Hundreds of fans greeted the New Orelans Saints at Atlantic Aviation MSY when the team arrived back from Philadelphia at 4:30 A.M Sunday morning.
The Saints defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in dramatic fashion Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field when kicker Shayne Graham booted a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a 26-24 NFC Wild Card win.
Fans lined up along Boeing Lane's entrance to the airport and cheered and danced as Saints players, coaches and staff departed the airport.
"In my 10 years in the NFL I have never witnessed anything like that," said first-year Saints tight end Benjamin Watson on a conference call Monday. "I've never witnessed anything like when we lose a game there are still people out there welcoming us back. I knew coming to New Orleans, being that I have my wife and family down here, this is a special place. They love their team and the team is a part of the community. You are talking about a couple hundred people out there at 4:30 in the morning welcoming a football team back. You just don't see that at a lot of other places. It's a credit to the fans and it is a credit to our team that the guys on this team connect with the community.
"Even though most of us aren't from here when we play here, and I have only been here for a year, you start to feel somewhat of a connection with your neighborhood and the people that come to support you every Sunday."
Sean Payton echoed Watson's sentiment about Saints' fans on Monday:
"I don't know that I was surprised. It's rare that we come home on a Saturday night, which makes it easier for people (to come out)," said Payton. "But certainly we have a great, faithful fan base. It's amazing. You kind of clear the one group, you make a turn and then you have five times as many down the homestretch. It's a pretty cool thing that's unfolded over the years here. We never take it for granted."
Below are some tweets from Saints players reacting to the welcoming:
I don't think who dat nation sleeps! So much support at the airport! — Kenny Stills (@KSTiLLS) January 5, 2014
So many fans out waiting when we arrived — rafael bush (@rbush36) January 5, 2014
Great win last night! Love my team, love the Who Dat Nation!!! Let's keep this thing going. — Lance Moore (@LanceMoore16) January 5, 2014
Gotta thank the Whodatnation family! Precaite the luv and support y'all! N shout out 2 the fans that waited for our arrival last night! — Khiry Robinson (@_numberthreeRB) January 5, 2014