METAIRIE, La. (WDAM) - Next to the quarterback, arguably one of the most important positions on a football field is the center.
Especially in an offense led by future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, getting the ball in his hands is a responsibility Cameron Tom doesn’t take lightly as he continues to battle for the Saints starting job.
“[I] focus mainly on center and the guard spots as well,” said Tom, now in his third year with New Orleans after being signed as undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss in 2017. "It’s one thing coach [Sean] Payton values is being able to play multiple positions and coming out here and just getting reps at each one is a good thing.”
“Well, he’s stronger right now [than his rookie season]," Payton said. "I think he’s carrying his weight better. He’s in the mix inside. He’s someone who’s obviously playing at guard but he’s someone’s that’s taken center snaps so he’s competing. I’ve been encouraged, he’s smart.”
Tom’s knowledge of the game is what’s kept him under Payton’s watch in New Orleans for three years.
It took the USM grad some time to adjust physically to the NFL, but Tom was ahead of the game mentally thanks to his time with former Golden Eagle coach Todd Monken – now the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.
“Before [Monken] went to USM he was with an NFL team before so I feel like he knew what he was doing as far as practices and installs and stuff like that," Tom said. "I think it prepared me for the practices but the offense is a little different in the NFL than what we ran in college.”
Quite different. Brees compared last season’s offense to “calculus.” Well, Tom graduated with a degree in finance.
Few quarterbacks have a more impressive portfolio than Brees. Tom learns a new complexity of the Saints offense with every snap he delivers to the 12-time Pro Bowler.
“Drew, this is his offense for like the past 14-15 years so picking up some stuff from him," Tom said. "He always has these little nuances that he has. Just continuing to work with him and keep getting better with communicating with him.”
Tom feels as if he has a firm grasp of the offense, being able to shadow former Saints center Max Unger the last two years. The Baton Rouge native opened the first two days of training camp with the ones, taking snaps from Brees. Texas A&M rookie Erik McCoy took the majority of first-team snaps at center on Saturday while Tom slid over to right guard.
The two-time first-team All-Conference USA center said he’s eager to contribute in any capacity for New Orleans this coming season.