New Orleans Saints Owner/Chairman of the Board Tom Benson and former running back Deuce McAllister were inducted in the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame as the class of 2012 in the Bienville Room of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Friday afternoon.
Benson and McAllister were voted on by the Media Selection Committee of the hall.
Saints Radio Network’s Play-by-Play Announcer Jim Henderson received the Joe Gemelli Fleur De Lis award for his contributions to the organization.
The award is presented annually to a person who has supported the New Orleans Saints organization and contributed to the betterment of the franchise over a significant period of time.
Benson was introduced by his wife Gayle, McAllister was presented by his friend Perry Fletcher and Henderson was introduced by WWL-TV anchor Dennis Woltering.
“It’s good to have your wife introduce you at these things because you know she will say nice things about you,” Benson said with a smile.
A native New Orleanian, Benson stepped up to help save the New Orleans Saints franchise in 1985, purchasing the team from John Mecom. Within two years, Benson fielded the first winning team and first playoff appearance by the Saints in franchise history (1987).
“It’s an exciting day,” Benson said after the event. “Sometimes you don’t think you are worthy of things like this. It wasn’t really made for me. I am very grateful for this day.”
The Saints have have made the playoffs nine times during Benson’s ownership. Under Benson, the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010, defeating the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The 2006 squad reached the NFC championship game.
During Benson’s tenure, New Orleans has hosted four Super Bowls and will host a fifth (Super Bowl XLVII) on February 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Benson has been one of the NFL’s most important and influential owners, serving three stints as Chairman of the league Finance Committee.
Benson’s community and charitable involvement is substantial and he has invested in the city through the purchase of Dominion Tower, the New Orleans Hornets and WVUE-TV. Mr. Benson and his family have helped raise more than $2.5 million for community causes through the Saints Gulf Coast Renewal funds after Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac.
McAllister played for the Saints for eight seasons from 2001-2008. A two-time Pro Bowler (2002 and 2003), McAllister was a first-round selection of the Saints in the 2001 NFL Draft (23rd overall).
“This definitely feels good but it lets you know you are getting older (laughter),” McAllister said Friday after the induction. “Words can’t describe the excitement and humbleness I have for it. My name may be there but there were so many guys that made contributions to (his Hall of Fame induction) - that’s the happiest part about it.”
McAllister retired as the leading rusher in the history of the franchise, amassing 6,096 yards on 1,429 carries (4.3 avg.). He is the all-time leader in touchdowns with 55.
In addition, McAllister ranks fifth all-time in scoring with 330 points and ranks tenth in receptions with 234. He led the Saints in rushing in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006. McAllister was named first-team All-NFC by Pro Football Weekly in both 2002 and 2003.
A native of Rochester, New York, Henderson came to New Orleans in 1978 as the Sports Director of WWL-TV and worked at WWL for nearly 34 years, retiring on January 31, 2012. Henderson came out of retirement in August to join WVUE-TV's sports team, providing the station with his unique and in-depth analysis of the Saints.
Henderson began working on New Orleans Saints radio broadcasts on WWL, 870 AM and the New Orleans Saints Radio Network in 1982 as a color analyst. He became the play-by-play announcer in 1986 and has worked in that capacity for nearly all of the past 21 seasons.
Henderson is the 23rd Gemelli award winner. The award is named in honor of the late Joe Gemelli, who was widely regarded as the biggest Saints fan. Gemelli founded the Touchdown Club, which continues to support the New Orleans Saints, and was the first president of the Saints Hall of Fame.
“I am really humbled by the honor,” Henderson said. “This has been much more than just a job it’s about a family. I am very touched by it and I am honored.
“This year’s class is special. It’s like going in with the honors class going in with Tom Benson and Deuce McAllister. I am sort of the kid in the back row way in the back who hopes the teacher doesn’t call on him. They belong in the front.”