At a packed press conference outside the entrance to the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome today, the event marked a special, well-deserved day to two individuals who have meant a lot to the franchise and the region's sports scene.
First it was announced that the Saints Hall of Fame Media Selection Committee had elected former Saints defensive tackle La'Roi Glover for induction in 2013. Following Glover's announcement, longtime New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney was introduced as the 2013 recipient of the organization's Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis award, presented to an individual who has contributed to the franchise and had an impact on it.
Glover was elated about the honor upon being informed and first thanked team Owner/Chairman of the Board Tom Benson, his coaches, teammates and members of the club's front office for helping him attain such heights.
What especially hit him is that he is now recognized for his accomplishments alongside such legends as a pair of Pro Football Hall of Fame members in linebacker Rickey Jackson, who served as his pass rush coach for two seasons and tackle William Roaf.
"It's tough to quantify or put it in words," said Glover. "Rickey Jackson was a mentor to me when I first came to the Saints. I was a teammate of Willie Roaf, who is a good friend of mine. It's humbling. You grew up looking up to these guys as a player or as a teammate."
Originally picked by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of San Diego State, the 6-2, 285 pound Glover struggled to make an impact as a rookie, appearing in only two contests and recording only two tackles.
Even though Glover would eventually get waived at the end of training camp in 1997 by the Raiders, two events that year would help his development and put him on track for what would become a standout 13-year NFL career with four teams, his finest years occurring in New Orleans.
In the winter of 1997, Glover was allocated by the Raiders to the Barcelona Dragons of the World League, a European farm system for the NFL. There he would take advantage of his most extensive playing time to date in the pros, starting every contest and recording 36 tackles and 6.5 sacks as he led the Dragons to the league's championship. Glover was recognized as All-World League and placed third in league defensive MVP voting.
Upon being let go by Oakland, Glover was claimed by New Orleans prior to the start of the regular season. He would take advantage of an opportunity for playing time that evolved into being a situational pass rusher on New Orleans' defensive line rotation, where he posted 33 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Promoted into the starting lineup the following year, Glover broke out as one of the most improved players in the league with 67 tackles, a team-leading 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception.
"I had just come in off the waiver wire and to have the opportunity to finally line up against the best competition that the world has to offer was such an honor," said Glover "It was great to finally put on the uniform and be able to do what I was paid to do."
Two seasons later, Glover enjoyed one of the finest campaigns for an NFL defensive tackle, making 65 stops, an NFL-best 17 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, as he led the Saints to a turnaround from 3-13 to 10-6 and the NFC West division title and the franchise's first playoff win. Three times that season he would record three sacks in a contest. To this day, Glover's 17 quarterback takedowns are the second-highest single-season total by an NFL defensive tackle, only exceeded by the Vikings' Keith Millard in 1989 (18). In recognition, Glover was named a Pro Bowl starter and a unanimous All-Pro selection. He's quick to credit the people around him on the defensive line for that special season, specifically the late defensive tackle Norman Hand and defensive end Joe Johnson, as well as lineman Wayne Martin, who took him under his wing when he first joined the team.
Glover is quick to say that in addition to what he accomplished personally that year, being a member of the team to win the franchise's first playoff game was his biggest thrill.
"The thing that sticks out in my mind is the Who Dat nation waiting for so long and to stick with the team through some tough years and to finally breakthrough in that season," said Glover. "I had a lot of good teammates, coaches and front office staff that helped make it happen."
After one more year with the Saints in 2001, where he was elected to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive season with eight sacks, Glover wrapped up a five-year stint with the Black and Gold with 318 tackles, 50 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. His takedown total still ranks seventh in club record books. As a sign of his dominance between 1998-2000, his 35.5 sacks were the third most in the NFL during that time.
Glover would continue his career with the Dallas Cowboys from 2002-05, where he would get selected to the Pro Bowl four more times and then closed out his career with the St. Louis Rams from 2006-08, where he now resides with his wife Spring, their son La'Roi Jr. and daughters Neomie and Sophia as the club's director of player engagement. As part of a career that ended with six consecutive Pro Bowl berths, 83.5 sacks and 191 consecutive appearances, he was named first team to the NFL's All-Decade team in the 2000's.
Finney is a New Orleans native who matriculated at Jesuit High School and played basketball at Loyola University of New Orleans. Upon his graduation from Jesuit, he started his journalism career at the States-Item *newspaper. He's worked in the industry ever since in an illustrious career spanning 68 years, including for the *Times-Picayune *since it merged with the *States-Item.
A member of four area Halls of Fame, the days of February 6 and 7, 2010 was a special weekend personally for Finney, as well as for the team he has covered since its establishment as they captured Super Bowl XLIV as he was named that year's Dick McCann Memorial Award winner from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sports enthusiasts continue to enjoy the privilege of reading the columns of Finney, who is the only journalist to have covered the franchise through its entire history.
One of those sports enthusiasts, Saints team President Dennis Lauscha, congratulated both inductees. He saluted Finney for his long years of service, talking about how as a New Orleans native and young Saints fan, he was always anxious to read his columns on Sundays. He also expressed a special affinity for Glover, as Lauscha was hired as the club's chief financial officer in 1998, one year after the tackle came off the waiver wire to the Saints. Lauscha closed out the press conference and discussed his memories of Glover being one of the foundations of that 2000 team both on and off the field.
Glover and Finney will be inducted at a date in the 2013 season to be announced following the finalization of the NFL schedule.
The Saints Hall of Fame Museum is located at Gate B on the Plaza Level of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and is open by appointment during the week (Monday-Friday) between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at a cost of $7 per person or $5 for seniors, children under 12 and for groups of 10 or more. For more information, call (504) 471-2192.
LA'ROI GLOVER (1997-2001—5 seasons)
**Had 6.5 sacks in 1997
**Had 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception in 1998
**Had 8.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery in 1999
**Had 17 sacks, second most by NFL defensive lineman, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery in 2000
**Named 2nd-Team All-Pro in 1998
**Named 1st-Team All-Pro in 2000, named to Pro Bowl
**Had 8 sacks in 2001, named to 2nd Pro Bowl as a Saint
**Finished with 318 tackles, 50 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries in 5 seasons with Saints
PREVIOUS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
1988—Archie Manning and Danny Abramowicz
1989—Tommy Myers and Tom Dempsey
1991—Tony Galbreath and Derland Moore
1992—George Rogers, Jake Kupp and John Hill
1994—Henry Childs and Jim Finks
1995—Doug Atkins and Bob Pollard
1996—Dave Whitsell and Dave Waymer
1997—Stan Brock and Rickey Jackson
1998—Dalton Hilliard and Sam Mills
1999—Bobby Hebert and Eric Martin
2000—Pat Swilling and Vaughan Johnson
2001—Jim Wilks and Hoby Brenner
2002—Jim Mora and Frank Warren
2003—Jim Dombrowski and Wayne Martin
2004—Rueben Mayes and Steve Sidwell
**2005—No induction due to Hurricane Katrina
2012—Tom Benson and Deuce McAllister
PREVIOUS JOE GEMELLI FLEUR DE LIS AWARD RECIPIENTS
1990—Joe Gemelli (award later named for him)
2001—Peter "Champ" Clark
2005—NO INDUCTEES due to Hurricane Katrina
2007—New Orleans Saints Fans (Marcy Beter)
2010—Dan Simmons and Glennon "Silky" Powell