Congratulations. I don’t think either of us had any idea that an announcement like this would be made last time we spoke in this format.
“I did not. It was a total surprise when Ken Trahan called me, a pleasant surprise. I never really considered it and I’m very excited to be a part of the great tradition and so many great players and coaches that have been through the New Orleans Saints.”
What was the initial reaction of your friends and family upon hearing the news?
“Well, my wife cried, and my friends were all very excited. One of the first questions back in San Diego was, ‘Why haven’t you been inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame?’ I said, ‘I can’t answer that question, I think they’re just a little slow out there.’ Again, it’s a real privilege and blessing to have this honor with the New Orleans Saints.”
You spent 11 consecutive years with the Chargers and in New Orleans you had three different stints. Pretty different experiences?
“Very unique, much different. As the say in the South, football is different down here. They had a great commercial years ago with Kyle Turley in the locker room prior to a game and he doused his mouthpiece with Tabasco sauce, put it in his mouth, and ran out to the game. Of course the headline of the commercial was ‘Football’s Different Down Here’ and it certainly is. Boy, it’s a lot of fun to play for the Saints and represent this city of New Orleans.”
Is making the Hall of Fame a reflection on the entire body of work, or do moments in that time stick out more for you?
“I think both, because in order to stay with the team for several years, you need to be consistent in your preparation and consistent in your performance. There are going to be days that don’t go your way and you need to bounce back quickly, but there are some special moments, obviously our big win after the hurricane against the Carolina Panthers who were chosen to win our division that year, that was kind of a magical win for us and certainly lifted the spirits of the South. Of course, the game to reopen the Dome in 2006 against the Atlanta Falcons, very special. Obviously, well publicized, my good friend Steve Gleason blocking the punt…that was a very special time and a very special season. We were the Cinderella story that year and made it to the NFC championship game. Coming back in 2009 and being a part of a championship season and the Saints’ historical run to the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl, just to be a part of that. What a blessing.”
I think you were the third oldest player to play a game in the NFL. When you think about legacy and the Hall of Fame, do you think of your longevity and the age of when you finished say something about you and about your position?
“Both. The position, we’re not running and tackling for the most part, but you do need to keep yourself in good condition and good shape to be able to perform at a relatively high level in your 40s. It was a challenge for me to push my career to see how far I could take it into my 40s, and a blessing and opportunity to be able to do that with the Saints.”
With kicking being such a big part of the game, does it surprise you that kickers sometimes are left off to the side with regards to post-career awards and honors?
“Agreed. The Hall of Fame had really missed a mark when it comes to the specialists and what they’ve done and what they’ve meant to the league, in particular, games all the way to Super Bowls. Morten Andersen holds all the main records and he’s the king of kicking. It’s really a shame that he’s not in, that he wasn’t a first-time ballot inductee. But I know he was a finalist this year and I believe he will get in next year. He needs to get in for what he’s meant to the game and what he’s done over the course of his career. Ray Guy finally got the nod very late, but he finally did get inducted. Of course, Jan Stenerud, the only other place kicker in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully they’ll come around, because these individuals have meant a lot to the game and really have had a big impact on the game. I look forward to the day when Morten Andersen is inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.”
Does being named an inductee change your feelings about being a Saint? Does it take it to a new level, or has it already been cemented in your being, what it means to have worn a Saints uniform?
“It just makes my memories and the times here that I spent that much more special. That my time here, my family’s time here, the experiences meant enough to the voter here at the Saints Hall of Fame to even consider me and to recognize me and to give me the honor to come in to the Saints Hall of Fame with Aaron Brooks, that’s very special.”
Now that you are here in town, will you get a chance to visit with your friend Steve Gleason before heading back to California?
“Actually I just saw Steve this morning. He looks great, he’s in great spirits. Everything is going really well and I hope to see him before I fly out this afternoon.”
You talked about the closeness with Steve and Aaron. Can you give us a sense of what it’s like to be a part of the Saints family from a player’s standpoint, even in retirement?
“There’s a long line of great players and coaches. Unfortunately, early in the Saints’ life span, they just couldn’t get over the hump. Many times, unfortunately, that hump was the San Francisco 49ers. As a Charger I can totally related because they beat us up in the Super Bowl. So many great players and coaches, and then of course this past decade the first big playoff win with Jim Haslett and his group and all of those players that played, the Willie Roafs and Kyle Turleys and Jeff Blakes and Ricky Williams, some really great players. Joe Horn, a good friend, who is also (in the Saints Hall of Fame). Most of those guys here are in the Saints Hall of Fame. Just a great collection of mean, and women for that matter, that have made up the Saints organization. To be a part of that is a blessing. It’s very exciting, a fantastic group.”