We continue going down memory lane as part of the five-year anniversary of the Saints winning the Super Bowl in Miami and joining me now is former Saints defensive end Jeff Charleston who is a part of that team. Jeff, thanks for coming into the studio.
"Thank you for having me."
Alright, Jeff I just want to start out with a simple one: your favorite memory from the Super Bowl?
"Favorite memory – definitely winning the Lombardi. It was being passed, you know, basically through the players. At that moment – there are no words to describe it. That would definitely have to be the start of the best moments."
Alright well let's start at the beginning – when you guys arrived in Miami that week, what is it like for you, as far as your emotions, or is it nerves, is it excitement, or is it anxiety, that you want the game to go? What are you and the team, what are your emotions like when you approach and land in Miami?
"Definitely all of the above. Your family is coming down. Everyone is coming to party. You know, you have a lot of fans from New Orleans that are making that trip, but at the same time, even when you get to the stadium, a lot of it's filled with non-fans, you know, of the teams. You're getting ready for the biggest game of your life and there are so many distractions from family, to parties, to everything that you're just trying to focus on the biggest game of your life and minimize the distractions. So there is definitely anxiety where you're like 'I want this thing to start'. At the same time you're trying to study your opponent as much as possible – you have two weeks to do it and trying to fit it all in."
And how is it like when you're trying to deal with media day, practices? When you get there, is it more just –hey let's deal with all of this media stuff and then focus on the team? How do you guys divvy up that week, leading up to the Super Bowl?
"Yeah, so Super Bowl you've got two weeks. The week before you're home. We were in New Orleans. And the next week you travel – we were in Miami. You get there Monday, you have a practice. Tuesday is your media day, you have all your media and you have all that, but you kind of set one day to do that. Your practice schedule is typically the same, but you're all staying in a hotel the entire week, so you actually have more time, more meetings. Coach Payton didn't take it light on us – we had full padded practice that Wednesday. It was 85 degrees in Miami and especially late in the postseason, you don't practice that hard, but he really put it to us. It was great."
Alright so you get to the day of the game. You're playing the game and you have all these pregame ceremonies, you have the half time. You have to deal with all this stuff. What was Coach's message to you and how do you deal with all of that knowing that 45 minutes to go from the game you have all these pregame concerts and national anthem and then at halftime it's a lot longer than a normal game. How did you all deal with it? What was Coach's message to you when having to worry about these different kind of distractions?
"He definitely prepared us from a detail standpoint. There were no surprises, we knew everything that was coming so we were prepared for it. We knew, we talked about things we were going to do during the longer halftime and his main message on driving it through was you don't want to be on that losing side. You will never forget it and you will see how fast they get swept away. I mean, they're on the field for maybe 60 seconds before they're pushed into the locker room. So you just paid attention to every detail and didn't let anything slip away."
Alright so you get to the game, down 10-6 at halftime, what was Coach's message at halftime in the locker room and what were your thoughts on the first half, leading into the second?
"First half, we failed to score a touchdown, we score two field goals, so kept Peyton Manning to 10 points, to defensively we were moving the ball, but we were doing a good job. You know we knew we were in the game at that point, but his first words, I don't even know how long it was. I mean, it was pretty soon that he said he was doing Ambush and that we were going to do the onside kick. And it was very silent, but it was a silent confidence. I know guys not on the special teams unit were probably pretty nervous because they were risking the outcome of the game on one play and it wasn't starting off in defensive, it's your special teams unit. So, everyone had confidence in each other and it was executed properly."
Did you expect Coach to be calling that Super Bowl at the half? Was it him working on it all week? What were your thoughts when he said OK, let's do this?
"We had practiced it all season basically and the surprising thing was how confident Thomas Morstead was with the whole process, being a rookie, being his first year kicking off. You know, being a punter, you're not typically in that role, but we did it so many times in practice, so many times that week that we were ready for it. We didn't expect him to call it, in that moment, we were expecting it a lot sooner, but if it's in the play book, you're expected to execute it."
So when you're in the second half, the momentum starts to change. Is that when your team says 'okay we can do this, we can fight for this'? I mean, there is still a lot of game to be played here.
"It wasn't a determining factor where we were like alright, we won, but it was that time where it was needed that it just gave us confidence and it showed the rest of the game and we went on to score 21 points and they only scored another touchdown at that moment, so it definitely gave us so swagger."
Absolutely, so the game ends – Super Bowl champions and there is confetti, some many people on the field, everyone's high-fiving and your team is celebrating. What's that moment like when clock hits zero and your team knows you're Super Bowl champions?
"First thing that I did, was actually got Bobby McCray and I said, we're dumping Gatorade on them. So I went and grabbed the thing and dumped it on them. Everyone was basically high-fiving, hugging, hitting each other and you go out, the Lombardi comes out and your family is on the field. There are a thousand reporters, you still remember all of it, but at the same time, I think we were on the field for like an hour. You didn't want to go in the locker room - you didn't want it to end, but then you get in the locker room and you remember everything and it's a blur all at the same time, but your adrenaline is through the roof."
So what's after? Without going into too much detail, the after parties, just the celebration and just what was that like with your teammates? Just talk about the celebration afterward.
"It's planned, the entire week, so you're not just going to, from an event or organization standpoint, have people like 'oh we won – let's throw a party now'. This is planned before the game even ends. At the hotel we were staying, there is a big team party and Kenny Chesney was performing and people were popping champagne. Family is there and everyone is there. It's just kind of what you can expect from a Super Bowl celebration as a team, but that was just the start of it because after we get back to New Orleans, Monday morning, there is a parade there. There are so many people there and even at the airport when we got back and everyone was waiting to see us, it was packed there. I don't even know, 5,000 or 10,000 people there and then two days after that we have the parade in New Orleans, it's Mardi Gras."
Did you get any sleep?
"Not at all. I mean I had college roommates and teammates that just showed up. You know everyone was coming down to enjoy the celebration and especially for New Orleans, everyone was cheering for us. You know, we were the underdog, but everyone was cheering for us. The nation wanted to see us win. It was unbelievable. New Orleans, the city itself, changed. The team finally deserved the respect they needed."
Last thing, talk about the parade, because a lot of people talk about how big the crowd was. Some people estimate over 800,000 people were out there celebrating for the Saints victory. If you could just talk about the parade and riding on those floats, the beads, you have Mardi Gras right around the corner? Let's talk about how cool of a moment that was, to be celebrating with the city once you get back.
"It was unbelievable. I mean, it was the closest thing any guy will ever have to being like The Beatles, you know, to being like a rock star because it was just unbelievable. There might have been a track of four songs on a CD that were Saints songs that were going on that season but they played over and over and over and it didn't get old. We were expecting maybe two hours on the parade at most and I think we ended up being in the parade for like five hours."
That's a lot of time on one float.
"Yeah and it ended at Mardi Gras World and it was unbelievable. I can't even really describe how amazing it was, but everyone that was there knows."