Now that the Saints have made the Super Bowl, it is a good time to recognize those that came before and started the love affair that the Saints have with the city.
Although this is the most successful Saints team in history, the Saints have had some great players at almost every position. Unfortunately, there was always some component missing, sometimes more than one.
They had good offenses with no defense. Good defenses with no offense. Good offensive players and an ineffective quarterback (e.g. Aaron Brooks), a good quarterback (e.g. Archie Manning) and no offensive line.
I would like to lift a cup to all of the great Saints players of years past. This slide show pays tribute to the best offensive players at each position, regardless of the success of the team.
Bobby Hebert will always have a place in our hearts. We will never know how good Archie Manning would have been because the teams he was on were pitiful.
However, the statistics don't lie. In just four years, Brees is the best that the Saints have ever had. He has made us forget about Aaron Brooks, Edd Hargett, and Jeff Blake.
Although he does not have the prototype build for an NFL quarterback, over the last four years he has put up numbers to make all Saints fans grateful that Coach Payton took a chance on this Texan with the surgically-repaired throwing arm.
The Saints have actually had some really good running backs over the years. Some of the names that come to mind are Chuck Muncie, Tony Galbreath, George Rogers, Ricky Williams, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, Rueben Mayes, and Dalton Hilliard.
As it goes with many running backs, Hilliard and Mayes had their careers hampered by injury. Muncie and Rogers had reported substance abuse problems, as did Ricky Williams, along with his emotional disorders
I am giving the nod in this tribute to Deuce. He is the Saints all-time leading rusher and a real warrior. Deuce was a gentleman and a contributor to the community.
This one was a toss up between Neal and Crag "Ironhead" Heyward. Ironhead was a beast. Heyward passed away in 2006 from recurrent cancer. In his obituary it was written that he got his nickname from street football games in which he would lower his head into the stomach of the tackler; one opponent said it hurt so much that Heyward's head must be made of iron.
The nod goes to Neal, who was drafted as a halfback, but switched to fullback after his first season due to a knee injury. He then went on to play 15 more seasons, which is virtually unheard of in the NFL, much less for a running back.
Neal, while not as fearsome of a runner as Heyward, was a punishing blocker who always seemed to be able to make a path for the ball carrier. When I watched him block on a sweep, he reminded me of a bowling ball knocking down pins!
A few of the Saints receivers that are on the current squad may one day qualify for greatest receiver of all times. Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson may get there one day.
Certainly Marques Colston is a candidate. If he keeps up his pace and continues to improve, I am certain that he will be on my list. He is already the Saints fourth all-time leading receiver after four years.
However, based on their longevity and ability, I am honoring two "old-timers" as the best receivers ever.
Eric Martin, who set SEC receiving records at LSU, was taken in the seventh round of the 1985 NFL Draft. He was the 27th wide receiver taken that year. Analysts say that he fell so low because he was too slow and too small to be an NFL receiver.
Martin played in 10 NFL seasons from 1985–1994. All but his last year was with the Saints.
In 1987, he helped lead the Saints to their first playoff appearance in franchise history, only to lose to the Minnesota Vikings 44-10 in the NFC Wild Card. The following year, Martin was a Pro Bowl selection, catching 85 receptions for 1,083 yards and 7 touchdowns. After playing nine years with the Saints, he spent the last year of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Martin holds several Saints receiving records. He ranks first in receptions with 532, first in touchdowns with 48, and first in receiving yards with 7,854. He ranks second behind Joe Horn in most 100-yard receiving games with 18.
Early in his career, Martin also returned punts and kickoffs.
Martin was extremely sure-handed. He would catch almost anything thrown in his direction, and was not in the least bit afraid of going across the middle for a pass.
Joe Horn had an irritating habit of referring to himself in the third person! I just hate that! He also was not shy about saying anything to the media. When rumors were swirling that Horn was about to be cut loose from the team, he was quoted as saying:
"Can I still play at a Pro Bowl level? Yes. ... The film don't lie. And my receiver coach knows what I can do, and I know coach Payton knows what I can do," Horn said. "But I won't be surprised if my agent got a phone call or I got a phone call and they told me I was going in a different direction. Then I'd clear out my locker, I'd say farewell to the fans here that I love dearly and they love me, and I'd put on another helmet."
In seven years with the Saints, he caught 523 passes for 7854 yards and 50 TDs. He also was very sure-handed, fumbling only seven times in his career.
