Rookie linebacker Rufus Johnson hopes his journey from Division II to the NFL in New Orleans is boosting his ailing father's morale.
Indeed, while many Saints were preparing to enjoy a weekend off following the final practice on minicamp on Thursday, Johnson planned a short flight home to Dallas and some quality time in the hospital room of his father, Rufus Sr.
''When I do get to talk to my dad, I got a feeling I keep my father strong,'' said Johnson, who declined to go into detail about his father's illness beyond saying it related to diabetes. ''I'm the reason my father is still here.''
The 6-foot-5, 272-pound Johnson, drafted in the sixth round out of Tarleton State, is only the latest example of the Saints hoping to mine small college programs for big-league talent. Since coach Sean Payton took over in 2006, they've found one of the NFL's best offensive guards, Jahri Evans, at Division II Bloomsburg, and one of the franchis...