Walker: Tulane alum Xavier Rush hoping to make his mark in Saints crowded receiving corps

Xavier Rush has options. Plenty of them, in fact.

Xavier Rush has options. Plenty of them, in fact.

He could be using that neuroscience degree he earned from Tulane. He could continue being a personal trainer.

Or, if he wants to dream really big, he could pursue an acting career. He has small roles in two upcoming films: One is a documentary on the late Chucky Mullins, the former Ole Miss football player who was paralyzed in a football game, and the other is about the late Joe Paterno, where Rush got a chance to be on set with Al Pacino.

But as Rush's dad will tell you, his son has tunnel vision right now, for one thing and one thing only.

"Xavier just wants to be on the football field, running routes and competing against DBs and catching passes," Charles Rush said. "That's his passion."

So that explains Rush's excitement when he was sitting in Buffalo Wild Wings eating and he got a telephone call from the New Orleans Saints, who said they'd like to sign him.

"I stopped eating, paid my bill and left," Rush said.

For Rush, it's another chance to reach his dream.

He had a short stint with the Philadelphia Eagles from February to August of 2016 before getting cut. He spent time earlier this year with the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers before getting released. Now he gets a shot with the Saints.

"It was sigh of relief," Rush said. "I've been waiting, working hard and staying focused. I'm just glad it's an opportunity in the city I played college ball in."

The deal with the Saints came less than two weeks after he worked out for the team. Coach Sean Payton said the Saints were impressed with the workout. Rush thought he had done well, too.

"Not getting signed right away was a bummer, but I knew I did well enough that, if they needed me, they would call," he said. "I just kept my head up and kept working out."

Rush didn't take long to show what he could do. In his first training-camp practice Saturday, he made a one-handed grab in a one-on-one drill against cornerback Ken Crawley.

It didn't feel like a first day for Rush, thanks to getting a chance to reunite with his former college coach. Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson was head coach at Tulane when Rush suited up for the Green Wave.

"Even though it's my first day, it feels like I have been here the whole training camp," Rush said. "Looking at the script, knowing the offense, knowing the formations is a sigh of relief. I'm not out here like a chicken with his head cut off. I'm actually functional."

Not that learning a playbook would've been hard for Rush. There's a reason a school like Harvard was trying to recruit Rush out of Terry (Mississippi) High School, right outside of Jackson. It was the summer before his senior year when things began to take off.

He had an internship at NASA's Stennis Space Center and took it upon himself to work out during his downtime.

"Nobody was pushing him," his dad said. "He was pushing himself."

He ran on the beach to get stronger and faster.

"He worked his butt off," said Paul Anderson, Rush's high school coach. "He went from a really good receiver to a great one. His hands were unbelievable, and I don't ever remember him dropping a ball."

Rush caught 99 passes for 1,349 yards with 12 touchdowns at Tulane. One of those TDs is the answer to a trivia question: He caught the first touchdown (by a Tulane or Saints player) in the Superdome after it was renamed the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Now he's hoping to land a spot on the Saints roster and reach the Dome end zone once more. It won't be easy on a roster loaded with the likes of Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, Ted Ginn Jr. and the emerging Tommylee Lewis.

But Rush isn't focusing on any of those guys, instead leaning on advice from one of his college coaches.

"Like a golf game, it doesn't matter what everyone else does," Rush said.

He's focusing on himself. And he's driven.

"I always wanted to be the best at anything I touched, from school to chores," he said. "If I am sweeping the floor, I want mine to be the cleanest. It's just internal."

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Article Walker: Tulane alum Xavier Rush hoping to make his mark in Saints crowded receiving corps compiled by www.theadvocate.com

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