Danny Abramowicz was Mr. Insignificant before the term "Mr. Insignificant" was coined. Abramowicz was selected in the 17th round of the 1967 NFL Draft out of Xavier University. Yes, you youngsters, there were seventeen rounds of draft at one time!
About to be cut in his first NFL summer camp, he demanded head coach Tom Fears give him a fair shot, as he was promised at the start of summer camp.
"I'm not leaving," he told Fears after being instructed to turn in his playbook. "You haven't even given me a chance."
"You're serious, aren't you?" the coach said. Fears agreed to give him more time, although it was little more than lip service.
Billy Kilmer, the Saints' first quarterback, said he was told before the team headed to Portland, Ore., for a preseason game against San Francisco that Abramowicz was going to be cut after the game. Kilmer relayed the bad news to Abramowicz and then promised to throw him as many passes as he could that night.
"He caught every ball—on the ground, out of reach, everything," Kilmerrecalled, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale. "That's how he made the team, on pure guts. He played so good they couldn't cut him."
Henry Childs caught 207 passes in his Saints career, including 27 touchdowns, and his 3,224 yards still rank seventh in club history.
Until Childs, the prototypical tight end was an offensive tackle who could run a little and catch a little. Childs could run like a gazelle, had hands of glue, and could hit like a truck.
If Jeremy Shockey gets healthy, he may pass up Childs one of these days, but he is not there yet.
In April 2006, the Saints made Evans the 108th overall pick—a pick they received from the Eagles, who also sent defensive tackle Hollis Thomas to New Orleans in a draft-day deal.
Out of tiny Bloomsburg University in 2006, Evans plays a starring role for the top-seeded Saints. He was named to a starting spot on the NFC squad in the recent Pro Bowl and a first-team selection on the Associated Press' All-Pro team.
Dombrowski started for four years (1982-85), at the University of Virginia, twice winning the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the ACC’s best blocker and becoming Virginia’s first-ever unanimous All-American.
All that resulted in Dombrowski being the New Orleans Saints’ first-round draft pick (sixth overall) in 1986. He flourished in the organization, playing a club-record 147 consecutive games over an 11-year span and earning a spot in the Saints’ Hall of Fame.
It was also fun to hear the late WWL sportscaster Buddy DiLiberto try to pronounce the gentleman of Polish-descent's last name! Hilarious. The only name he had more trouble with was former tennis star Martina Navratilova!
Jerry Fontenot attended Texas A&M University. He started his career in 1989 with the Chicago Bears. Fontenot played for the Saints from 1997 to 2003 and started every game.
He became expendable when guard LeCharles Bentley, who played center in college, was moved into Fontenot's position. Fontenot went on and played one year as a backup with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Willie Roaf began his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints, who drafted him with the eighth pick of the first round in the 1993 draft. Roaf played nine years for the Saints. He was named to seven Pro Bowls, and won a spot on both the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and the 2000s All-Decade Team, making him the most decorated player in Saints history.
Roaf suffered a season-ending injury in 2001 and then was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in March 2002 for a conditional draft choice. He left under rather mysterious circumstances, and there are persistent rumors about exactly why he left.
He played four more seasons with the Chiefs, and was selected for the Pro Bowl in each of those four years, for a total of 11 Pro Bowl selections.
Roaf's mother, Andree Layton Roaf, was the first black woman to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court. She wanted her son to have nothing to do with football. Rather, she encouraged him to go to medical school. We are glad that this is one young man who did not listen to his mother!
The Saints acquired Stan Brock as a first-round pick out of the University of Colorado in the 1980 draft. He continued to be a fixture on the Saints' offensive line until 1993, when he was acquired by the San Diego Charges.
Brock played three years with San Diego before finally retiring at the end of the 1995 season. For sheer longevity, surviving numerous player and coaching changes, Brock deserves to be on this list.
Morten Andersen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark where, he was a gymnast and a long jumper, and barely missed becoming a member of the Danish junior national soccer team.
He visited the United States in 1977 as an exchange student. He first kicked an American football on a whim at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. He was so impressive in his one season of high school football that he was given a scholarship to Michigan State University.
Over his thirteen years with the Saints, he was named to six Pro Bowls, kicked 302 field goals, and scored 1318 points. He had over a 77% field goal accuracy record, including being almost 50% from over 50 yards.