Inspirational Father/Son Story Continues A Saints Family Tradition – (CSC) Saints News

A Saints father-son story of strength.

The New
Orleans Saints
have one of the more interesting family
traditions than perhaps any other team in the NFL. Pro Bowl running
back Mark Ingram II’s story is pretty well known. Mark’s father,
Mark Sr., was a successful NFL receiver, most notably with the
York Giants
and Miami
. Also well known is Saints All-Pro defensive end
father, Steve Jordan, who was a six time Pro
Bowl tight end with the Minnesota
from 1982-’94. Star wide receiver Michael
, whose cousin is former Pro Bowl wideout Keyshawn
, also had a big shadow in front of him as he
entered the league. Running back Trey
also has strong NFL bloodlines. Not only were his
two brothers, Tremaine and Terrell, selected in the 1st round of
this spring’s NFL
, but their father Ferrell Edmunds was a Pro Bowl
tight end for the Miami Dolphins through the late-1980’s and early
1990’s. The Saints have had a long line of players with close NFL
lineage, but especially during the Sean Payton era. Some of the
other notable former Saint players who had close family ties since
Payton became the team’s coach in 2006 have been Nick
, whose father Al Toon was an All-Pro wideout for the
York Jets
. Safety Jairus Byrd’s dad Gil Byrd was a
ball-hawking safety for the San Diego Chargers.
Wide receiver Kenny
‘ father, Ken Stills,
played defensive back for the Green
Bay Packers
. Linebacker Michael Mauti’s father, Rich
Mauti, was a wide receiver and kick returner for these same Saints
through the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. Another talented player
with NFL lineage was added to the New Orleans roster immediately
following this spring’s draft, when former University of Cincinnati
star cornerback Linden Stephens was signed as an undrafted free
agent. Linden’s father Mac Stephens was an NFL linebacker in the
early 1990’s. I had the honor of speaking with both Linden and Mac
this past Wednesday on the Bayou Blitz podcast. For the full
interview, please click here:

Mac Stephens entered the NFL
as an undrafted rookie linebacker from the University of Minnesota.
Mac overcame alot just to get on the football field at any level.
Stephens was hit by a car when he was just 11 years old, leaving
him with a permanent injury in his left foot. Despite growing up in
northern Ohio, typically Cleveland
territory, Mac grew up as a Pittsburgh
fan. He even wore number 82 during his playing
career at Firestone High School in Akron, OH as a tribute to one of
his favorite players, Steelers Hall of Fame receiver John
Stallworth. Stephens would suffer more adversity during his
collegiate stint with the Golden Gophers, suffering a major back
injury that short-circuited the end of his college career. He was
initially signed by the New
England Patriots
as an undrafted rookie, and faced long
odds as he
looked to compete for a backup job behind future Hall of Fame
linebacker Andre Tippett. Stephens worked his way up the depth
chart with the Patriots, often getting snaps with the number two
unit. Surprisingly though, he was among the final group of cuts
that same preseason. Crushed, and thinking that his NFL dream was
ended, Stephens rebounded and made the roster with the New York
Jets. After a brief stay in New York, he would sign with the
Minnesota Vikings, but back injuries continued to affect his
health. He would continue his career in the Canadian Football
League, where he would eventually get offered another contract
opportunity with the Detroit
. Unfortunately, another bank injury caused doctors
to inform Stephens that further damage to his vertebrae could cause
paralysis, causing the toughest decision any athlete faces. He
ultimately made the decision to step away from playing the game he
loved in favor of family and quality of life. He remained close to
football however, and after serving as an assistant coach for a
number of years, Stephens accepted a head coaching position with
Cleveland Heights High School in 2015. Today, he leads an up and
coming Tigers program, and has developed a number of players that
have caught the attention of Division I college programs.

On March 21, 1995, Mac became
the lucky father of twin boys, Collin and Linden Stephens. Despite
seeing the physical toll that the game of football had taken on
their dad, both boys began playing at an early age, and did so with
their father’s full support and tutelage. While Collin would forge
his own successful path separate from football, Linden decided at a
very early age to pursue a dream of being a professional football
player. He would face his own adversity, but leaned on strong
family support and his own will and perseverance to succeed.
Stephens would quickly become a defensive star at the University of
Cincinnati. His incredible athleticism, natural man to man coverage
ability, and aggressive nature of play gave him the look of an NFL
cornerback throughout his college career. Surprisingly, Linden was
not selected during the NFL draft, but the Saints quickly jumped on
the opportunity to add the Bearcats talent to their roster. Linden
wouldn’t dwell on the disappointment of not being drafted for long,
and true to his nature, he got right to work with his new team and
coaches. He looks to be a natural fit with the aggressive defensive
style that Saints coaches want to play, but Stephens is also an
athletic match with many of the receivers that he’ll line up
against. Early through the team’s OTA’s and mini-camp, he was
working most often as an outside corner, and of course working
closely with his new teammates in film study. He will also be given
looks at slot corner, sub-package safety, and will need to make a
mark on special teams once training camp commences.

NCAA Football:
Cincinnati at South Florida
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It is quite evident that
father and sons have a close relationship to this day. Linden has
sought out Mac’s advice as not only a supportive father, but also
as a player who himself knows the path of an undrafted player who
faced long odds to even make a pro roster. The odds of an undrafted
player to have an impact on an NFL team is indeed slim, and
especially so in a defensive backfield with as much young talent as
the Saints possess. New Orleans does have a solid history of such
successes, particularly since Sean Payton took over as head coach.
Given the way the entire Stephens family has defeated all other
adversity in their path, not to mention the talent that Linden
brings to the Saints defensive backfield, the odds seem to be in
his favor to continue a unique New Orleans father/son tradition.


Read the Canal Street Chronicles article:


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