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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

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Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com

Deke: Getting in Toon-Chee with Nick!

After practice on Wednesday Bobby and I had a what I think was a nice, hip and informative conversation with Saints wide receiver Nick Toon.  We talked to Nick about everything from his former NFL Great father Al Toon, his days with the Badgers of Madison Wisconsin.  And Nick talked about how he’s doing thus far during training camp.  

Jumping around at Camp Randall

Pack it up, pack it in
Let me begin
I came to win
Battle me, that's a sin

I won't ever slack up
Punk you better back up
Try and play the role and yo the whole crew will act up

Those are two verses from the classic hip hop song “Jump Around.”   When I spoke those words with Saints wide receiver Nick Toon his eyes lit up with joy.  “I think it’s the best stadium in all of college football.  We would get fired up when they played that,” he said.  “It’s a great place to go to school and an excellent college town.”

It was a different way to conduct an interview, but it got Toon’s attention fast.  I mentioned a very popular event that takes place every home game for Toon’s beloved Badgers of Wisconsin.  You see, at the end of the third quarter when the Badgers play at home, the popular song ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain is played inside of a packed Camp Randall Stadium.

Now to those of you out there that may think that Toon is just being a homer about his playing days at Wisconsin, I’ve talked to many coaches that have coached at Camp Randall, including LSU Coach Les Miles, I was told that the environment at Camp Randall is very intense, to say the least.  

During his college career at Wisconsin, Toon hauled in 170 receptions for 2,447 yards with 18 touchdowns.  Toon also averaged 14.4 yards per reception while playing for the Badgers.  Toon is proud of his playing days in Madison.

“We became the best program in the Big Ten.  I was able to play in two Rose Bowls and we’ve been to three straight.  Wisconsin will always be a very special place to me.”  After a solid college career, Toon was picked by the Saints in the 2012 NFL Draft.

On to the NFL

Toon heard his name called in the April 2012 NFL Draft when the Saints picked him in the fourth round of the draft with the 122nd overall pick.  He got off to a decent start last year, but the rookie WR was lost for the season when he went down with an injury.

“First and foremost I’m happy to see him (Toon) healthy,” said fellow Wide Receiver Lance Moore.  “Any time a guy comes in as a rookie and he’s trying to fight to make the roster and he gets hurt and does not get a chance to play its tough.  No, he’s (Toon) healhty, out here producing and making plays.  That’s what you love to see and hopefully he continues to get better.”
Toon is off to a good start at this year’s training camp, and he  told me and Bobby that comfort would be a good term to describe how he’s feeling right now.  “I’m more comfortable out there in the offense.  I thinking I’m working on improving my game and the goal is to get better each time I’m on the field.”

Working on his game in the league

One thing that Toon should be well rehearsed in is blocking.  Although Toon became one of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten back in his college days, Toon was in a Badgers offense that ran the ball well over sixty percent of the time.
“We had to be able to block before we did anything else.  Coach Bielema’s Offense was run oriented and blocking was something that we had to do more often than not.”  Toon has shown good hands during camp and he’s trying to get better each day.

“I just have to focus on the little things.  I want to continue to get better every day and stay consistent.  I want to eliminate mental errors and try to be as close to perfect as possible.”  

Playing with great QB’s

In a short amount of time, Nick Toon has played with an NFL QB that is considered one of the best ever, and he also played one season with the NFL’s Rookie of the year in 2012 in former Wisconsin teammate and current Seattle QB Russell Wilson.  

Toon knows that not many players ever get a chance to play with one great QB.  In the last two year’s Toon has been alongside two great QB’s.  “He’s (Russell Wilson) a great quarterback.  I was very lucky to get the opporunity toplay with him and I’m very fortuante to be brought here to New Orleans and have the chance to play with one of the greatest QB’s in Drew Brees.”

 The Toon & Toon-chee names!

Toon said that his teammates over the years have called him Toon-chee as a nickname.  “It just stuck when they called me that.”  However, he said there is no meaning behind the nickname Toon-chee.  

Toon also knows that his last name is one that resonates around the NFL.  Nick’s Father, Al Toon became one of the best WR’s to play the game.  Al Toon was a first round draft pick (10th overall) by the New York Jets in the NFL Draft.  The elder Toon hauled in 517 receptions for 6,605 yards with 31 Td’s during a an eight year career, and played all eight seasons for the NY Jets.

Toon's best year as a pro came in the 1988 season when he led the league with 93 receptions.  He  was forced to end his NFL career as he had at least nine concussions in an eight year span.  Nick has traveled a similar path in football as his father was also a star at Wisconsin.  

“I embrace what type of player he was.  I know he would have played longer if he had not had all of those concussions.  But he had a great career and I’m so very lucky that he is my father.  Both of my parents have been great and I talked to my parents every day.”

In closing

There’s a thin line in work and working relationships.  Media are not supposed to become friends with those athletes, coaches and athletic personal that we cover.  But to say that at times, and I can only speak for myself, that I don’t pull for certain people, I would be lying to you.

And in life we all tend to pull for good people.  Nick Toon is good people.  And he has proven in the past he has been a good football player.  Now if Toon can become a good NFL player, then the already dangerous New Orleans Saints offense can become even more dangerous. 

08/01/2013 7:11AM
Deke: Getting in Toon-Chee with Nick!
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08/01/2013 4:15PM
Semper Fi
Very good article Deke. Very good!
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