How the Saints rallied around an emotional draft for top picks – ESPN – New Orleans Saints Blog

METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and his family sat on their couch in Maryland on the first night of the NFL Draft last month.

Almost everyone in the room was wearing a pink sweatshirt with the words “Ella Strong” on it.

Across the country in California, former Notre Dame defensive end Isaiah Foskey and his childhood friend Gunnar Rask waited for the first round with Foskey’s friends and family, some of whom had traveled from New York in anticipation of his draft selection.

It would become an emotional 24 hours for both players.

Bresee came off the board first when the Saints took him with the 29th pick in the first round. But as Foskey waited to hear his name, Bresee was doing a series of media interviews, explaining the significance of the sweatshirts, which were worn to honor his late sister, Ella, who died of brain cancer in September. last at the age of 15.

“I’ve been through a lot in the last year,” he said on draft night. “Illnesses, the loss of my little sister, lots of things that make you grow up very quickly. Just a lot of things that make you mature pretty fast, a lot of young people don’t grow through them and shouldn’t have to. It’s definitely something that made me more mature.

Her little sister had been one of her biggest supporters and one of her biggest inspirations behind her NFL dream, and over the past year, “Ella Strong” had become a rallying cry for the Bresee family, resonating in the world of college football.

Waves of support came not only from Clemson, where Bresee played, but also from other schools.

“Just all the support we’ve had in football in general, all the college teams that have reached out during this time, it’s just huge support from everyone,” Bresee said. “[My family] is super grateful.

Foskey, on the other hand, had hoped for a shot at being a Day 1 draftee, and he had particularly wanted to end up in New Orleans with a team he already felt comfortable with after a few positive visits. before the draft.

But when that didn’t happen, Foskey and Rask said goodbye. Rask vowed to return for Day 2 despite the declining health of his grandfather, who used to watch their football games when the pair played together at De La Salle High School in California, but when the second round began , Rask was not there. His grandfather, who wanted to hold on until he saw Foskey get drafted, was getting worse. Rask was by her side in the hospital and told Foskey not to come.

As Foskey received a call from the Saints saying they were going to select him with the 40th pick, cameras spotted the New Orleans draft room which featured a large sign that read “Ella Strong.”

Bresee had been made aware of the Saints’ plan to put up the sign, but seeing it showed him that his sister’s memory would live on through the next phase of her career. The moment was supposed to be Foskey’s, but it was a spotlight that both men will relish for the rest of their lives.

“They sent me a picture that they were going to put up for draft night,” Bresee said. “It was really, really, just cool. My family got to see it and all my neighbors, everybody. It was just a really cool time.

The drawing room plans probably barely entered Foskey’s mind. Foskey was all busy for the first part of the night, but when the time was over, he almost immediately left his own draft party and went to the hospital to be with Rask and his grandfather in his last hours.

“Looking at the screens of all the people picked before me, I thought I was drafted, at that point,” Foskey recalled at the Saints’ rookie minicamp last week. “But just when I got drafted and that celebration, my mind went straight to Gunnar and his grandfather. And that’s when I drove straight there.

“I just felt like it was the right thing to do. I didn’t expect anyone to really know.

While Bresee and Foskey’s stories showed their character, it probably didn’t surprise any of the Saints staffers who scouted them. Maturity and leadership were two characteristics the Saints looked for.

Foskey, who was eager to meet and work alongside Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, has already impressed him after former NFL player Justin Tuck, who also went to Notre Dame, connected them via SMS.

“Those Notre Dame guys, we’ve had some good ones,” Jordan said. “Manti Te’o was a great guy. So I know he’s going to be a phenomenal presence in the locker room right next to that.

While the Saints may have had the luxury of slowly moving the unit forward in the past, that’s not the case this season after a significant turnover of players and coaches in the room. Both rookies will likely be called upon to play a big role this year, and they seem eager to be a part of “all the new stuff that comes with it.”

“I can’t wait for everyone to be in the locker room, just because I’m a locker room type of guy. I try to get into the brotherhood, the whole locker room,” Foskey said. feel like that’s what the Saints are trying to embody, and that’s what I wanted to be a part of.”


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