2019 New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame Class
Saints Hall of Fame Induction Press Conference
June 5, 2019
"Good afternoon everyone and welcome to our annual Saint's Hall of Fame press conference to introduce our class for 2019. First of all, I want to recognize our board members who do such a great job. Quite a few of whom are here today and I want to give a shout out to each and every one of them and particularly thank Jay Romig, who does such a great job for us in all capacities and now serves as our chairman of the board and Michael C. Hebert who, not only his work, does such wonders for the museum, but also serving as our president and now and doing a terrific job. So, special thanks to them. The actual induction will take place on October the 25th. We have our events in Biloxi coming up [Thursday] and Friday which include four events that our honorees will be part of over there as well, which has been an annual outcome on a yearly basis, which has been very good for us and with regard to today we're blessed to be able to introduce three very special people that have made all of this possible over the years with their contributions. It's my pleasure first off to recognize our first honoree for this year. (She is a) Very special person and she was born and raised in our state and has done a remarkable job serving in every capacity she's been asked to serve in, including as lieutenant governor for two terms and then as governor of our state between 2004 2008 when the Saints were faced with the crossroads of an incredibly difficult circumstance, as we all were back in 2005. She stepped up in a tremendous way to be able to help our football team to return to our city. It is something that we have not forgotten and I think it speaks to the character of the individual because it was not about politics. It wasn't about doing the expedient, prudent thing to be popular with people in North Louisiana, central Louisiana or anywhere else. It was all about trying to improve the lives of people here and ultimately throughout the state. The Superdome got done and repaired largely because of her efforts and Doug Thornton as well who we've honored previously. Most of you know that she has a quite a battle on her hands, but she is a woman of faith who believes strongly that God will provide regardless and she's here today and that's a miracle in itself because as many of you read rumors of her demise are greatly exaggerated in recent weeks. She's here today as a living testimony of that. It's my pleasure to introduce our Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis award recipient for 2019, the honorable Kathleen Blanco."
"Well, thank you Ken. Certainly a huge honor for me to be here today and I'm more than thrilled simply to be here today. I do have a lot of challenges ahead of me and I'm going to plan to be here in October. As I was looking at these wonderful honorees that I'm sharing this day with, I look at our history and we all came to the Saints in a greater, more intensified way in 2006 and that was the year immediately following the storm. Now, I knew Tom Benson before I knew Gayle and I have been to many Saints games, but in that period after Katrina, it became imperative that we all had to call on the deepest part of ourselves to do the most intense work that any of us had ever thought about having to do. And that was to recover an entire community, a city, a region of the state that had been totally devastated. In my mind, every time I looked at the Superdome, the roof just ripped across it, it was a symbol of despair. And I thought if we drive around every single day, looking at the symbol of despair, we are all going to despair and we have to change that image and make this a symbol of victory. Now, that did not come without me having to pay a price for being told that I had the wrong priorities using money for a stadium. But, at the same time I knew the value was greater than just building a building that this city and this region and Saints fans everywhere really needed to have something to rally around. After a year of hard, hard work, people who would (be) rebuilding their homes and their businesses and all of that really needed a place to rally and to express joy and that's what we found. Gentlemen, you led this community. Coach, you did a wonderful recruiting job. You picked an amazing team that really took us further than anyone had imagined, but that everyone had hoped we could get to the Super Bowl. That September game against Atlanta was undoubtedly the most exciting game this city has ever experienced in its history. People on the streets, we're just dancing all afternoon. It's like their feet were hardly touching the ground. They were so excited and then you won so magnificently. What can I say? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It's been a great life and I'm glad to have been able to play a small part in making all this happen."
"Normally that's presented at the actual induction in October. We wanted to make sure she got it, but since she has already assured us that she is going to be here in October, we will present it to her again. Gayle (Benson) will be more than happy to do that at Club XLIV. To make this happen on an annual basis it takes a collection of people. We have already recognized our board members, but the New Orleans Saints Organization is paramount in what we do -- it's obviously why we exist and Gayle of course is instrumental in leading that and allowing us to do what we do on a day-to-day basis to preserve and present the history of this franchise in the most positive fashion imaginable. There are also people in this room that help make this possible. Mickey Loomis has been a godsend for us. He understands the history of the league. He understands the history of the game and he has been tremendously cooperative and helpful in every endeavor that we have from all the different events that we have and he'll actually be in Biloxi with us tomorrow. We deeply appreciate Mickey for what he does on an annual basis. And then of course, with regard to the next gentleman I will introduce -- needless to say, as Kathleen alluded to, we were all kind of bottomed out in 2005 and this new coach arrived and we were all saying, 'wow, first time head coach, man, I don't know what's going to happen there.' We all know what's happened since then. It has been a godsend for our city, our region and beyond. Aside from that, you are speaking about somebody that has a tremendous understanding of the history of the game and appreciation for the guys that played this game, not just here in New Orleans, but guys that played 20, 30, 40 years ago. A quick aside for 20 seconds and then I will introduce him. Tom Dempsey, of course, still lives here and has been in care now for quite some time, who is of course a famous person in New Orleans Saints history. When he first got here, he asked me, 'you know how to get in touch with Tom Dempsey?' I said, 'sure do.' (I) put him in touch with him and he told the story about how Dempsey stopped and signed an autograph for him when he was a kid at a game in Philadelphia. (I) Never forgot that. (He) Became friends with Dempsey and I think that illustrates just what kind of relationship he has with former players and his appreciation for the game. Beyond that, his support of the Hall of Fame's tremendous and unparalleled. He's always there to help us in every occasion imaginable and we deeply appreciate him. So, here to present our two Hall of Fame honorees for this year is New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton.
"A couple of notes here. I just kind of folded up this little flyer because I think it is better to share some good stories about our inductees today while they're still clear in my mind. You're reminded of your age when players that were in your first draft class now are being inducted or receiving much deserved honors like this. And then you see their families and their children and you're like, holy cow. There's some irony today that we are honoring the first pick of our 2006 draft and the last pick of our 2006 draft (Laughs). So they arrived here in a little different way. And I'll start with Reggie's story, and it wasn't too long ago at the Greenbrier training camp. I think we had - there was 10 of us assistant coaches and players that had been with the organization 10 years straight and we had a little dinner one night. And I kind of did the same thing to the best of my memory, kind of recalled how each individual coach or player at least how I perceived that story to be how they arrived or, or became a part of the organization. So, starting with Reggie back in 2006, it was our first draft. Generally speaking, when you get hired as a new coach and you come in and you're working, Mickey and I closely with the scouts, I am going to say probably two months, three months and you are looking at the roster closely. And we held the second pick of the draft in most of the rounds that year. So we spent a lot of time and we would always have this, what I would say, we would always have. Later to be known, we would always have this good day meeting with Mr. B and Mrs. B. But go through with Mr B. these first-round selection candidates to keep him abreast as to – we'd watch some film, some cut ups. He'd have great questions. We'd have a printout of all the players. And I recall that year, this was my first draft with the organization, of going through a number of talented players and kind of covering them all. And that was back then, in '06, it was a two day draft. So I think we went rounds one, two, and three, in fact I know we did. One through three broke that evening and then we would come back with four, five, six, seven. And so as we're leaving the facility, the draft was the next morning we were having what has become now our annual night before dinner, before the draft. And we get there, Mickey, myself and the other guys that are in charge of pro or college personnel - the evaluation experts and discuss several things. And so on my way to that first dinner, I'd received a call. Pretty good information, and back then we weren't, you know, Blackberry and you were kind of hip. That was it (Laughs). So I had a razor flip phone and out of nowhere, I get this information the Houston Texans are going to pass on Reggie Bush. And two things went through my mind. A, I was ecstatic. And then B, I thought, man, I do not know that we covered Reggie with Mr. B because we were expecting Houston to take Reggie. And so right away it was like holy cow, we'll get him up to speed. So I am one to always take advantage of an opportunity. And so we got there to the restaurant and it was important, I felt like they kind of have this poker face. And prior to going to the restroom I just said to the group, 'You know, I got this feeling that we are going to have an opportunity to draft Reggie Bush. Anyone want some of that bet?' (Laughs). And this is the type of bet (Mickey) Loomis likes where he knows the answer. He knows he has already won, right? So at five bets for $20 a man, I went to the restroom, I came back and there were four $20's sitting at my place and word had broke about that opportunity. And so the next day there was, look, and I say this with respect to every player that we signed and drafted that year, to include Drew Brees, Scott Fujita, Marques Colston. But we were kind of in that stage in the hiring process with coaches celebrating each little small victory. You know, we would get a coach to come, and we'd ring a bell, and put a circle around his name and 'he's in' because there were so many other challenges. And so all of a sudden here we have a chance to really select probably one of the most, if not the most dynamic college football player that our country's seen prior to social media, really. Prior to social media, because it was still texts and emails. The Heisman trophy winner, national champion. And I remember getting in that morning and we had a meeting with Mr. Benson and brought him up to speed. And then, there were a few guys talking about, well what can we get for this draft pick and Mickey and I were like, man, we are not trading this pick. So, here it came time for that selection and many of you in this room were here. I'd say on a 10 Richter scale, the selection of Reggie Bush was a 9.9 for this organization. If you have a clear memory, you remember the crawfish boil across the street, you remember season tickets being sold out within two hours and they've been ever since that selection. That is pretty dynamic. This was like Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson, the Beatles (Laughs). Seriously, that is how big it was. And so I came here as a new young head coach with a number of rules that (Bill) Parcels instilled upon me. And you know, he talked about man, that first pick of the draft, make sure you fly them in commercial with the rest of the draft class. That first pick of the draft, don't have a separate dinner, or hotel suite, or limousine waiting for him. And so here we are, after the first three rounds, there's a little rain on the ground. The Zurich was in town and we are heading, Peter King was in the car, of course he was doing a feature story. And we were heading to Emeril's in a limousine. Reggie had just arrived private and then was going to be staying at the Loews penthouse suite (Laughs). And I thought I'd broken like every rule in the book regarding this first pick. And I have only been here two months. I mean, Bill's not going to talk to me. We walked into the restaurant, it was still damp and as soon as the doors opened there was just a chant and it was, it was this started slow, 'Reggie, Reggie, Reggie.' And then we worked our way back to the back left section, if you're familiar with Emerils and I'd say, seating approximately 30 people. And we were at one round table, 12 people. And I sat - Reggie was to my left, turned to me and said, 'Coach, you did this all for me?' (Laughs). And I just looked at him, I said, 'There is some serious de-recruitment that is going to have to take place with this guy. I mean, he was just - as young as he looks now, he was that young. And it proved, and there is an old, smart evaluator that once told me, when you win a championship, every single transaction that takes place leading up to that championship becomes validated immediately relative to what your goal is. Your goal is to win a championship. In that playoff run, the Arizona game, two things happened in that game. I was ecstatic for how he played. I mean, he had over 250 all-purpose yards. And yet, I remember him carrying out the baseball bat that was like our secret and thinking, holy cow, there's going to be questions about that. But an amazingly, amazingly dynamic player and amazing teammate. A guy that was obviously a huge part of what we built here just from the very foundation of getting started. And it was the first like, man ring the bell. Ring it three times. It was a big, a big deal for our city to have that opportunity to select Reggie Bush. And then, to see the success he had with us. Just a dynamic punt returner, a very good running back, a very good receiver. And here we are winning the Super Bowl championship, and you look back and one-by-one we're going to hit this draft class, right? (Zach) Strief was here last year. He was in that draft class. One-by-one, all of those guys that were selected became, you don't realize it at the time, they became so necessary to achieve what we wanted to achieve. And so, they were the pillars essentially what we were going to build. And there were a lot of things that went in our direction. Good Fortune sometimes, but that story, as I'm telling it, I think it's pretty accurate. Pete (Carmichael), I am just going to (point out to) - CJ (Curtis Johnson). There's a few guys back there that, you know, are at some point we're going to get a little blurry with our stories and at least it's on paper now. So it's with great honor on behalf of the Benson's, Dennis Laucha, and our organization that Reggie Bush is entered into a the Saints hall of fame. Congratulations."
"That's funny, the story that Coach (Payton) was telling. I did turn to him and ask him did you guys do this just for me because it really just felt when I walked into Emeril's restaurant and everybody stood up, I thought it was preplanned later to find out that it wasn't. To me, that is my first memory of coming to New Orleans. The people welcome me with welcoming me with open arms, this young kid from San Diego, California who went to USC with high hopes of winning the Super Bowl somewhere and it happened to be here with the Saints. I remember the first time I landed and got to New Orleans and I was taken on a tour throughout New Orleans through the ninth ward to see a lot of the devastation and, right away, I felt this sense of responsibility to give it 110% every day, every time I stepped on the field, and to at least do my very best to try to bring this city and this organization a Super Bowl."
"Fast forward four years later and we were able to do that. I truly believe everybody that came to this team during that time period was brought here for a purpose. A purpose to help bring back hope, help restore hope to the city, to the people, by going out and doing what we do best, which is playing football, winning football games. It's amazing when you have that opportunity to be able to do something like that and you look back on it and you accomplished it with the guys like Coach Payton, (Marques) Colston, Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore, Roman Harper, I can go on and on, the guys that are still some of my best friends to this day."
"I'll tell you a quick story. I was texting Marshall Fault two days ago and I just told my wife the story as well. When I was growing up in San Diego, I lived very close to San Diego State University. There were a couple of people that you wanted to be like if you were in an athlete growing up San Diego, it was either Tony Gwynn, Junior Seau, or Marshall Faulk. And so for me, I lived on 54th street, it runs directly at San Diego State. We lived across the street from a guy named Kyle Turley, who I know everybody here is very familiar with. I remember he lived in an apartment building. We lived in this duplex and when my stepdad kind of found out who he was, he was playing at San Diego State, he hadn't gotten drafted yet, we became friendly and so my dad would say hi to from time to time. I remember when he got drafted, we found out the news that he got drafted number one to the Saints, he brought me back a signed Saints hat and a signed Saints t-shirt. I was probably about 11, 12 years old at this time and he didn't know, if I was going to go on and play college football or play at the professional level. When I look back on that time, living across the street from Kyle Turley and him bringing me back, that signed Saints hat and that signed Saints shirt, to me, it was almost like God's wink, this is your future. That's something that I'll never forget because he didn't have to do that for me. A lot of times, I feel like we get a chance to make impacts on others, it's kids or just other people and you never know who they're going to end up being or who they're going to end up impacting."
"Ricky Williams is from my area as well. Ricky, I've known his family for a long time, but it's funny, Ricky and I have never met and we're from the same area and we both have taken similar paths at the NFL level. We both got drafted to the New Orleans Saints, traded to the Miami Dolphins, and we've also both won the Heisman trophy. I've had kind of these little hints, these little winks, I think that have come from God of just kind of this is your future as well."
"When I look back on those things in my life, those that have left such an impact on my life. Then the Marshall Faulk piece, obviously Marshall's from New Orleans. When I got to the Saints, we studied a lot of Marshall Faulk stuff, his routes. Marshall's one of my good friends now to this day. Even at the college level, I studied a lot of Faulk stuff. The other day, I was going through one of my old bins, my old crates of a bunch of high school cut ups and college cut ups and I came across this VHS tape, which is kind of funny because my kids will never know what VHS tapes are, a VHS tape of a Faulk cut up. I sent a picture of it to him and I had to thank him because I told him that he really paved the way for guys like me. I studied a lot of his option routes, a lot of things that he did, and a lot of his run plays. And so we studied a lot of his stuff at the college level, at the NFL level, and he's also from New Orleans as well."
"My mother was raised in a foster home. And so my grandmother, who I knew to be my grandmother was also from Louisiana. I didn't know a whole lot about Louisiana and the cooking, the Creole, the food, all different things down here. But it's like I've had all these little different pieces of New Orleans in my life from the time I was a baby. So then to be able to come here and to win a Super Bowl and to be a part of history, it's just really cool."
"I am so appreciative to be here now. New Orleans is home away from home for me and I couldn't be happier to go into the Saints Hall of Fame with Colston. He was just such a big piece of what we did. We were just talking in the hallway about some of the games we had and that year we won the Super Bowl it was just an amazing run. It was just an amazing time. I remember when we did win the Super Bowl, seeing the TV screen on, it literally looked like the city was on fire. People were just running up and down the streets, celebrating, coming together, people crying in tears, laughing, cheering. That's what sports is about. It's about bringing together people from all different cultures, walks of life, religions, personal beliefs and coming together for the same common goal, and that's to win a Super Bowl. Thank you guys for being so gracious to me and my family. This is truly home away from home for me and I'll always have a spot in my heart for the city of New Orleans. Thank you."
"In that the recruitment process, you know, Reggie would, would do something pretty amazing on the field and you know, there was that part of you as a coach, he said that that was pretty good. But you know, I, I was, ironically, I was at San Diego state when, when he was having a chance to meet Kyle and, and I coached, uh, Marshall. And so CJ recruited Marshall right from New Orleans here. So there were these other ties and you know, we'd look at each other and be like, you still got a ways to go to get to where Marshall Faulk set. Same thing we're telling (Alvin) Kamara.
So our next recipient, I mentioned at the beginning, the significance of that draft class. I think it's important to go through it again. And Mickey helped me out though, but obviously Reggie in the first round, second round pick up, we actually traded down (to the) middle of that second round, four to five spots and acquired Jeff Fein and selected Alabama's Roman Harper. And that was a pretty good round where we got two players. I do not know that we had a third round pick. I do not think we did. So day one ended and we went to bed that night. (We) kind of (went) with the board listed as to how we are going to start the next day. We went home with the idea, we are going to select Owen Daniels, tight end from Wisconsin. He also just ironically happened to be from my hometown (Naperville, Ill.). So the morning starts, we're eating breakfast, we've got one pick here, (the) Houston Texans are going to select (first). Then we are going to be on the clock. I am actually on the phone with, Owen Daniels, we're talking, I am saying, here in about five minutes, we are excited and all of a sudden, you know how you are on the other end of caller id, sometimes you can hear it, but there was a time where you just felt like click. And he is like 'one second coach'. And he came back, he said, coach, you won't believe this, the Texans are going to draft me. And the odds of that happening, you just sit in the draft room. And I am like, are you kidding me? It is five till eight in the morning. All right, and this was a slam dunk. We were, you know, there was only one team (ahead of us). And so, all right, we hung up. Sure enough, the Texans selected Owen Daniels. We traded down with the Philadelphia Eagles. We acquired Hollis Thomas. They drafted Max Jean-Gilles and then we selected out of Bloomsburg, Jahri Evans. So sometimes look, it was a win win really, the careers both players had. But, a huge, a huge break for us in getting a fantastic starting guard, potentially a Hall of Fame guard. And so fifth round he's going to be an honorary member of this draft class because he, I don't know that he goes into our Hall of Fame, certainly we'll invite them back because he lives here half the year. But Rob Ninkovich at Purdue, we had Rob twice and the last time I told him I thought he was going to be a long snapper and then he went on to win two super bowls with the New England Patriots playing outside linebacker and basically having a fantastic career, so we didn't have the right vision.
In the sixth round we drafted the Fred Biletnikoff winner out of Oregon State, I believe his name is Mike Hass. Mike was a real productive receiver. A player we'd seen a lot on film, obviously was decorated. Then in the first of the seventh round selections, we took Zach Strief and that leads us to our compensatory selection, Marques Colston. So in these draft meetings, it's easy to focus your energies on the first round. Typically the media and most of the fanbase does. It's hard to speculate into the later rounds. At that time Curtis Johnson, our receivers coach, had seen his tape. Now mind you, it was somewhat grainy. So every once in a while you will receive a tape from a smaller school and you will try to, you know, we spend a lot of time trying to locate the number with socks. Is he wearing something that stands out? So CJ had a real strong, high opinion. Johnny Morton, the same way, a high opinion. I know one of our areas, scouts did and, and look, well, I'll be honest with you, you do look for traits. So we're not in that room just throwing darts at names in the seventh round. But, he had these traits. Now the route tree was limited, the offense he played in, you didn't get to see a lot of what we were going to see for the next however many years that he excelled here. In fact, we weren't going to see that at the rookie camp either. All right?
That rookie camp,we were inside, outside, inside, outside, and this, Mike Hass was catching a ton of balls. I mean, I'm telling you playing the slot and meanwhile, Marques, I don't know if it was the heat here or his back, it was a combination of a few things, but between Johnny Mo (John Morton) and CJ, they were like drill sergeant one and drill sergeant two. The first person you hear at our practice, and those guys did not know what to think, but it was Curtis Johnson. It became kind of legendary each year. It didn't matter who the receivers were. I know there was a point I heard Zach Strief point (to it) last year in his speech, but I know there was this point with Marques where he was thinking, man, is this it, am I in the NFL and do I belong? But this spring, I would say was just somewhat okay. The most amazing thing happened though throughout that summer and into training camp. And I would say the early weeks of training camp Deuce (McAllister pointing to the crowd), we were waiting on your knee, you were on a pitch count. Drew Brees, we were waiting on his shoulder. He was on a pitch count. Reggie was doing Gatorade commercials and he was rolling. He was doing outstanding. All right. Donte' Stallworth, truth be known was kind of bugging me a little bit. He, and I laugh about that to this point, but I mean that was kind of a little bit, I'd say with some some grief and or some frustration. And all of a sudden this Colston, each day just boom, just keeps making pars and birdies just keep putting practices together where. You know, it goes from, I can remember the first deep ball he caught on the grass field that was 60 yards long and we had the arena ball blow up sidelines in case you went out of bounds. These things caught you. And I remember that first week, and then that second week and at some point into that first month of training camp feeling like, hey, we got our starting split end, we have got our starting split end. I said this already. I was ready to trade Donte' Stallworth all right. And again, he and I have the relationship now where it is easy for me to say that. But now it became much easier, and to see then the way this player played, not only in his rookie year, but I'm telling you it was the most consistent. You knew exactly what you were going to get. I can recall his first touchdown catch it Cleveland. If you were expecting a fun end zone dance or anything, you were just going to get a flip (of the ball back to the referee), in the pylon he caught against the Green Bay Packers, we were down 13-0. We came back and won that game and week leading up to, governor the game you were referencing, and to watch the career he had in the, I want to use the right word. I don't know if it's a symbiotic relationship where that cohesiveness he and Drew shared that was earned post-practice. It was earned throughout countless days at Millsaps. I know Drew would say the same thing, but the consistency and the professionalism and knowing exactly what you were going to get week in and week out and mind you, what you were going to get was the all-time leading receiver in the history of this organization. He had excellent hands, occasionally, twice a year he'd have, not a hard drop but an easy one that would just go through them. And it was somewhat unusual because it didn't happen often. His catch rate was phenomenal. But when he would have one of these I would turn and, I would want to give, you know, I don't know. (laughter) And so Marques was smart enough to where he would exit the field opposite of where I was. As he got older it became somewhat frustrating because I think we were on cords (headsets) then and you can actually see this take place in the Super Bowl. We ran a gap play action pass, deep 18-yard hook ball kind of came here, boom on the ground. And then right away, like he just kind of moved across the 40-yard line and I was down at the 30, the other 30. And then I would usually like weave through players to try to find him. (Laughter) That didn't happen often.
He was very humble in how he played, very respected as a teammate. And as I mentioned with Reggie and I am mentioning with him, I mean just as a coach, it was you know, you get three years. The first time coaches you have to do something in three years. You know, I remember telling our team this and these guys might remember this history or what we call that term we use for culture. I referenced the Steelers and I said, you guys would consider this organization one that has winning ways (now). And yet, if you looked at 1970, 71, 72 while Chuck Noll was there, there were some lean seasons. And prior to that, and so very quickly what we know or what I grew up with as an organization, that became one of a winning culture, tradition happened.
Not over 40 years, but (it) happened over two or three outstanding draft classes. They made that change and we referenced that at that point. And so to be able to visit with some of these players now and to personally thank these players now, because for a young coach there's certain breaks you need. And man, there are a lot of talented players that don't end up in the right system that we never hear a lot about their careers. And I think there are a lot of talented coaches that end up maybe in not the right situation, and we never get to hear about their successes. And, I feel like a lot of things went in our direction and, so it is with great honor that I'm taking up some of Marques' time. He asked me, he said, can you go five in minutes (into my time), to present Marques Colston into the Saints Hall of Fame."
"I mean, I think you guys know at this point, time is definitely not going to be a challenge for me to really fill in the gap. But, I really appreciate, really all of those words. You know, of our 10 years together I can't say I heard too many words, that we're really that kind (laughter).
It really is truly an honor to be here and really share a stage with these three extraordinary people. To be a part of this extraordinary organization that has become a second family (to me) and you know, to really be able to have this opportunity to look back on the 10 years that I spent here. When you come in and league as a seventh round pick, you know something like this really isn't on your radar. You're kind of in survival mode day in and day out and you're hoping that, the mindset is really, you're hoping that you did enough that day to keep your job. You know, Sean (Payton) referenced my rookie minicamp on numerous occasions (laughter), but I think it really taught me a couple of different things.
One, I had never been to New Orleans prior to getting drafted here. I've always been a football fan since I was four or five years old. You know, some of that history that Sean (Payton) referenced. I mean, I've seen it and watched it growing up. So when you get drafted in the seventh round, one you're not really super excited to still be on the board. You're really not super excited to go to a 3-13 team. You know, for me, I was two or three picks away from being able to find what I thought would be the best destination to go and try to make a roster as a free agent. Having to get drafted here and coming down here as a 22 year old, (I had) never been in New Orleans.
Just seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Reggie (Bush) kind of touched on it, you instantly feel like this is bigger than football. The opportunity to get into training camp and continue to fight for a job every day, be around guys like Deuce (McAllister) and be around guys like Joe (Horn) and really be around guys like Reggie (Bush) who, you know, from across the country watched and admired. I mean he was probably the best college football player I'd ever seen. So you are getting into a locker room with guys like that and you have an opportunity to really go out and fight every day. You know, that is really what this team, this foundation of this team has really been about since 2006.
I had the pleasure to come down and support Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore last year into the Saints Hall of Fame as undrafted free agents. What you quickly realize is that the opportunity to come and play at this organization, the one thing that you're going to get is an opportunity to show what you can do. I obviously (am) forever grateful, forever indebted to this Organization for getting that opportunity. The Benson's, Mr. Loomis, the rest of the front office, coaching staff, you know, just the opportunity to go out and compete everyday on a fair playing field. I mean that's all you can ask for as a competitor. I really took a lot of pride in competing every day and really being a teammate that can be depended upon.
Being someone that you know exactly what you're going to get every single day, day in, day out. Even in the dog days of Millsaps (laughter), that's what the job required. (I am) just truly humbled to be on this stage, truly humbled to be a part of this great Hall of Fame with so many other great players. You guys would probably believe it, really at a loss of words. So thank you to the Saints organization, thank you to everyone that's a part of this decision making process. I look forward to seeing the rest of this '06 class here in years to come."
"They could do the math, I'm fairly certain, six members of that class played ten or more years and I think the total number of years played in that class, which I think has only happened once, is north of 70 years. In one draft class. When you look at all those players we referenced earlier. So, congratulations to both you guys and to you Governor."
"Media Selection Committee, many of those individuals are in the room. We salute them for the job that they do with the selections every year. Speaking of which questions for Kathleen, Reggie or Marques go right ahead."
When you look back at what New Orleans was like when you first got here and to see where it is now, what does it mean to you to see where the city is now?
"It means a lot, knowing that we were part of that process. I think one of the best parts of our job, what we were able to do, was to be able to go out into the city and to be able to physically help people rebuild their homes. That's the piece that (Marques) Colston and I were talking about. That's when you realize that this is bigger than football. This is about helping people who are in need and people who are right here in our backyard. And so, you know, I remember one night after practice, and it's just, it was almost like a ghost town, right?"
There's just nobody in the streets. Obviously there were not a lot of businesses that were open late at that time. And now to see, to help just bring back hope and faith into this organization, to the team, the coaches, Mrs. Benson, front office, everybody. It is really cool to be a part of something like that. It's really special to do something like that. You can never take it for granted because to me that's what sports is about. You as being able to, you know, go the extra mile and not just say, I'm just going to show up and, and collect the check. But, to be able to actually impact and affect people's lives outside of the arena. To me that's part of our job description, that's why we're here and that's the most rewarding part about what we're able to do, you know, as being able to do all of those things.
"I think for me, I say it often just talking about pro sports really it's the business of selling hope, right? You get into the draft and you got 32 teams that every single year that feel like they have aspirations to win the Super Bowl. It's really no different with the fan base. The opportunity to be here and really not only New Orleans, but understand that you're representing the entire Gulf region. Just to be able to play a small role in that resurgence and just have the opportunity to interact with people and understand the impact that you've made on their lives over the years. (There is) no feeling in the world like that."
A true story. So every year, coach (Payton) has a "bat game" and the bat game, I'm assuming that you guys don't know a whole lot about that. So, I will just kind of bring you up to speed. But you know, when, when coach hands out a bat, he picks a game. We have to be the most physical team on that football field. We want to be the team that we start fast, where we are the most physical team in every aspect of the game. And so before the game, I am in the locker room with the bat and I'm thinking like, man, I want to motivate. I want to somehow make an impact early on in this, either in warmups or something to where I can get this team jacked up. Right? And so I'm talking to the guys in the locker room. I'm like, I think I want to bring the bat out. And they're all like, yeah, you should do that. You should bring it out. But now when I look back on it, nobody else wanted to also bring the bat out. It was just me. And so they were kind of egging me on and do it. And then, you know, I remember running out on the field with the bat and then immediately look to the sideline and coach is like, come here. (Laughter) Now the pressure was on me at that point. I had no choice but to go out and ball. So, thankfully I was able to go out and play well that game.
Question to Marques Colston:
Talk about that first touchdown game there in Cleveland and how much confidence that gave you?
"I remember the route we were right inside the red zone. I ran a "Harvey" route against, Ralph Brown, I think it was. It was one of those things that it didn't really register for me at the time. You know, I got into the end zone and it was kind of like I'd been there a bunch before. But, for me it was still that mindset, I started the game, but I really wasn't comfortable in the fact that I was a starter. So, for me that was just kind of my internal motivation and it kind of kept me in a headspace where I was able to kind of, really focus on the here and now. To imagine that 70 some odd touchdowns later, that would be the end result, I can't say that was something that was ever on my radar."
Marques, can you go through each of the 72 (touchdowns)? (Laughter)
Question for both players:
How much do you kind of appreciate the movement given that you guys are from the same draft class and played together for so long? It could be you, and maybe another player from another class or free agency. Do you guys embrace going in this (together)?
"It's special to be able to go in to a draft class with Colston. And the one thing that Joe Vitt always said is that we're going to walk together forever, you know, because of what we're able to accomplish here in this city, on this football team. And it is true because a lot of these guys are still some of my best friends to this day. I was just texting Roman (Harper) and (Jonathan) Vilma about coming down to my charity golf weekend at the end of this month. And so, we still talk all the time. We have a group chat, Orny (Mike Ornstein) is somehow in this group chat. I don't know how he got in there, but Orny somehow in the group chat. But it's true though, you know, because of the people who come from all different walks of life and we come together and we were able to accomplish this one thing that, you know, what Coach Vitt used to always say that we're going to walk together forever. And that is true. (i) Couldn't be more proud to go on same class with Colston, I have to say this is the most I have ever heard him speak (laughter)."
His nickname was Quiet Storm for a reason because, he just didn't talk a whole lot, but he led by example and that is the most, that is what you want out of your players. Somebody that's going to punch the clock every time he steps on the football field, whether it's practice, whether it's in the film room, in the weight room, during games. Coach (Payton) was absolutely correct. You knew exactly what you were going to get out of Colston and he was Mr. Consistent. Again, (he) didn't say a whole lot, but he did not have to because he said a lot with his demeanor on the football field with the way he played a game. Being able to rely (on him), Drew being able to rely on him and us as well, I have to imagine as a quarterback, that's a breath of fresh air, having a receiver like Colston that you can depend on all the time to be in the right place, do the right things, not only on the football field but on and off the field."
"Yeah, I think I'd say it's really a testament to this organization. The fact that, you know, Sean (Payton) opened it up. I mean, the first pick of the draft and the last big of the 2006 draft going into the Hall at the same time. I think there's a lot of organizations and coaches that give lip service to how to evaluate players. But, I remember vividly the mindset here was, it doesn't matter how you get here and, for this to be the end result. And like I said before, to have Lance (Moore) and Pierre (Thomas) go in the year prior, I think it speaks volumes about how this organization really evaluates players. It really makes it a point to make sure that the best team is on the field at any given point. When you can play for an organization like that and you have guys like Reggie (Bush) that come in as the second pick and he came in with a work ethic that was second to none. When you can build a roster from top to bottom like that, I mean, this is why you've seen the success over the last 10, 15 years."
To be able to be here today and be with Coach Payton and these players that have meant so much to this city and be able to experience all this, what does this mean to you?
"This is the highlight of my life. The last thing I would ever have imagined getting was a phone call saying 'we want to induct you into the Saints Hall of Fame.' Now think about that for an average person like me just minding my own business and getting a call from Ken saying I'll be in the Saints Hall of Fame and I was shocked. I'm deeply honored and I just admire what's going on here with the team. Gayle Benson is doing an amazing job and I'm very, very proud of her on behalf of all of the citizens of Louisiana. Especially all the women of Louisiana. This is quite a memory marker for me and my family. I have five surviving children and some of my grandsons are here today and we are just as proud as can be.
We have always been Saints fans. We have been through those years of total frustration and those years of total elation. This is extraordinary and I am just so proud to be with these guys. A little small point of history that some may or may not remember, I used to be a coach's wife. My husband coached in high school, but I was not his wife then. He coached at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. We got married while he was coaching. So as a coach's wife I was surrounded by guys like this and coaches, big guys. And one day I walked into one of the hotels here with one of my friends and she said, 'what is going on in this hotel? I mean, look at all these huge men.' I said, 'I didn't see it, but I bet it is a coaches convention.' That is what it was exactly. We as a family are very devoted to making Louisiana as good as it can be. The Saints exemplify that. We couldn't have had the same kind of recovery we've actually experienced without the backup. The Saints created enthusiasm. The (Superdome) did become a symbol of victory. And people who working on smaller properties looked at that and said, 'if anybody can do that (to that) huge property, we can do our property.' Small properties were not much easier to recover than large properties. But it just all came to pass. And I'm just so proud to be a part of it and I'm very proud to feel like I'm a family member of the Saints now. Thank you so much.
"I'll say this though, I'm reading this book right now about Myles Monroe called "The Spirit of Leadership. And in that book he talks about just how we all have that spirit of leadership inside of us and how we all are here for a purpose. And without Mrs Blanco, taking initiative to make sure we were able to have our stadium redone and put back together and we would not have been able to go in there and do the work that we did that year. It's so special to hear your story and to hear just how everybody, a lot of different people have had their own stamp on restoring the city or restoring the Superdome or, or just helping in some way, shape or form. Because we all have a purpose here and Mrs Blanco was a huge piece of that, so I'm happy to be going into the Hall of Fame with you."
Marques, are you having a happy birthday? (Laughter)
"It's your birthday?"
"Yeah it's my birthday" (laughter)
How old are you?
"36 today. I can still run a stick route though" (laughter)
"Once again, we want to congratulate Kathleen, Reggie and Marques for this accomplishment. Again, the actual induction will take place October 25 at Club 44 at night the weekend of the Arizona noon game. That's amazing. So congratulations to these three. Thanks to coach Payton for helping make this special, also to Gayle for making this so special as well."