METAIRIE, La. — Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette lived with an aunt in Haiti until age 10 before reuniting with his parents in a New York suburb, and in his own words, “came from nothing.”
Cameron Jordon was practically born into the NFL — a child of privilege whose father played tight end for the Minnesota Vikings.
As defensive teammates in New Orleans, they complement each other rather well, emerging this season as one of the most effective pass-rushing tandems in the NFL.
“I respect what Cam has done to get here,” Galette said after Thursday’s practice, reflecting on his and Jordan’s divergent paths to pro football. “I came from nothing, but in some ways it’s harder when you know you always have someone to support you. He was able to stay motivated.”
Jordan, who is 6-foot-4, 287 pounds, played four years at the University of California before the Saints selected him in the first round — 24th overall — of the 2011 draft.
After Jordan finished last season with eight sacks, the Saints hoped he’d emerge as an elite pass-rushing end in 2013.
He has 11 1/2 sacks so far this season, making him the first Saints player since Will Smith in 2009 to surpass 10.
Galette isn’t far behind — with nine — as the Saints (10-3) prepare to travel to St. Louis (5-8) on Sunday.
“Both of them have good motors,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Those two guys have really stepped up and given us consistent pressure. Sometimes it may not result in sacks. Sometimes it may result in a hurry that results in an incompletion. On third down, that’s (getting the defense) off the field.”
With 20 1/2 sacks combined, Jordan and Galette represent the second-most productive sack tandem in the NFL.
The only teammates to combine for more sacks this season are Kansas City’s Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, who each have 11.
While Jordan was a returning starter, it wasn’t clear last offseason how prominent of a role the 6-2, 258-pound Galette would have in his fourth pro season.
With the Saints switching to a 3-4 front under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Galette was moved from end to outside linebacker, but still was expected to be an edge pass-rusher, rotating in to spell projected starter Will Smith.
That changed when Smith had a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.
Now Galette, who was undrafted in 2010, is making the Saints’ scouting department look pretty good.
Galette had started his college career at Temple, spending three seasons there, but was dismissed when a relative staying with him was caught with stolen property. He finished his college career at Division II Stillman.
“He’s obviously come a long way,” Payton said. “He was a free agent we looked closely at. We saw speed and athleticism in the player. ... Where he’s at now is because he had a vision and he worked extremely hard.”
Galette became increasingly optimistic about this season shortly after Ryan was hired.
“When Rob got here, he actually called me. He said he’s looking at this film and didn’t really know who I was before. And he was like, ‘Wow, you can be special,”’ Galette recalled. “I’m like, ‘Man, this guy’s just building my confidence up.”’
In New Orleans’ 31-13 victory over Carolina last Sunday night, the Saints sacked Cam Newton five times. Galette was credited with three and Jordan two.
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