Trautman wants to earn starting job in second season with Saints

Former Dayton tight end speaks to Flyers after scrimmage

Rick Chamberlin waited until the end of his postgame speech to the Dayton Flyers football team to introduce Adam Trautman on Saturday. Trautman didn’t need much of an introduction — he played with many of the Flyers less than two years ago and everyone followed his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints closely — but got a good one nonetheless from his former coach.

“We’ve got an old dog here with us today,” Chamberlin said as the players started woofing. “Come here, old dog. It’s only been a couple years, but he’s an old dog.”

Trautman walked from behind the group of players to speak to them in the south end zone at Welcome Stadium. Chamberlin put his arm around Trautman and asked him, “What was it like to be a Flyer?”

“You come to a program with a lot of great tradition,” Trautman said, “and to be honest, you get put through the ringer a little bit.”

Trautman’s speech centered on how tough it was growing into the player he became and how rewarding it was at the same time. The connections he made in five years at the university remain strong. That’s why he came back to watch Dayton scrimmage Ashland. The players appreciated it.

“I was his running back (in 2019),” junior Jake Chisholm said. “Now he’s got Alvin Kamara running behind him. It’s pretty cool to have that guy come back. He was such a great guy when he was here, such a great leader, a great person on and off the field. Him coming back, it’s just like he never left. Everything just picked back up. It’s really awesome to have a guy like that around here and affiliated with this program.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Trautman made history during his days at Dayton, finishing his college career as the program’s all-time leading receiver (178 catches, 2,295 yards, 31 touchdowns) and becoming the first tight end to win the Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Year award.

Trautman made more history when the Saints drafted him with the 41st pick of the third round and the 105th overall pick in 2020. He was the first Dayton player drafted since 1977 and the highest-drafted player from the PFL.

In his rookie season, Trautman laid the foundation for a promising NFL career. He caught 15 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown. He received the best run-blocking grade by a tight end from Pro Football Focus and saw his playing time increase as the season progressed. He played 60 percent or more of the snaps in three of the last six games.

“The more and more snaps he gets, I think the more and more we’ll see the development,” Saints coach Sean Payton said in November. “Sometimes the challenge is just getting them the number of snaps you want to. We have got to keep finding ways for him in the passing game. He’s someone that has a real good feel in that area. And I think he’s learning the leverage elements of blocking different than in college and certainly with the athletes he’s blocking.”

Although the Saints signed former Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett, who caught 14 passes with the Denver Broncos last season, Trautman is expected to move to No. 1 on the depth chart this season because the Saints lost veteran tight end Jared Cook to free agency and released another tight end, Josh Hill. He looks forward to the bigger role.

“It feels great,” Trautman said Saturday, “and it makes you want to work that much harder. Obviously, you’ve got to prove you can be that guy, and that’s what I plan on doing throughout this offseason and fall camp. That’s what I’m working toward.”

A new era begins in New Orleans in Trautman’s second season because quarterback Drew Brees retired after the 2020 season, his 15th with the organization. Two of last season’s backups to Brees, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston, are competing for the starting job.

“(Brees) was awesome,” Trautman said. “He was so great with everybody. A Hall of Fame career. He was great to me personally. But we have all the confidence in the world in Jameis and Taysom. Jameis played well in Tampa before he even got to New Orleans, and he’s super talented, and putting him with coach (Sean) Payton is a good combination. And Taysom, that dude won us three games last year. It was a seamless transition. I know it’s going to be a full-on quarterback competition. They know what’s at stake. The only thing you can hope for as a teammate is you get the best guy who can put you in a position to win.”

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