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Former New Orleans Saints trainer Dean Kleinschmidt receives Award of Excellence from Pro Football Hall of Fame

Kleinschmidt spent 31 years with the New Orleans Saints


Former New Orleans Saints head athletic trainer Dean Kleinschmidt was named the recipient of one of the Awards of Excellence for 2024 from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Kleinschmidt started with the Saints in 1969 as the assistant athletic trainer before being promoted to head athletic trainer in 1971 at the age of 23, becoming the NFL's youngest head athletic trainer in history. Jay Romig, Saints executive director of administration, said Kleinschmidt was a perfect fit for the then nascent franchise, having only been founded in 1967.

"It was some wild times, long days and he was perfect for it," Romig said. "He helped build the history."

Kleinschmidt remained with the Saints until 2000, receiving the Joe Gemelli Fluer De Lis Award in 2002 from the Saints Hall of Fame. Kleinschmidt once described his job with the Saints as "cheating mother nature" to the Herald Times in 1998.

"We're in that business of trying to speed healing," he said. "We do everything we can to get these guys ready, within safety limits, to play on the next deadline, which is noon the following Sunday."

Romig joined the organization in 1977 as an athletic trainer working under Kleinschmidt for three seasons.

"He's been my mentor when I was doing athletic training, he's been a fiend, a close friend, for now 50 years," Romig said. "He's a tremendous person and is so well-deserving to (be honored by) the Professional Football Hall of Fame."

There was more to it than just the job, according to Kleinschmidt.

"I met a lot of great friends that certainly made it worthwhile," Kleinschmidt told Indiana University in 2006. "(Former) Saints quarterback Archie Manning was one of the hardest working players that I have ever been around. He would come in during the offseason, and we would watch the boys (Cooper, Peyton and Eli) while Archie worked out."

Manning would serve as the best man at Kleinschmidt's wedding, representative of the bond the two built.

Kleinschmidt would work with Saints legends Danny Abramowicz and Manning to Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Willie Roaf and countless others in between during his 31 years with the Saints. He worked under 13 head coaches. Romig said staying on through so many coaching changes was an impressive feat.

"It's a testament to his ability and what he does and how good he is," Romig said.

A member of five halls of fame including the Louisiana Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame, the National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame, the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame and the Southeastern Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame, Kleinschmidt earned the Tim Kerin Award for Excellence in Athletic Training by the National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame in 2002.

Kleinschmidt also spent time working with the Green Bay Packers, the Washington Commanders franchise, the Detroit Lions, Indiana University, the Manning Passing Academy, and the Reese's Senior Bowl. He retired from the NFL in 2015.

"He's played a big part in the history of football, football in this area and wherever he's been," Romig said.

Kleinschmidt is not the only former Saints staffer being honored with the awards as veteran NFL assistant coach Monte Kiffin is among the recipients. Kiffin worked as the defensive coordinator for the Saints in 1995.

The full list of Awards of Excellence recipients include:

Assistant Coaches: Monte Kiffin, Bill McPherson and Lionel Taylor
Athletic trainers Steve Antonopulos, Dean Kleinschmidt and Bill Tessendorf.
Equipment managers Bill Hampton Sr., Don Hewitt and Richard "Dick" Romanski.
Film/video directors: Tom Atcheson, Bob McCartney and Dave Levy.
Public relations directors: Dan Edwards, Harvey Greene and Frank Ramos

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