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Sunday, December 12, 2010
Colston's excellence deserves attention

By Pat Yasinskas

Marques Colston
Saints receiver Marques Colston keeps a low profile while putting up big numbers.
NEW ORLEANS -- When he finally gets to a Pro Bowl -- and that day is coming soon -- Marques Colston may arrive in Hawaii (or wherever the game is held) in the purest, most powerful way any wide receiver ever has.

“There’s no 'throw me the ball' from Marques,’’ New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said Sunday after throwing two touchdown passes to Colston in a 31-13 victory against the St. Louis Rams.

That trait alone might set Colston apart from any wide receiver who has played the game. Talk to any quarterback who has played in the NFL, except for Brees, and they’ll tell you they never met a wide receiver who didn’t insist he was open on every play.

“The only time Marques talks is if he gets mad at himself, or coach [Sean Payton] asks him to break down the huddle,’’ defensive back Malcolm Jenkins said.

Yes, America, there really is one big-time wide receiver who genuinely lets his play do the talking. That is Colston, a fifth-year pro out of Hofstra, who moved within five yards of 5,000 receiving yards for his career Sunday.

Teammates, coaches and opponents will tell you Colston belongs in the Pro Bowl. They’ll also tell you Colston is one of the league’s top wide receivers. But Colston is not the kind of guy who is going to tell you how good he is.

In fact, when he walked into the interview room Sunday, Colston started ripping apart his game.

“From the second quarter on, I didn’t play well,’’ Colston said.

While it’s true both of Colston’s touchdowns came in the first quarter and he failed to come up with a couple of catchable balls later in the game, he did finish with five catches for 46 yards and the Saints had complete control of the game from the moment Colston pulled in his second touchdown.

Heck, even when the Saints were getting ready to play the Cincinnati Bengals in their previous game, the New Orleans media tried for two days to get Colston to talk. He avoided the locker room totally the first day. On the second day, he ran into a couple of reporters as he walked to the training room.

Very politely, he told them something like, “I know where you’re going and I respect that. But I’d rather stay out of that fray."

The fray Colston was referring to was the obvious story of the week -- Cincinnati’s attention-grabbing wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens going up against a player who is the anti-Ochocinco and the anti-Owens.

As a general rule, the better a receiver is, the more he talks. Think Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall, Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Irvin and Mark Duper as just a few examples. Players such as Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison were generally viewed as guys who didn’t seek out attention, but those who played with them and media members who covered them said each at least had a touch of the prima donna personality so common among receivers.

“Unfortunately, people want to listen to them,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in a conference call with the New Orleans media a couple of weeks ago.

The question specifically was about Ochocinco and Owens, but Lewis could have been talking about virtually any receiver.

“They don’t have much substance to say very often, particularly when they leave here,’’ Lewis said. “They do have an audience for some reason.”

Wide receivers love audiences. When Smith and Johnson spent the 2007 season together with the Carolina Panthers, there was one certainty when the locker room doors opened after a game or practice -- Smith and Johnson would be sitting at their lockers waiting to talk to the media. On at least one occasion one of them privately chided a reporter for using more quotes from the other receiver.

There’s even a story about a very well-known wide receiver who got an idea when Ochocinco changed his last name from Johnson. This particular receiver went to the team’s public relations department and website workers and told them he wanted to be referred to by his nickname in team record books, media guides and on the team website. Only a very stern talk -- in other words, “You are not going to do that’’ -- from a powerful owner and a once-powerful coach prevented that fiasco.

There’s absolutely none of that with Colston. He usually avoids the locker room when the media is in there during the week. If he talks at all, he doesn’t say much.

If you watched Colston’s body language as he spoke in front of the cameras and recorders Sunday, you would have thought he was drawing triple coverage in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. He wasn’t seeking attention. He was running from it, even squirming.

“It’s just me,’’ Colston said. “I’m comfortable being me.’’

It’s not just that way with the media. Colston is the same way with coaches and teammates.

“Marques doesn’t talk around us,’’ Jenkins said. “He’s a quiet guy. He just goes out and makes plays.’’

With Colston as the clear-cut No. 1 receiver, the rest of the receiver corps follows his lead. Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson might form the quietest group of receivers in the history of the NFL.

“We are a tight-knit group,’’ Colston said. “We all had humble beginnings.’’

Other than Meachem, none of those receivers were high draft picks. Colston was a seventh-round choice, but he came into the league and instantly became New Orleans’ best receiver. It hasn’t changed.

With the Saints at 10-3 and trying to defend last season’s Super Bowl title, Colston has been consistent. At the moment, he has 76 catches for 921 yards and seven touchdowns, including five touchdowns in the past four games.

Project Colston’s numbers for three more regular-season games and you’ve got Pro Bowl numbers. Colston would be the last guy to lobby for a Pro Bowl berth, so I’ll do it, and I’ll turn to Brees for some more weighty words.

“Usually, the guys who make the most noise get the most attention,’’ Brees said. "That might not be fair, but that's kind of just the way it is.''

But it’s time for that to change. It’s time to put Colston into the Pro Bowl because he is the one wide receiver who belongs there for all the right reasons.