Tristan Blewett had never worn a football helmet before Tuesday.

They don't wear any helmets in the sport Blewett grew up playing.

In fact, they don't wear any equipment in his sport.

So for the 22-year-old rugby player from South Africa, the first day of New Orleans Saints minicamp (and all that comes with being in the NFL) was a bit foreign to him.

The terminology.

Learning where to line up.

Learning how to line up for drills.

Heck, even the simplest of things that take place before the drills start.

"For him, to his credit, he's starting from square one," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "The first time we went out and stretched today, it was the first time he's stretched relative to this sport. But he seemed pretty bright Monday, just picking up on the drills we were asking him to do."

It was on Monday during a tryout when Blewett earned his chance to participate in Saints minicamp, which started Tuesday and ends Thursday.

It was his first football experience. Blewett spent this past season playing with the New Orleans Gold, the professional rugby team in the city he came to from South Africa for the first time just seven months ago.

This opportunity to play in the NFL came after Saints' coaches and scouts watched his rugby film.

He knew very little about football when he arrived in the United States in  November, but it didn't take long for him to find out the sport was a pretty big deal around here.

"Since I came here, the big hype was (trying to) get to the Super Bowl last year," Blewett said. "Obviously the city is behind it. Everything is Saints in New Orleans, so as soon as I got here, I sort of learned about it quickly."

He didn't know much about the players on the team either. He knew of Michael Thomas because Thomas wears the same jersey number that Blewett wears in rugby. And he knew Drew Brees because ... well, everyone knows Drew Brees.

The 5-foot-10, 191-pound Blewett is now hoping to make the roster and become their teammates. He is lining up at safety. But the vision for him, Payton said, is on special teams. 

Having never played football before this week, he's probably a long shot.

But it's a shot worth taking.

"I take joy in coaching those guys because I want to see how good they end up being," Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn said. "Plus, sometimes you find diamonds in the rough with guys like that. Who knows? This could be one of those guys."

Blewett also took some turns at fielding punts Tuesday. He bobbled one of them, a result he said that has to do with one of the adjustments transitioning from rugby to football.

"I usually track while the ball is going, but they want you to get to the spot and then track it," he said.

And he's still getting used to carrying the ball like a football instead of a rugby ball.

There's a lot of information to soak in a short amount of time.

It's a "little bit overwhelming," he admitted.

"But I think it's easy to overcome," he countered.

If this opportunity hadn't come, he probably would have taken this time to travel back to South Africa. Instead, he remains in New Orleans, a few weeks removed from the end of his rugby season now trying to earn his way onto an NFL team.

His folks back home have no idea how big of a deal what he's trying to accomplish is. And they would be just as clueless about the throng of reporters with microphones and tape recorders surrounding Blewett on Tuesday.

"I don't think they really understand," Blewett said. "I told my mom a day or two ago. But nobody back home knows much about football. Neither do I. But as I learn, I'll explain it to them."

And if he catches on, he can stick around New Orleans for training camp. Then, he'd get a chance to put on the rest of the pads to go with the helmet he wore for the first time Tuesday.

Not that a rugby guy really needs any pads, right?

"But I guess if everyone has pads coming at me, I probably should wear them," Blewett said.

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Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.