The smiles never gets old. Whether it’s walking through a crowd of cheering fans wearing No. 41 jerseys outside of the brand new Spartan Adventure Park in Monroe or whether it’s talking to a group of young, aspiring football players at a school like West Ouachita, the smiles and positive vibes never get old to New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
“It’s definitely a lot of love,” said Kamara at Spartan Adventure Park Friday afternoon. “The whole state of Louisiana loves the Saints, and I’m just blessed that they embrace me like that. I’m not surprised by it. Louisiana shows support anywhere, not just New Orleans. We’re here in Monroe, and now I’ve got a key to the city.”
So much for the false national narrative that New Orleans is a second-rate professional sports town, or anything that’s followed about the state of Louisiana. This became the hot topic of conversation on platforms ESPN and FOX provide following the New Orleans Pelicans winning the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night to earn the right to select Duke superstar Zion Williamson. Sports talk hosts like FOX’s Colin Cowherd suggested Williamson should just return to Duke and enter the NBA draft the following year, but someone like Kamara, who came to New Orleans as a third-round draft pick in 2017, can’t help but laugh at that perception.
“The city shows a lot of love,” Kamara said. “It’s an intimate city. They make you feel special from day one. New Orleans is a special city. If he does end up in New Orleans, he has somebody he can kick it with.”
Kamara went on to say the New Orleans Saints are one of the hottest teams in professional sports, and so could the New Orleans Pelicans.
Though expectations are high, and the Saints return some of the best at their position like Kamara, there will still be fresh faces like Latavius Murray in the backfield. Kamara’s old running mate, Mark Ingram, signed an offseason deal with the Baltimore Ravens, which automatically makes Kamara the veteran in the backfield.
“We’re going to make it work,” Kamara said. “Latavius is willing to come in and learn and do what he has to make this team go. It’s hard but I talked to (Ingram) today. I’ll see him in a week or two. Nothing has changed as far as off the field goes.”
Ingram or no Ingram, the Saints will compete with a fire in their belly come the 2019 season after the way last season ended. With a controversial no-call pass interference that would have likely set the Saints up for a chip shot field goal to beat Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, the season can’t come fast enough for the boys on the bayou.
“Everybody is hungry,” Kamara said. “It’s still the offseason and a lot of time before the season starts, but we’re going into this season with a lot of fire. Guys know what we can be. We set the standard two years ago, and we just have to stick to it.”
Before Kamara headed back to down to New Orleans, he took a good look at the brand new facility Spartan Adventure Park and pondered about whether or not he’d jump around on the trampolines inside.
“All I had was Chuck E. Cheese growing up,” said Kamara, laughing. “This is nice.”