Former wide receiver Willie Snead gets ready to go out onto the field before the game against Akron on Oct. 26, 2013, at InfoCision Stadium. Snead made the Saints final 53-man roster. DN FILE PHOTO JONATHAN MIKSANEK
Snead among league leaders after huge Week 1 performance
Willie Snead is picking up right where he left off.
The former Ball State receiver caught nine passes for 172 yards and a touchdown for the New Orleans Saints in a Week 1 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Snead ranks second in the NFL in receptions and receiving yards after the first week.
Ball State head coach Mike Neu served as the Saints' quarterback coach for the last two seasons and wasn't surprised by Snead's big day in the opener.
Willie Snead — 2015 statistics
Games — 15
Receptions — 69
Receiving yards — 984
Touchdowns — 3
Long reception — 53
"That's Willie, man. You talk about hard work paying off," Neu said at his press conference Sept. 11. "There's no better example than Willie Snead. Nobody works any harder in practice; nobody works any harder in the meeting room. To see that relationship he has with Drew Brees and to see that pay off for him, it's exciting to see that."
Brees and Snead connected early and often to the delight of many fantasy football players across the country (23 points in ESPN standard scoring).
Snead's longest reception came on a 49-yard grab down the left sideline. Brees hit the second-year wideout in stride before he broke a few tackles and before stumbling down deep inside Raiders' territory.
Five plays later, Snead capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown grab on fourth down to put the Saints up 17-10.
Based on his performance, Snead made Pro Football Focus' Offensive Team of the Week. He graded out at an 86.6, second to only AJ Green among receivers.
The analysis read: "Even what could have been a critical fumble doesn’t keep Snead out of this team, thanks to catching all nine passes thrown his way for 172 yards and a touchdown. Snead was open all day against Oakland, and gained 51 of his yards after the catch."
Snead was a pleasant surprise for the Saints in 2015. He caught 69 passes for 984 yards —second on the team — and three touchdowns.
There's a graphic of Snead at the Ball State football facility that says "True Cardinal." Neu said he's the most relevant example of someone who has truly worked hard to get where he is.
"Maybe everything didn't start easy for him here, but he's a prime example through hard work, through being relentless, through being accountable, through getting your education and preparing for life after football," Neu said. "Willie Snead is that guy who deserves to be on that graphic in our building."
In his three seasons at Ball State, Snead totaled 223 receptions for 2,991 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Snead made a name for himself in Muncie, and now he's showing the people of New Orleans those same talents that made him a college star.
"He's a great representative of this program and this university," Neu said. "I couldn't be more proud of him. I wish they would've won that game, but Willie's a stud and a class act."