Every year I end up cheering for an undrafted player to crack into the New Orleans Saints’ roster.
For the last two seasons, I’ve cheered for the same person: wide receiver Andy Tanner.
If you looked up Tanner’s profile page on the NFL’s website, you would
the image of his expressionless countenance, bio, weight and height.
One set of numbers you would not find at first glance are his statistics as a player.
Though Tanner has been affiliated with the Saints for several years and has worn the uniform many times, he has never played in a regular season game. You’d have to search through the preseason game logs to come across any documentation of his time and service as a professional athlete.
All of Tanner’s appearances on the playing field for the Black and Gold have been in training camp, exhibition games or as a member of the practice squad.
However there is one statistic that Tanner has become somewhat famous for, that being the almost absurd number of times he has been signed, cut and re-signed by the Saints organization since 2010.
CBS Sports spotlighted his revolving door status with the team in an article with the headline “Will Andy Tanner get cut by the Saints a 17th time?”
Tanner would have probably won a spot on the team roster in 2012, when the Saints were a bit thin at his position, had he not suffered an ankle injury in a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It should be noted that the person who accidentally hurt him was undrafted free agent running back Travaris Cadet. Tanner got hurt when Cadet, for whom he was blocking, collided into the wide receiver’s leg. Cadet ended up making it on the team’s roster.
Admittedly things did not look promising for Tanner towards the close of the 2013 preseason.
Though a season-ending injury to Joseph Morgan and the release of Devery Henderson had opened up two slots in the team’s receiver corps, impressive play by 5th round selection Kenny Stills and “redshirted” 2012 draftee Nick Toon clouded the picture.
Tanner had some good plays in the first exhibition game of 2013, particularly one reception where after making the catch he then churned his legs like a running back to get some extra yards against a tackler.
Tanner caught two touchdowns in the exhibition game against the Houston Texans though failed to follow that up the next weekend on the road against the Miami Dolphins, where he dropped passes.
When Tanner survived this weekend’s mandatory roster reductions, it came at the expense of versatile free agent wide receiver Preston Parker (who arguably had a better preseason than Tanner) and special teams captain and occasional/underutilized wide receiver Courtney Roby.
Tanner is going to have to justify his place on the Saints’ sideline by making the most of what little playing time he is afforded. At the end of the day Tanner might even get cut not because of anything he did or failed to do but because the space he occupies on the roster needs to provide greater depth at another position.
But until that time comes, Andy Tanner has even if briefly transitioned from being the football equivalent of a sparring partner to a certified NFL player.
In the football classic “Rudy”, the title character overcomes personal, academic and physical obstacles not to achieve greatness but to fulfill his dream of dressing out and getting time on the field for Notre Dame.
I’m not saying that Tanner is going to be carried off the dome turf anytime soon by his teammates or that the fans in the terrace level are going to be chanting his name (they didn’t actually do that in South Bend for the real Rudy either), but there is something inspiring about finally breaking into the league after trying for several seasons and potentially catching a pass from a future Hall of Famer.
How many Who Dats would consider such a moment the finest non-family event of their lives?
Nobody has waited longer and hustled harder to make this team’s 53-man roster and Andy Tanner is one pencil-in away from etching his first mark on the blank slate that currently is his NFL regular season record.