For those questioning the New Orleans Saints' drafting of a punter in the 5th round of this year's NFL Draft...they might have known what they were doing.
Thomas Morstead considers himself a pro at one of the rarest plays in American football, the dropkick. It seems to be something only a true rugby-lover could appreciate. “My family’s from England so I grew up kind of learning rugby,” Morstead explained during the Saints’ rookie camp earlier this week. “That’s kind of how I learned doing drop kicks at first, then I started kicking and punting” in America. Morstead may never get a chance to try a dropkick in the NFL (Doug Flutie is the only one to convert one in the past six-plus decades) but one could argue that Morstead’s ability to hit them helped his kicking career.
Morstead said a 60-yard dropkick he hit to win a bet during practice at Southern Methodist persuaded coaches to let him take over punting and place-kicking duties for the past three seasons.
His performance at SMU obviously impressed the Saints, who not only took him in the fifth round of the NFL draft, but traded up to get him. “You can see that he’s got a live leg, certainly,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “We’re excited about the prospect. When we drafted him we felt the same way. He was a guy we spent a lot of time on researching.”
He was a soccer player at his high school in Texas, and didn’t start kicking for the football team until his senior year. The Saints used three punters last season before settling on Glenn Pakulak, who averaged nearly 48 yards on 24 punts. Payton said he wanted competition for the punting job in training camp and traded up to draft the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Morstead because Saints scouts didn’t believe he would remain available beyond the fifth round. Morstead said he also would be comfortable place-kicking if New Orleans needed him to.
In addition to his strong kicking abilities, Morstead also brings other rugby-like talents to the football field. He gained 34 yards on a fake punt against Tulane last season in the Louisiana Superdome.
[My little sister played for Team USA's Women's Rugby team when she was 18. I can tell you, even when it's girls playing...that's a tough sport! I'd also like to slip in a quick congratulations, as the high school team she coaches just won the Tennessee state championship. Way to go Maryville Lady Rebels.]
Morstead smiled when asked if he saw himself as a threat to take off on fakes in the NFL. “I’m kind of crazy,” Morstead said. “I’ve told coaches before and I’ll tell them again that I’m up for anything. I kind of have no fear, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’m up for whatever they want to do.” The last part of that quote has also been used quite often in Atlanta's locker room whenever "time to hit the showers" comes around.
It's still too early to tell whether or not this guy will amount to much in the NFL. But as of right now, it looks like the Saints might have enough evidence to justify the pick.