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Justin Herron adds protector mentality to roster | Saints Podcast Rewind

Herron heads into his fifth NFL season after stints with Raiders and Patriots

Tackle Justin Herron participated in the team's 2024 OTA practices on May 28, 2024 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.
Tackle Justin Herron participated in the team's 2024 OTA practices on May 28, 2024 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.

The New Orleans Saints added tackle Justin Herron in free agency, adding a protector to the roster on and off the field.

The veteran heading into his fifth season joins the Saints having had previous stops with the Los Angeles Raiders and New England Patriots, appearing in 28 games with the Patriots (2020-2021) and seven with the Raiders (2022-2023), accruing 11 starts.

He also has a notable story from off the gridiron. Herron was going for a walk in his hometown of Tempe, Ariz., on March 11, 2021 when he helped stop an ongoing sexual assault.

"I was just walking around this little trail that's not too far from where I was staying. And I was just hearing screams off in the distance," the 28-year-old said on the New Orleans Saints podcast earlier in the offseason. "And it was just something that you don't normally hear. And then, I look over and you can see two people kind of struggling ... It definitely did not look like something that was supposed to be happening. And then, I heard one more scream and I just ran over there and intervened, and it was just, it happened so quick and immediately I ran over there and intervened. It just stopped. Called the cops and that was that was a that was very, very different experience for sure."

Herron said he always felt from watching movies that he would be someone who ran from the danger, but when the moment came he ran toward it.

"I think it's just always been like my mentality about why I think why I play offensive line because naturally I'm a protector and that's something I enjoy. And I make sure that when people are around me and want to make sure that everyone is safe and everyone's having a good time. So, I guess, all in all, that coming together is just when I see someone who can't defend for themselves."

Herron would receive a good Samaritan award from the police department for his involvement in stopping the crime.

On the field, Herron has some experience protecting Saints quarterback Derek Carr having spent 2022 on the Raiders alongside Carr, someone who he said he has great respect for.

"He's a great leader and he commands the room, he commands the offense, and I think that's what you need in any quarterback, someone who can commands the best out of anyone and everyone, including himself," Herron said.

Herron's season in 2022 would be cut short after appearing in one game with the Raiders because of an ACL tear. Working his way back from that was more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge, Herron said.

"So, when you have those injuries, it's always about like being able to fight those negative thoughts or those emotions that come in that that try to deter you from what your goal is which is getting back to where you were or even being better than where you were when you got hurt," he said.

Herron said it was a "no-brainer" to join the Saints and said the physicality the team plays with has stood out to him.

"They, every play, were the most physical team on the field," Herron said. "So, that's something that always stood out to me and even when I was playing on other teams or something, that also stood out to me as well was like how physical they played. And then after a game, it's just how sore I was or the other team was playing when the Saints."

Herron is not the only athlete in his family. His father Reggie Herron and uncle Keith Herron played basketball for Villanova with his uncle going on to play five years in the NBA. Herron said his plan was to play basketball in high school when he thought he would grow to be taller.

"Then I got to like 6 feet 4 and I just stopped and I was just like oh. I said 'Dad, I don't think I can play center at 6-4,' and he was like 'I don't think so either.'"

The 6-foot-5, 290-pound Herron then focused on football. He played in 51 games for the Wake Forest Deamon Deacons, setting the school's all-time record for games played and earned third-team All-ACC honors in 2019, his final season.

"My biggest thing was always being the technician and especially for being my size, it's just you got to understand that I might not be physically dominating everyone, but I have to make sure that I'm technically dominating," Herron said. "So, if I'm technically dominating you, it doesn't really matter how big or strong or how fast you are, my technique is more sound than anything."

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