Centers of attention
Matt Armstrong (Courtesy/Doug Witte)
UPDATE: The New Orleans Saints sign 12-year veteran center Jonathan Goodwin to a one-year deal on June 3. Goodwin started for the Saints from 2008-2010 and the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2013.
A pair of former Grand Valley State University football players have a chance to be teammates once again – on one of the most explosive offenses in the National Football League.
The Saints recently began OTAs with just two centers listed on their roster: former GVSU standouts Tim Lelito and Matt Armstrong. The team added Goodwin, who figures to compete with Lelito for the starting job, on June 3.
Lelito, listed as a center/guard, appeared in 16 games and made a pair of starts at right guard for New Orleans last season. He has a chance to be making line calls for Drew Brees’ offense this fall after former starter Brian de la Puente signed with the Chicago Bears in April.
Armstrong signed with the Saints on May 10 following the 2014 NFL Draft, and is doing his best to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. The 2013 Rimington Award winner said he’s been seeking counsel from his former Laker line mate so far in OTAs.
“I’m with him every day in meetings,” Armstrong said. “He’s been great. It’s night and day since I last played with him at Grand Valley – he’s progressed so much. I talk to him all the time, and if I don’t know something, he’s the first person I’m asking. He’s been real helpful with technique and learning plays.
“They throw a lot at you – a lot of plays in a short amount of time – so you’ve got to think fast, then go home and study. In this high-powered offense, you’ve got to go home and go over everything again to make sure you perform at a high level.
“I’ve just got to make sure I keep progressing and getting better. Everyone’s bigger, faster and stronger and I can’t get away with the same stuff I was able to in DII. Your technique has to be more crisp and you’ve got to think faster.”
Armstrong is one of seven former GVSU players in the NFL along with Lelito, Brandon Carr (Dallas), Dan Skuta (San Francisco), Cameron Bradfield (Jacksonville), Charles Johnson (Cleveland) and Nick McDonald (San Diego).
The Saints organization certainly seems to have an interest in former Lakers.
Wide receiver Brandan Green, who had 53 receptions for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns for GVSU last season, was invited to the Saints' rookie camp from May 15-17. He may not have gotten a call back from the team, but he did receive high praise from the coaching staff while he was there.
“Special teams, that was kind of my angle to go at as far as making the team,” Green said. “I did everything I could do. Every day I was there I got a compliment.
“We were catching footballs on punts with our (off) hands and I ended up catching the ball. The special teams coach told me he liked the way I track the ball. He looked at me and said, ‘You guys at Grand Valley are just some athletes.’
“The following day, they pulled a few clips from the previous practice to show how it needed to be done. I was on three of of the clips, basically for my effort.”
Green later attended a workout in North Carolina for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, and was invited to the team’s rookie camp on Sunday.
He is flying to Montreal as soon as possible and, if he doesn’t hear from another NFL team, will hope to prove himself at the CFL level.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to continue to play football,” he said. “I can’t thank God enough.”