When you think of the New Orleans Saints, you don't instantly think of great players that have come and gone over the years. You might think of guys like Archie Manning or Bobby Hebert and the heartbreak that went along with those players. You might also think of Jim Mora and his many rants about a team that just couldn't get it together.
I, however, would like to point out a few of the players that brought hope and excitement to the team through my lifetime. The teams may have never been that great—heck, they may have never even been that good—but there were a few players that kept you wanting more. They made you think that maybe, just maybe, there might be a way to get it together. Maybe there was a way to improve, maybe we'd get better, maybe there was "hope."
Here are a few of the players that brought hope, excitement and maybe even a championship to New Orleans. This is a list of "My Favorite Saints Players of My Lifetime."
Craig Heyward will start my list off. He was never the main running back in New Orleans nor did he have blazing speed. Quite the opposite actually. He was a lumbering beast that used his size and strength to plow over defenders.
He only played five years in New Orleans with his best year coming in 1990 when he rushed for 599 yards on 129 carries with a 4.6 yards per carry average and four touchdowns. Still, he was fun to watch as defenders often seemed to bounce off him as he made his way down the field.
Easily a top-five receiver in Saints history, Eric Martin was a nightmare for opposing corners from 1985 to 1993 in New Orleans. A favorite target of Bobby Hebert, he amassed over 1,000 yards receiving three out of nine years and topped 60 receptions six out of the nine years with the team.
He could often be seen making amazing catches down the field and making up for the poor performance of one Mr. Hebert. He finished his career with 553 catches for 8,161 yards and 49 touchdowns.
"Deuuuuuuuce" was the chant that was heard for eight years in the dome. Drafted in 2001 from Ole Miss, Deuce would have to sit behind Ricky Williams until the following year to prove his worth. However, when he saw his chance, he took full advantage and never looked back.
In 2002, he ran for 1,388 yards on 325 carries with an impressive 13 touchdowns. In 2003, he would top that performance with a 1,641-yard outing on 351 carries for a 4.7 yards per carry average.
Joe Horn might have one of those personalities that you either love or hate. Say what you will about Horn but he's one of the wide receivers, if not the best, that has ever played in the Big Easy. He might have been a loudmouth and he might have been arrogant but he was also dominant.
Horn played a major role in helping to pull the Saints out of their lowly ways. He had two years of 94 catches, two more over 80 and all four of those years he amassed over 1,200 yards receiving. He might have been loud and he might have been flagrant, but he was also a dominant force on the field.
For that, he will always be my favorite Saints receiver of all time. Horn finished his career with 603 catches for 8,744 yards and dialed in a total of 58 scores.
Sam Mills was one of the best linebackers to ever play the game and was the anchor in the "Dome Patrol" defense of the '80s and '90s.
He made hit after hit and tackle after tackle on anything that moved in his nine years with the Saints. He was the heart and sole of the defense and was greatly responsible for the energy that the Saints defense carried on the field.
He was never a sack machine like some of the other guys that are on this list, but his high-flying attitude, non-stop motor, smarts and love of the game made him a gem to watch.
Wayne Martin was drafted in 1989 and played 11 years with the Saints at defensive end and defensive tackle. He is currently second in career sacks as a Saint behind only Rickey Jackson in that department.
He was a dominant player in the middle for the Black and Gold and was a complete joy to watch. He finished five out of 11 seasons with at least 10 sacks.
If anyone remembers the "Dome Patrol" in New Orleans, then you definitely remember Rickey Jackson. Rickey Jackson could have very well been the most important part of the defense from 1981 to 1993 and was definitely the most consistent.
He always seemed to be there to make the big hit on the running back or sack the quarterback in the backfield. He might not have been the most dominant force to ever grace the field for the team but he was an integral part of a dominant defense for many years.
He finished his career as a six-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro with 1,173 tackles and 128 sacks. Are you impressed yet? I sure hope so.
Pat Swilling was once a dominant force in the NFL at the linebacker position. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. In 1989, he finished the year with 16.5 sacks and topped that in 1991 with 17.
He will forever be known as a prime member of the "Dome Patrol" and one of the greatest players to take the field for the Saints.
This one may look odd to some people out there who are either young, bandwagon Saint fans, or just have short memories. But, look at the facts.
The Saints before Aaron Brooks were not a team to be feared—ever. The two years before Brooks arrived, the Saints finished 6-10 and 3-13. I could go further back but it would be pointless.
The Saints have historically been one of the worst teams in the NFL. All that changed, however, with the arrival of Aaron Brooks. There were other factors that went along with Brooks being successful, like Jim Haslett assembling a powerful offense that included Joe Horn and Deuce McAllister.
It was, however, Brooks at the reins that made it all tick. He constantly had the team in a position to win and no one ever counted us out until the last second ran off the clock. Something that could have never been said of the Saints before his arrival.
Bringing the Saints their very first playoff win in the history of the team also lends credence. Thank you, Mr. Brooks.
What can you say about the man that brought our one championship to New Orleans? We have waited so long for things to turn our way and Brees was the man responsible for making it happen.
We cried, we rejoiced and we celebrated, (oh boy, did we celebrate). It was a rough ride over the years filled with highs and many, many lows, but Brees was the man to get "it" done.
How can you have a favorite player other than the guy who brought the championship home? I can't.