Former Saints Tackle Willie Roaf was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Fawcett Stadium Saturday, just one night before the Saints will face the Cardinals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
The entire Saints team was in attendance to support Roaf who was presented by his father Clifton.
"I have always felt that he was one of the best linemen in the league," Clifton said of his son. "It was hard work and sacrifice and with that you can reach your goal."
The Pine Bluff, Ark. native was selected eighth overall by the Saints in the 1993 NFL Draft after playing in college at Louisiana Tech, the only school that offered him a scholarship. Roaf was a key part of the 2000 team that recorded the Saints first ever postseason victory in the 2000 NFC Wild Card Game. He suffered a knee injury in 2001 before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Roaf played thirteen seasons, nine with the Saints and four with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 1990's and the 2000's and was selected to 11 Pro Bowls, tied with Anthony Munoz for the most ever at his position.
"As an offensive lineman, I didn't get signaled out in front of a large group of people very often," said Roaf. "When I did it was usually a referee signaling holding on No. 77."
Roaf first acknowledged the honor he was being presented with before thanking his father and his mother who passed away in 2009.
"My dad always found time to be a part of my life. He only missed one game and that was because my brother had a game in St. Louis at the same time," said Roaf. "My mom was always my inspiration. Her love and guidance made me who I am today."
Roaf also thanked his aunts, uncle, and his children before thanking the Hall of Fame selection committee.
"When I was notified that I was selected into the Hall of Fame, I was so happy. I felt a strong sense of pride," said Roaf. "(I am) Proud to have earned such an honor. Proud to be a part of the legends of the game."
Roaf acknowledged those who he learned from while playing the NFL. He cited former Saints players Ricky Jackson and Sam Mills among others.
He didn't forget his roots and thanked his high school teammates, coaches, and his basketball coach who was in attendance at the ceremony. Willie is the second player to be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame behind Don Hutson.
Roaf was very appreciative of Saints owner Tom Benson, then general manager Jim Finks and coach Jim Mora.
"I was blessed to have nine wonderful years with the Saints organization, especially winning our first playoff game in the 2000 season. I will forever be grateful to the Saints for drafting me."
Roaf appreciated most the intense battles he had with some of the game's greats saying that he loved going out and competing with the best.
"I played with a lot of great athletes in my career. To the guys that I missed tonight and all of the guys that I played with, thank you for being a part of my career…I never dreamed that I would be in the Hall of Fame. I was just thankful every day to play the sport that I loved."
Roaf joins a 2012 class of six and a group of 273 members that have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame in history. He was very appreciative of the honor and finished with words for his mother.
"To my fellow Hall of Famers, I promise you I will always be a Hall of Fame teammate that you can be proud of. Thank you for welcoming me to this new team," said Roaf. "Finally, to my mother, I did not become a doctor, lawyer, or a brain surgeon but I did become a Hall of Fame football player and I know you are proud of me. That is what matters to me most."