TEMPE, Ariz. — Following last Thursday’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals linebacker Lamar Louis said if he was to make the team’s 53-man roster, it would be “mission complete.”
Well, complete the mission is.
The Cardinals made their final cuts on Saturday, and Louis’ name was not among them. The undrafted rookie free agent out of LSU beat the odds and made the team.
“It feels really good,” he said Tuesday. “Just all the hard work you put in and being able to see it come to fruition; it’s just a real good feeling.”
Louis said upon hearing the good news, the first thing he did was thank God for giving him the opportunity before letting his parents know. He said they were “ecstatic.”
“My parents know the road that I traveled, probably one of the hardest roads,” he said. “And they’ve been with me the whole way, so when I made it, they felt like they made it.”
One of Louis’ teammates, safety Tony Jefferson, has a unique perspective on the rookie’s accomplishment, having gone undrafted in 2013 before joining the Cardinals as a free agent. Because of that, Jefferson understands what it’s like to to make it this far and made sure to congratulate Louis Tuesday.
“It’s huge when an undrafted guy, you know the odds are definitely against us and he definitely earned his spot,” he said. “He did a great job in special teams. Much ups to him.”
Louis played in 48 games for LSU — including 17 starts — and tallied 97 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. The 5-foot-11, 232-pound player was clocked around 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and there was some talk before the draft of some teams seeing him as more of a safety than a linebacker.
The Cardinals have used him at linebacker, and while they are pleased with his potential there, what earned him a roster spot was indeed his work on special teams.
“Made about six tackles on special teams the last two games,” coach Bruce Arians said of Louis. “Solo tackles.”
It was that simple.
A guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday, Cardinals GM Steve Keim said about halfway through training camp they saw Louis as someone who could make the team because at that point, if they were to keep an extra linebacker, his production in the game’s third phase would make him a candidate.
“And as an inside linebacker he’s extremely explosive, he can run laterally well, and he’s a guy I think because of experience can continue to get better,” he said. “He also has positional versatility. He can play both inside spots and we feel really good moving forward with some of these young guys.”
Louis said he went into his first offseason with the Cardinals knowing he was going to have to make an impression on special teams because, if you are not a starter, that is where your hope lies.
Yet, while he did enough to stay, he knows he is far from a finished product.
“As far a special teams, I would say that I’m very raw right now,” he said. “I’m just ‘see ball, get ball’, but special teams is like another position; you have to study, watch film, look at different sets, look at tendencies — so I have some growth to do there, of course.”
Of course, Louis would also ultimately like to make an impact at linebacker, too, and for that to happen he says he needs to continue to grow. While he’s third on the depth chart at inside linebacker now, as long as he is on the roster, there may come a time when the team needs him.
“Because if somebody goes down, which it’s a contact sport, it’s likely, you have to be ready,” he added. “Next man up.”
No one is expecting Louis to come in and be a star right away, and he knows being on the roster now does not exactly offer much in the way of guarantees for the future.
But for Louis, who is eager to learn, having Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter — the latter of whom he was teammates with at LSU in 2012 — in the same linebacker room has proven to be useful in his quest to learn and improve, which is one of his goals for this season.
But that’s not the only thing he’s hoping to accomplish.
“Some goals that I’ve set for me, personally, I want to be like a guy that we’re about to face; I want to be a (Matthew) Slater, I want to be a (Justin) Bethel,” he said. “I want to be able to make the Pro Bowl as a specialist, so that’s a goal I have set for this year.”