Photos of Hokie Gajan as a radio broadcaster and player for the Saints
Through and through Hokie Gajan was a New Orleans Saint, his 36-year affiliation with the organization – as a player, a member of the player personnel staff and as radio analyst for the team's games – serving as a testament to his dedication and loyalty to the franchise.
Monday night his voice was silenced, and much of the Black and Gold nation fell silent at the news of his passing.
Gajan, 56, was diagnosed last fall with a rare form of cancer called liposarcoma and died from his illnesses. Those illnesses forced him to abbreviate his duties as radio analyst for the Saints' flagship station, WWL-870, last season.
Through it all, Gajan remained upbeat and hopeful, realistic and determined, traits that he displayed as a player at LSU and with the Saints and, later, as a broadcaster in the booth with his partner, play-by-play man Jim Henderson, since the 2000 season.
"Anybody that ever listened to Hokie talk or spent a minute with him, you knew who he was," said Stan Brock, a Saints tackle from 1980-92, whose career overlapped Gajan's (1982-85). Brock was one of the people present when Gajan passed.
"That's who he was all the time," Brock said. "He was one of the toughest guys I've ever been around and one of the most sincere people that I've ever been around. I loved him more than a brother. He was really a tremendous teammate and you can use all the (positive) words that you can possibly think of. He was all of the above."
All the way to the end, Brock said, Gajan refused to feel sorry for himself, instead focusing his energies on attacking his condition.
"That's how he did it," Brock said. "In fact, calling him and talking to him throughout the whole process, he was always wanting to know about others, always wanting to know how someone else was doing. He would deflect it. He always deflected the fame, he always deflected attention. He was that guy."
Henderson, in comments made to WWL radio, said Gajan was "a man's man."
"I loved him dearly," Henderson said. "He's one of the best people... so true and genuine; he's one of the most original people I've ever met. There were no acts, or anything false about Hokie. Everything you see is very true with him.
"He was a family man. You could see him light up when it came to his grandkids or his family. He was very proud of his daughters, and a very loving husband."
That was a sentiment that permeated throughout Gajan's WWL family.
Said WWL Radio Operations & Program Director Diane Newman: "God put us here so we could become the best version of ourselves. Hokie was born that way. Authentic. Honest. Purely Hokie. Tougher than tough, yet innocent & tender...and funny, even in intensive care. That's why we all love him so much.
"He's what we all strive to be – true. True in life. True as a player who left his guts on the field. Nothing but true love for (his wife) Judy, his daughters, family and friends. And 100 percent true on the radio. That's why Saints and LSU fans have boundless love for Hokie."
And those feelings were echoed by Gajan's former Saints teammates.
He was a Saints for four seasons, his career cut short by knee injuries, and ran for 1,358 yards and 11 touchdowns on 252 carries. He also caught 63 passes for 515 yards and two touchdowns, and led the NFL in rushing average (six yards per carry) in 1984.
"Hokie was the most down to earth professional athlete that I ever knew," said former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert (1985-89 and 91-92), who, like Gajan, made the transition from player to radio and also works at WWL.
"He was the common man's favorite football player, as tough as they come," Hebert said. "I always enjoyed doing shows with Hokie, because he was always straightforward, no BS, and I always enjoyed sharing outdoor fishing, and hunting stories with him, too. Next to his family, that was Hokie's greatest passion."
Following Gajan's playing career he was a Saints scout for 14 years and then succeeded Brock in the radio booth, partially due to Brock's recommendation.
"There's nobody more South Louisiana than Hokie Gajan. Nobody," Brock said. "I knew him and Jim Henderson, they had a relationship, they knew each other. I just believed that the two of them would be awesome, and I think they were. From Oregon, I would listen to them on satellite radio, I would tune in and listen to those two guys because of their entertainment value."