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Former New Orleans Saints linebacker James 'Hitman' Haynes dies at 60

'He was a great soul'

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San Francisco 49ers full back Roger Craig, right, runs for a good gain with the ball as New Orleans Saints linebacker James Haynes attempts to stop him during the second half of their NFL game in San Francisco's Candlestick Park, Sept. 22, 1986. The 49ers defeated the Saints, 26-17. (AP Photo/Jeff Reinking)

Former New Orleans Saints linebacker James Edward "Hitman" Haynes died Saturday, Nov. 14 at the age of 60 in Waxahachie, Texas.

Haynes played six seasons for the New Orleans Saints from 1984-89, and was part of the first winning season and first playoff team in franchise history in 1987.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker competed in 61 career games, starting 23. He recovered five fumbles, recorded four sacks and had an interception return for a touchdown for New Orleans. The latter came Sept. 24, 1986 when Haynes returned an interception 17 yards for a score in the second quarter of a 24-10 win over Green Bay at the Superdome.

Haynes started all 16 games at right outside linebacker, opposite Rickey Jackson, in Jim Mora's first year as coach of the Saints. Pat Swilling took over that spot in 1987 while Haynes remained a valuable reserve and special teams player.

"He was a great soul, I mean just a great person," Swilling said Friday. "He taught me some things about playing the position. And look, he knew sooner or later that I was going to be the starter, but he never, ever wavered or treated me any differently from Day One, and I appreciated that. We got to be really, really good friends."

The player who made No. 92 a familiar number in the Black and Gold, earned the nickname "Hitman" for his hard-hitting style.

"We called him 'Hitman' because he'd hit anything that moved, man." Swilling said.

Born in Tallulah, La., Haynes starred for Tallulah High School before playing at Coahoma Community College and at Mississippi Valley State.

Haynes played six seasons in the NFL, all as a member of the Saints.

Upon retirement from the league, Haynes worked as a truck driver, and settled in Waxahachie, outside of Dallas.

Haynes is survived by his wife, Linda Ballard Haynes, along with children James Jr., Randon and Ashley. Haynes is also survived by stepchildren Jarvis Roy Ballard and Quandrika Bennett.

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