To get Deuce McAllister's attention, call him by his real name - Dulymus Jenod.
A Ludlow, Miss. middle school coach had trouble saying it, so eventually the coach started calling him Deuce, a nickname that’s stuck, but one that he doesn't mind.
Growing up, McAllister always knew he wanted to be a professional athlete, although soccer and basketball were his first loves. Luckily though, for the University of Mississippi and the New Orleans Saints, he had the "right vibe and body type" to play football.
McAllister attended Ole’ Miss in Oxford where he was a triple threat running, receiving and on returns, becoming an All-Southeastern Conference selection.
Following a decorated college career, he did not have to go far from Oxford as he was picked by the Saints with the 23rd choice in the 2001 NFL Draft.
He ended up spending his entire nine-year playing career in New Orleans, where he became the team’s all-time leading rusher, carrying 1,429 times for 6,096 yards (4.3 avg.) with 49 touchdowns, also recording 234 receptions for 1720 yards with five scoring grabs. He enjoyed four 1000-yard seasons and was selected to two Pro Bowls.
A well-spoken man, McAllister’s love of the game is evident when he talks, no matter how mundane the topic. His passion and excitement comes through, something that translated into him becoming a fan favorite during his career with New Orleans.
Some of his talk will come forth this weekend, when he addresses a crowd of well-wishers, family, friends, as well as the media members that voted for him to become a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, when he is inducted on Saturday.
“To be a part of this class and Hall of Fame, I have to thank my teammates,” said McAllister in his typically gracious manner. “Even the jockey needs the horse to win.”
McAllister’s character is evident when asked about his greatest off the field accomplishment. While many moments come to mind, including a two-year run from 2002-03, where McAllister rushed for 3,029 yards to rank among the league’s elite, or recovering from a torn ACL to play a pivotal role in leading the Saints to the NFC Championship Game with 1,057 yards with ten touchdowns in 2006, he responded that it was “respecting the game and playing the game it was meant to be played.”
While sports was important as a youth to McAllister, academics and being well-rounded was the overall priority as he knew that all these facets were a part of his life.
“For me, football was not a means to an end, but a way to the end,” said McAllister. “While I put a lot into it and always wanted to be the best, I always knew football would also be a great way for me to get a good quality education, something that would help me later on in life.”
McAllister’s foundation Catch 22 is there to "open kids eyes that there are people out there who care for them."
Throughout his playing career and in retirement, the foundation has uplifted youngsters in Southeast Louisiana and his native Mississippi, taking them on field trips, special events and shopping trips around the holidays.
In addition to giving him a lot of great on-field memories and make an impact in the community, McAllister also says football gave him the opportunity to go out and travel America at a young age and meet a lot of great and interesting characters.
After more prompting, McAllister finally talked about his most memorable moments, including the 2006 NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Eagles in the Superdome, where he led the Saints to victory with 143 yards and two critical touchdowns.
“That was my first time in the playoffs, but I knew to be a star player you have to make your mark and step up in big games,” said McAllister. “In the biggest games, the best players step up and make plays.”
While McAllister had many role models and has befriended many former NFL greats, one of them who he has a real connection with is former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson.
Jackson once told McAllister "Just compete as an athlete and be the best athlete you can be. Dominate the game and prepare yourself mentally."
Those words came into play on that night in January, 2007.
While a pair of serious knee injuries that required knee surgery ended his playing career far too short, McAllister still watches the Saints as an interested observer from Oxford where he has been furthering his education and working with the football team as a student assistant coach.
Part of McAllister’s pride is looking back at his career and being able to see the impact he had on his team, as they transformed into a championship organization towards the end of his career.
“It’s great to see your former team among the league’s elite,” said McAllister. “They’re now one of the teams that can challenge every year for a Super Bowl, probably for the next 10 to 15 years, and that’s a positive thing for this organization.”