my knee was going to be 100 percent. We were all kind of a work in progress and tried to work together as best as possible. The more time they spent together the better they got. We feel pretty comfortable now working with them. I know some of their tendencies. They know my tendencies. We know what we have to do to get the job done.

Q: Do you think Reggie Bush will be even better in his second year now that he has some experience?

Deuce: Each year you want to improve on the numbers you had the last season. As a player and an individual, you want to do that. Going into year two, he knows more what to expect. Defenses will give him different looks. He can make those adjustments. Last year he probably didn't know what to expect going into different games.

Q: When was your first year to feel like you were finally a veteran?

Deuce: You learn more each year, but probably my third year overall, which was my second year as a starter, I felt pretty comfortable in the offense. There weren't a lot of things you felt uncomfortable with by then. When you sit back and know you've had a chance to play every team, then you get a true feel for it and what things are really like.

Q: How has camp been for you?

Deuce: It's coming along good. Camp hasn't been too bad. It's been hot for us. Just getting back adjusted and getting used to playing again. But it's been pretty good.

Q: Talk about the excitement level of the team and all the surrounds it going into this season as opposed to last year or really any other year you've been with the Saints.

Deuce: We've got a lot of expectations. Definitely different from what we've been in the past. We (the team) have always had expectations, but we never really knew if we could live up to them. Of course, now we have to go out there and do something with those expectations and knowing the talent that we have, can we put it all together.

Q: Talk about the productivity of the offense last year and how it has improved?

Deuce: We have a lot of starters returning. We've got 10 of 11 starters back, guys that you have confidence in and you know what they can do. The question is now can we put it all together again. One of the ley things we have to avoid is major injuries at key positions. I feel pretty confident that we'll be fine in every other aspect.

Q: What made the team so special last year when it was able to overcome the odds and win big?

Deuce: Just staying together and being able to pull out some of those close games. Confidence. We got some confidence earlyon by winning some close games. Once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen.

Q: You've said being in Jackson and training here in Mississippi is special for you.

Deuce: It's definitely special. The fans and the kids here can come out and see a professional team. They can see how we work on a daily basis. That's probably the most special part about it for me. Of course, for me it's still work. So I have to go out there and do my job and prepare for a season.

Q: You still stay in touch with Ole Miss people and make it to campus at times, don't you?

Deuce: Yeah, I still try to get up there as much as possible. I'm trying to get up there for the first (home) game since we play on Thursday night that week (at Indianapolis to open the NFL regular season). It's always good to get back into town and see some familiar faces. It definitely is good and I try to do so often.

Q: Now seven seasons into your NFL career, how long can you go?

Deuce: I've still got a lot of years left. Until my body breaks down, I'm going to do this. I feel pretty good and feel pretty refreshed. Just looking forward to another season.


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