'To be on this stage and have my family be able to come to these games, it's going to be awesome'John DeShazier New Orleans Saints
Jarvis "Juice" Landry watched the New Orleans Saints from 45 minutes away as a youngster who'd star at Lutcher High.
"We really couldn't afford to go to games, so I always watched and for me, that was cool," he said.
Then, as a college star at LSU in Baton Rouge, he watched from a bit farther away, admiring the program that had been built in New Orleans. And as he progressed into a five-time Pro Bowl receiver in the NFL over eight seasons in Miami and Cleveland in the AFC, he watched the Saints win division titles and playoff games as they contended for top honors in the NFC.
The point of Landry's view officially changed Sunday, when he signed a one-year contract to play in New Orleans.
"It's full circle," said Landry, the only player in NFL history with at least 70 receptions in each of his first seven seasons. "It's a blessing to be back. As a kid you always grew up wishing to play for the New Orleans Saints, play for the LSU Tigers, and I can say I accomplished both, being a hometown kid."
The hometown kid, who will enter the season with 688 catches for 7,598 yards and 37 touchdowns,
"I grew up 45 minutes away," he said. "I've always watched closely. I played on the AFC side of things so I hadn't had to worry about the Saints at all. And now being in the NFC, I know what they stand for, what this culture is about and I'm happy to be a part of it.
"I always kind of watched. But now, to be on this stage and have my family be able to come to these games, my friends and everybody, it's going to be awesome."
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Landry will join a receiving corps that will benefit from the return of Michael Thomas from injury, the addition of Chris Olave via the NFL Draft, and the experience gained last year by Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harty.
But, immediately, he becomes the receiver with the most NFL production on the roster.
"I think for me it's just coming in and doing what I need to do, where I'm needed," Landry said. "I've had a great conversation with D.A. (Saints Coach Dennis Allen), great conversation with (quarterback) Jameis (Winston), (offensive coordinator) Pete (Carmichael) as well, that swayed my confidence to be able to be a part of this offense and be another tool to the toolbox."
"He's been a really good player in our league," Allen said. "He's a guy that we feel like can move the chains, and feel like he's a guy from a character standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, that I think we can use."
Landry visited the Saints several weeks ago during free agency, and said he wasn't certain that he'd sign with the team initially. But that changed during, and after, the visit.
"Early on throughout the free agency process, I wasn't so sure," he said. "Obviously, there was interest from a couple of other teams as well. And then I had an opportunity to take a visit, and when I took a visit and I met everyone - I sat down with D.A., I talked to (General Manager) Mickey (Loomis), I talked to Jameis, and me and Jameis continued to have further conversations throughout the following weeks that kind of led to me actually coming back home."
Too, Landry publicly had been courted by New Orleans Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum, an Ohio native and Browns fan, though the latter may be in transition if it hasn't already been a full-blown departure.
"We met probably five years ago out in Miami," Landry said of McCollum, who was acquired by the Pelicans in a trade during the past season. "He was a big-time Browns fan. We met, we talked, at that time I had just got traded to the Browns.
"And then he got traded to New Orleans, and then this comes about. Another thing that's like, full circle - having a guy that I've met that is a professional, playing at the top of his game, having the opportunity to come to New Orleans. And now that I'm here, we've got a lot to catch up on."
He'll look to catch up off the field with McCollum, and catch up on the field with the Saints, who see Landry as the kind of player who'll fit in the offense and the locker room.
"I keep going back to DA and I keep going back to Mickey, a lot of things we talked about has been about the culture, and been about what the New Orleans Saints have stood for for a long time," Landry said. "They see me as a guy that kind of embodies the same thing that they have in their locker room already and that can come out and add a different element to it, but believes in the same things and has the same type of mentality. That was important, and that was important on both sides."