this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; With Saints' McAfee, it's always two more years August 17, 2006 By Brett Martel The Associated Press JACKSON, Miss. -- At 38 years old, still trying to play in the NFL, Fred McAfee wants everyone to rest assured of one ...
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With Saints' McAfee, It's Always Two More Years
With Saints' McAfee, it's always two more years
August 17, 2006
By Brett Martel
The Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. -- At 38 years old, still trying to play in the NFL, Fred McAfee wants everyone to rest assured of one thing: He is not taking testosterone.
"I've got to tell you -- I am Fast Freddy. I'm a freak of nature," McAfee said as he chuckled to himself after a recent practice. "I don't take vitamins. I don't take anything. I'm just blessed by God."
McAfee has been in the league now for 16 years. Whether he makes this year's New Orleans Saints roster under new coach Sean Payton remains in question, but Payton has said on a couple occasions that McAfee and fellow special teams standout Steve Gleason "are around for a reason."
Every locker room, it seems, needs someone who can lighten the mood in the often intense, highly competitive and pressure-packed environment that is the NFL. McAfee, a Philadelphia, Miss., native who came into the league with the Saints as a running back in 1991, has had a knack for making players, coaches, reporters and fans alike smile throughout his long career.
"Fred's a great guy. He's funny. Fred's one of those guys you need to have around," said rookie Reggie Bush, who now wears the No. 25 that McAfee wore last year. The veteran agreed to give up the number and take No. 32 instead after the NFL declined to allow Bush to wear No. 5, which the Heisman Trophy winner had worn in college.
McAfee has "been in the league a long time and has a lot of knowledge, yet at the same time, he's one of those guys that no matter what goes on, he's always in a great mood and makes you laugh all the time," Bush said. "He's one of those guys that is always glad to help the rookies out."
McAfee always seems to enjoy himself without crossing that line that might make a coach wonder if he takes his job as an NFL player seriously. He has kept himself in impeccable shape, and although he's never gotten out of a reserve role as a running back, he contributes heavily on special teams.
In 2002, he was selected for the pro bowl for his play on kick coverage. Last season, he had 30 special teams tackles, leading the team once again at age 37.
"If you have the best year production-wise, do you quit after that? It's tough for me to do that," McAfee said. "The last three or four years have been like one of the best runs of my NFL life. I still have enough left in my tank at least to guide some of these younger guys on the way to try to be a true professional in the NFL. I can go out there and show them, like, 'Hey, look at me. I'm a testament to what you have with good, clean living and work ethic.'"
McAfee had modest goals when he entered the NFL under then-Saints coach Jim Mora and rushed for 494 yards as a rookie out of Division II Mississippi College. He thought he might stay in the league a few years, long enough to buy himself a nice house and a couple cars.
"Then the fourth year happens and I said, 'I may play two more years.' I always give myself a little two-year window," said McAfee, whose career has also included stints with Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. "I've been saying I'm going to play two more years for 10 years at least. Then two more comes. Then you go to the Pro Bowl and you say, 'Just two more.'"
That was four years ago.
When the Saints reported for training camp in late July, with temperatures in the mid-90s, Payton surprised players with a conditioning test. They had to run three sets of shuttle sprints -- 50 yards down and back -- for a total of 600 yards.
"I blasted it. I killed it. I felt like the same thing I would have done when I was 25," McAfee recalled. "I'm 38 and I'm still blasting it."
In the team's first intrasquad scrimmage a week-and-a-half ago, he returned a kick more than 50 yards.
McAfee said his football mind is as sharp as ever. It's only a matter of when his body lets him down.
"For me, my body will say, 'Hey, Freddy, it's over with. You can't do it," McAfee said. "My body will let me know. Definitely my production will let me know."
When he does ultimately retire, McAfee wants to get away from football for a couple years, even though he has had offers to help coach. The man who has made a long career out of being the ultimate role player would also like to play a role in several communities he cares about.
"I want to take on some projects and turn some dilapidated areas into better areas -- in New Orleans, Jackson and in my home town of Philadelphia, Miss.," McAfee said. "I want to help people."
My Guardian Angel wears a hard hat.