The temperatures had dropped into the 30s, and the wind that day made it feel even worse. But you wouldn't know it if you looked out at the middle of the field at Tad Gormley Stadium, where C.J. Gardner-Johnson smiled, danced to music and gave out instructions to a large group of high school football players hoping to make his 7-on-7 football team at an open tryout in February.
The Saints safety seemed unbothered by the cold weather that had people wrapped in blankets on the sidelines. Why should he be? He was having a perfect day.
Gardner-Johnson is one of the NFL's more exciting young safeties, but he is also one of the more misunderstood people in the league. But there was no confusion on that day. The setting was revealing. You can't fake what Gardner-Johnson is doing with his Team Ceedy football team. He wants to make a difference for these kids. Not just with a one-week camp or something, but through a true investment of time and commitment.
"I don't want to win no awards. I want to win the award from the youth," Gardner-Johnson said. "This program is going to help kids get into school. A lot of people don't know that. My kids (coming into this program) didn't have offers. My kids are coming from the ground up. For us to build a foundation and build something bigger."
Gardner-Johnson is passionate about what he's doing, and it shows. When he was growing up, he played youth football and had people in his corner who helped him get to where he needed to be. Now, he's trying to do that same thing for people in New Orleans. He decided to focus his efforts here because he believes the youth in this city would benefit more from his help than elsewhere.
While Team Ceedy is having success on the field, the true impact is much more significant. The team's four seniors have received college offers. The platform is already working and making an impact on lives that will carry on beyond football.
"Where I'm from, you got that big brother, and it's just about how you go get that guidance," Gardner-Johnson said. "Here, a lot of guys don't have that simply because of financial struggles or the situation living-wise. I'm not taking it away from them. I'm going to bring it to them and let them have every opportunity to make and expose every door, open every door and never have to look back."
Here's everything else you need to know as the Saints prepare for the draft and the rest of the offseason in this edition of The Rundown: