Jabari Greer grew from an undrafted rookie in Buffalo into one of the defensive centerpieces for the New Orleans Saints during their run to Super Bowl XLIV, and found his Saints experience to be one that surpassed any other that he had in the NFL.
"Through God's grace, I came to the best place on Earth to play football," he said.
And for the Saints, the cornerback played well – so well that on Thursday he was introduced as the newest inductee into the Saints Hall of Fame.
Joining Greer in the Hall of Fame are longtime videographers Steve Paretti and Bob Parkinson, who will jointly receive the Joe Gemilli "Fleur de Lis" award for their contributions to the Saints' organization.
Greer, who was signed by the Saints as an unrestricted free agent in 2009, played five of his 10 NFL seasons in New Orleans (2009-13) and totaled nine interceptions, 68 passes defensed, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in 63 games, with 60 starts. New Orleans advanced to the playoffs in four of his five seasons.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Greer was exactly what the Saints needed, when they needed it.
"He's the epitome of what it means to be a New Orleans Saint and the type of players and the type of people that we bring into this organization," said Saints Coach Dennis Allen, who was the team's secondary coach in Greer's first two seasons with New Orleans.
"Back in 2009 – we went to the NFC Championship Game in 2006, we had a couple of subpar seasons, kind of middle of the road, average – and we made a few changes and we felt like we needed to get better defensively. And we wanted to be more of an attacking, aggressive style of defense and in order to do that, you need corners that can go out and cover."
First, the Saints pursued cornerback Ron Bartell, but Bartell re-signed with the Rams.
"We turned our attention to Jabari and I'm excited that we were able to bring him in here, because Jabari was an undrafted free agent, came in, worked his tail off and really developed himself. He's a self-made man and a self-made player. And that's probably the greatest compliment that I can give to somebody.
"When you look at what we're looking for right now, all our corners are 6 feet tall, big, long, but they come in all different shapes and sizes. Jabari came in and was a tremendous addition to our team. I think he's got the best feet of any corner that I've ever seen.
"We were talking on the field and I used to talk about guideline guys and rules guys. Rules guys are guys that have to do everything exactly how you want them to do it, and guideline guys are guys that you kind of give them a little leeway, but you've got to make sure that they stay within the guidelines. My initial thought was Jabari was going to be a rule guy, but quickly I realized that he really was a guideline guy. It was giving some thoughts in terms of how to do it, and then let him work his craft."
In New Orleans, Greer found a franchise that allowed him to rediscover his childhood joy for the game. He made several free agent visits, and was convinced that each was his soon-to-be-destination, but his late wife advised him to remain patient.
His visit to New Orleans proved to be the fit.
"I remember walking outside to go grab lunch, and I remember the distinct smell of my Little League mouthpiece," Greer said. "As clear as I'm talking, I heard a voice say, 'If you come here, you'll be able to play like you're a kid again. I can't explain it, and it allowed me to have peace about the decision of coming to New Orleans."
Too, it helped that the Saints were adjusting the defensive scheme.
"One thing that was beautiful about what (defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams was building here, is a defense that would be very fluid in the middle and very aggressive in the middle," Greer said. "And two guys – he told us we were on the Autobahn on the edges – so me and (cornerback) Tracy (Porter) were basically in zero, man-to-man coverage almost every play.
"There's extreme fear to that. The fear of getting burned in front of your family is real. When you are there and nearest person to you is 10 yards inside of you, and you have one of the world's best athletes running at you full speed, it can be challenging. So it was really important to me to be an expert on technique."
Greer's expertise helped push him to Thursday's announcement, and helped him reflect on game days in the Caesars Superdome.
"There's only a few places in the NFL that you have the experience with the fans that you have in New Orleans," he said.
"And there's no place like the Superdome on Sunday – you hearing the brass band, and "Stand Up & Get Crunk" for the first time. Those are moments that you can't replicate, and to be on the center stage in front of 85,000, 90,000 people when 'Stand Up & Get Crunk' comes on, and everybody's going crazy – so much that I can't hear the guy next to me – is something that is so special and I feel like that you can only get here. For me, this became home and it's still home."
Greer finished his career with 13 interceptions, four returned for touchdowns, 101 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and 430 tackles in 133 games, with 86 starts.
Paretti and Parkinson captured the team through their video skills for WDSU-6 and WWL-TV, respectively. Combined, they served for more than 50 years.
The New Orleans Saints announced that Jabari Greer, Steve Paretti, and Bob Parkinson will be the newest members inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame during the 2023 NFL season. Greer also spoke to the team prior to the announcement press conference on Thursday, June 1, 2023.