The New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl victory was a "blur" for Mike Normand, so Thursday provided a chance for a little bit of reality to set in.
Shreveport's Convention Center was stop No. 2 for the Saints' Championship Tour. There, Normand, a Marksville native and now girls basketball coach at Doyline High School, and the rest of the area's Who Dats got to witness firsthand the fruits of a Super Bowl championship.
"For diehard fans like me, it gives me the shakes just thinking about it," said Normand, who brought along 6-year-old daughter Alexis. "It lets you realize what it was all about, and what we've been yelling for for years."
More than 500 people, most dressed in black and gold and armed with cameras, swept in the Convention Center in the first 45 minutes the doors were open. By day's end, more than 8,000 people had attended the event. A good portion of the attendees were children, including around 40 from the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church Freedom Schools.
"When we first told them about it, they were jumping up around all over the place," said Starla Edwards, a group leader. "They were excited about coming to see the Saints."
The interactive setup included a quarterback challenge, the George Halas Trophy (NFC championship), a Saints Super Bowl ring, the Saintsations and a piece of "game used" Super Bowl sod from Sun Life Stadium in Miami, where the Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7.
Former Saint Michael Lewis was on hand signing autographs, but the overwhelming star of Thursday's show didn't speak or give autographs and stood just 22-inches tall. However, it glistened gracefully under stage lights for eight hours.
"We're here to see the trophy," said Kevin McNabb of Longview, Texas.
The Crowley native stood in the exhibit's longest line with 13-year-old daughter Kylie and 3-year-old nephew Cole. The wait bothered no one. It seemed like nothing compared to the 43 years Saints fans waited to capture the Vince Lombardi (Super Bowl) Trophy.
"It's awesome," said McNabb, an Archie Manning fan. "I stumbled onto an e-mail about this yesterday and told the boss, 'I'm taking off, couldn't miss something like this.'"
Although no current member of the Saints was on hand, McNabb, who called the Super Bowl a "dream come true," was thrilled to meet Lewis, a former fan favorite who last played with the team in 2006.
Lewis was impressed with the reception the Tour has seen along Interstate 20.
"We started in Monroe (on Wednesday) and I signed about 2,000 autographs," he said. "I didn't think we'd get that many people. It shows us the love we have as an organization up here. I'm glad we started the tour up here in north Louisiana."
Local dignitaries didn't miss the opportunity to check out the Rickey Jackson Hall of Fame display and Drew Brees' Super Bowl helmet during this election season. However, most were gathered where most of the fans — and cameras — were stationed; near the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Despite being a Dallas Cowboys fan, Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover was happy for the Black and Gold.
"It's wonderful for the fans all across Louisiana and the Gulf South region," said Glover, who roots for the Saints for "every game, except when they play the Cowboys. "It's an outstanding payoff for people in this area who have loved and supported the Saints over the years. It gives them a chance to feel even more connected to the team."
Glover said he'd like to pursue an "annual" Saints presence in Shreveport, whether it's a scrimmage, an offseason caravan or a preseason game.
It's a good bet Normand would be first or second in line, just like he was with "Lexi" on Thursday.
"I can't believe the Super Bowl trophy is here, in the possession of the New Orleans Saints," Normand said. "All those years ... getting my picture with my daughter in front of the trophy made it all worthwhile."
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