NEW ORLEANS, LA (WDAM) - A Baton Rouge native, Cameron Tom grew up a Saints fan. The Southern Miss alum dreamt about one day playing for New Orleans.
After a storied four-year career at USM, Tom is realizing that dream as a Saints rookie.
"At first, when I first got here it was really surreal," Tom said. "Seeing a lot of the guys I grew up watching. I was a freshman in high school when they won Super Bowl . It's definitely a really cool experience seeing all the guys I watched when I was growing up."
Rookie center Tom has traded his Southern Miss black and gold for the New Orleans Saints black and gold. While the color scheme is similar, Tom is learning that the level of play in the NFL is quite different.
"The speed of the game," Tom said. "You have to do things a little differently as far as picking up the pace. Guys are a lot stronger so getting used to that."
"I think for a rookie he's doing pretty good especially honing in on the playbook," said fifth-year Saints guard Senio Kelemete. "I think he knows the playbook pretty well for a rookie. I think now it's just all technique for him. But he's definitely trending up."
A two-time Conference USA first-team all-american, Tom held a team-best 49-game start streak while at USM.
What he might lack in size for an offensive lineman - 6-foot-4, 287 pounds - Tom makes up for with his football IQ. The rookie center is quickly learning the Sean Payton system that brought a Super Bowl to New Orleans in 2009.
"A lot of times, the quarterback will handle who we're going to block so it's really just knowing the double teams and who you're working with," Tom said. "It's a little different and a little more complicated but in some ways it's similar [to college football]."
From Catholic High of Baton Rouge to Southern Miss, Tom's football journey now continues as a New Orleans Saint.
The undrafted free agent knows he still has a lot of work ahead of him to make the Saints final 53-man roster.
"It's definitely a grind but just every day you have to get better in some way," Tom said. "Get better in any areas is a good thing. I want to put out a really good first impression, try to impress the coaches and also improve every day. So, that's another motivation. Just keep improving every day and let the chips fall where they may."