Saints’ Alvin Kamara has ‘good anxiety,’ and his football IQ shows it

NFL

METAIRIE, La. — Two years, two Pro Bowls, two playoff appearances, 3,146 yards from scrimmage and 32 touchdowns.

How much higher could the ceiling possibly be for New Orleans Saints runner/receiver/occasional return man Alvin Kamara?

Well, that’s exactly what he intends to find out.

“That’s where the anxiety comes from with me. It’s not like a bad anxiety, but a good anxiety. Like, I’m so anxious to see, ‘What else? Where could I line up, what else could I do, how else could I be successful?’” Kamara said of his mindset heading into his third NFL season.

“That’s like the best part of this profession for me. ‘OK, he was good last year.’ But how are you gonna prove that you are what you are? What’s the next step you’re gonna take?”

Saints coach Sean Payton has been crediting Kamara for his intelligence ever since the team stole him in the third round of the 2017 draft. Just the other day, he reiterated that Kamara has a “real, real exceptionally high football IQ.” And he said the coaches even decided to give Kamara a fidget-spinner toy to play with last fall to keep him from getting too bored or distracted.

Kamara, however, confessed that he’s not as much of a football savant as Payton might think.

“A big thing with me, I’m always going to act smarter than I am,” Kamara said with a big laugh — recalling that the two-minute offense installations his rookie year were “horrible, dreadful” and that he would lie awake the night before, dreading them.

“So sometimes I might not know, so I’m gonna act like I know until I know. … Gotta fake it until you make it sometimes,” Kamara said. “Like my rookie year, everybody said it was easy. I’m like, man, look, there was sometimes I was out there, I didn’t know what was going on.”

But Kamara insisted he is an “A-plus” now — “in that top percentage” — in part because he is constantly looking for ways to get better.

He has particularly gravitated toward quarterback Drew Brees because … well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Brees has been one of the NFL’s elite players for nearly two decades.

“I kind of took a step back and was like, ‘All right, well, if I want to be the best, then I gotta know what the best knows.’” Kamara said. “And I think Drew is probably one of, if not the, smartest people playing football right now. So I was like, ‘All right, if I can get myself to try to be as in tune to the game as Drew … I can only get better.

“Just little things from recognition of defenses, our plays, knowing as much as I can about our offense, our playbook. … Just try to be thinking on all angles. That’s what Drew does a great job of, and that’s why he’s been so successful, because it’s like he has an answer for everything. It’s like the kid you hate in class because he always knows the answer. That’s Drew — but I love him because he’s my quarterback.”

Brees, meanwhile, credited Kamara for having a great balance of knowing when to work while still being a “fun-loving guy” who enjoys doing it.

“He does have a thirst for knowledge,” Brees said. “And he picks up on things very quickly. I think that’s unique. So then combine that with exceptional athletic skills and you get the player that he is.”

Kamara said he tries to absorb as much as he can from all of his teammates off the field as well, whether it’s advice on nutrition or strength or training.

“I try to take little gems from everybody,” Kamara said. “Changing diets and looking for new things to get faster, stronger, get in better shape — I’m looking for all of it.”

And as you might have noticed on social media, Kamara likes to find new ways to push himself — including a viral workout video that showed him balancing on an exercise ball while catching colored sticks.

Kamara laughed about a video clip he saw in which someone tried to mimic the workout. Kamara immediately offered a warning that he had spent a year perfecting that technique with his trainer, Dr. Sharif Tabbah, in South Florida.

“Disclaimer. I didn’t tell nobody to do that. Sharif didn’t tell nobody to do that. It’s tough,” said Kamara, who also isn’t afraid to boast that he believes he has “pretty elite balance.”

“I’d like to think I could put my balance up against anybody in the league,” said Kamara, who said he needed to check if that is an attribute on the Madden NFL 20 video game. “When that new Madden comes out, if it’s not 99, we’ve got a problem.”

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