After not being selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, former Tennessee football wide receiver Marquez Callaway was signed by the New Orleans Saints. We wrote at the time that this was the perfect place for him, as the franchise was becoming a great spot for overlooked former Vols.
Well, on the heels of a rookie campaign in which he had 21 catches for 213 yards, averaged 11 yards a return on five punt returns and averaged 23.5 yards a return on four kickoff returns, our prediction is set to be proven right. A preseason game Monday showed that Callaway is destined for a breakout season.
The No. 2 receiver for Tennessee football in 2019 had five catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-21 in their second preseason game Monday. Callaway had an amazing TD grab in double coverage, and both were impressive.
Thanks to his play, the 6’2″ 204-pound rising star is making a case to become New Orleans’ go-to receiver. Should that happen, Callaway would join Alvin Kamara, their star running back, as two former Vols who were overlooked coming out of college.
Remember, Kamara fell to the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. All he has done since then, though, is win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and make a Pro Bowl all four seasons he has played in the pros.
Kamara isn’t the only overlooked former Tennessee football player to find a home in New Orleans either. Two years after him, defensive lineman Shy Tuttle signed with them as an undrafted free agent. Well, he played in all 16 games last year and is now a regular rotational lineman for them.
Callaway is now following in their footsteps. It’s obvious but important to point out that his play came without Drew Brees as well. Thanks to him, Jameis Winston appeared to cement himself as the starting quarterback to succeed Brees in Sean Payton’s system. He completed 9-of-10 passes for 123 yards and those two scores to Callaway.
We should also note that Callaway was solid for New Orleans in their first preseason game. He had three catches for 61 yards as they lost 17-14 to the Baltimore Ravens then, so his early play makes it pretty obvious he’s about to become another weapon for New Orleans.
Speaking of that first preseason game, the next former Vol after Callaway to be overlooked and thrive in New Orleans may already be on the roster. Defensive back Bryce Thompson signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent after the 2021 NFL Draft, and he had an interception against Baltimore, his first official preseason outing.
Simply put, New Orleans is becoming the place for Tennessee football players to turn into superstars. The Vols may not make the Sugar Bowl any time soon, but as individuals, this is how they can earn their way to the Big Easy on the field.
Look for Callaway to burst onto the scene as another offensive weapon this year. Don’t be surprised when Thompson does it next year. Although he’s banged up, we should note that Ethan Wolf is on the team as well. At that point, New Orleans could be thriving thanks to its heavy reliance on former Tennessee football players.