Tommy Stevens reflects on journey to the NFL

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Tommy Stevens was sitting in the living room of the home he grew up in when he received a call from a Texas number. On the other end was New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.

(Courtesy: hailstate.com)

"When he (Payton) called me it was actually a Texas area code," Stevens recalled. "I immediately looked down at my phone and looked back up to see if Houston had a pick or the Cowboys had a pick and they weren't on the screen."

Payton called to see if Stevens was interested in signing with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent, but Stevens politely declined his offer.

"I was taking to other teams at the time and felt I had a better opportunity with a different organization given the undrafted free agent route," Stevens shared. "I told him that and he said to give him some time and he would call back."

The Saints did eventually call Stevens back, this time with an unexpected result.

"The assistant GM called me and says 'Hey Tommy, I'm going to merge this call with Coach Payton...Coach Payton gets back on and says 'Hey, last time I asked you to come to New Orleans and this time I'm telling you...we're going to trade back into the draft and we're going to take you here." Stevens said. "It all happened so fast."

The Saints were willing to part with a sixth-round selection in next year's draft for a seventh-rounder in 2020. Once they found a trading partner with the Houston Texans, Stevens became their final pick at No. 240.

Stevens' path to the NFL has been anything but easy.

A three-star recruit out of Decatur Central in Indianapolis, Stevens began his collegiate career at Penn State. He played backup to Trace McSorley while suiting up for the Blue and White.

Rumors swirled Stevens might leave Penn State prior to his redshirt junior season before he ultimately chose to stay.

Coming out of spring practice following his redshirt senior season, Stevens was not named the starter at Penn State, a position he felt he deserved after the work he put in over the past four years. With the NCAA's Transfer Portal becoming big for college football players in 2019, Stevens chose to enter the portal following his redshirt senior season.

"I had some injuries I dealt with that season previous season," Stevens shared. "Things didn't exactly go to script with what I thought was going to happen in that next season, at least what I was told was going to happen in that season, which ultimately led me to thinking it would be best to play somewhere else."

That somewhere else would be Starkville where Stevens was reunited with former Penn State offensive coordinator turned Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead.

While Stevens was named MSU's starter entering the 2019 season, he wouldn't get to hold that role consistently throughout the season after being plagued with injuries that included a separated shoulder, high ankle sprain and broken rib that punctured his lung.

The quarterback's final game for the Maroon and White was the Music City Bowl against Louisville. While the Bulldogs would end up losing 38-28 after taking an early 14-0 lead, Stevens would shine in his final collegiate matchup. He thew for 221 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for one touchdown.

In the offseason, Stevens trained in Tampa, Florida in preparation for MSU's Pro Day. That day never came as it was cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Stevens then held his own "virtual pro day", sending out tape of him working out to all 32 NFL teams, catching the attention of several.

In the end, Stevens ended up with the Saints and will begin his NFL career in one of the most elite quarterback rooms learning from Drew Brees, Taysom Hill and now Jameis Winston.

"I keep saying I want to be a sponge...I don't want to go in and be a loud voice or anything like that. I want to learn as much as I can," Stevens shared. "Obviously Drew Brees is plenty to learn from, but each guy brings something a little bit different to the plate. I'm going to do my best every day to try and take little bits and pieces of their games and add it to my own."

Stevens shared his journey to the NFL hasn't been how he "planned it would be in his head" but shared that he ready to make the most of his new journey at the pro level.

"The journey has led me to his point and I'm a believer in things happening for a reason," Stevens said. "I can't think of a better place for me to be and I'm excited to get to work."