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Michael Lewis Reveling in New Job with Saints

Former Pro Bowler Adapting Well to Front Office Position with Black-and-Gold

Michael Lewis hasn't played professional football since 2007, and he hasn't played in the Louisiana Superdome since the year before that.

Yet the former return specialist and wide receiver still wears the Saints' black and gold and received a fleur-de-lis-adorned Super Bowl ring following his former team's 31-17 win against the Indianapolis Colts this past season.

That's because Lewis is now a team ambassador for the Saints, bringing New Orleans' team directly to its fans.

"I'm pretty much the face of the organization," Lewis said. "I do a lot of stuff in the community, and I deal with junior training camps. We're at a lot of corporate events — whenever something is going on, I'm pretty much there. I love it because I'm still with the organization, plus I get to be in the community as well."

Lewis, a former Budweiser truck driver, was the return specialist for his hometown team from 2002-06.

After a year with the San Francisco 49ers, Lewis was set to play for the New Orleans VooDoo, but when Benson canceled the arena league's operations he was given a front office position.

With all the time he spent in the NFL, Lewis said he knows how special Saints fans are.

"We've always been real close to the fans, but now you have a winning organization and the fans have something to be real proud of," he said. "When the Saints won the Super Bowl, the whole city, the state and the whole Gulf South region had a lot of burden lifted off of them. It gave us something to brag about as well."

The Saints are a unique organization in the NFL in that they keep very close ties to many of their players.

Former running back Deuce McAllister was released by New Orleans in February 2009 to free up cap space.

But after a year away from football he was re-signed by New Orleans in January so that he could retire with the team with which he set the all-time rushing touchdown record. He was the honorary team captain in the Saints' divisional playoff game against Arizona, and when he announced a permanent retirement a week later he said he planned to stay with the organization in some capacity.

Saints Hall of Fame wide receiver Joe Horn did a similar thing this offseason, re-signing with the Saints in June after two seasons without a team. He played in New Orleans for six seasons, including three Pro Bowl years, and officially retired as a Saint on June 25.

"I think you're seeing it more and more with our team," said Saints Vice President of Marketing Ben Hales. "We're really trying to make sure we're doing things the right way. It's nice when you see a guy like Joe Horn who wants to retire with the team. That hasn't always been the case, but our relationship with our former players is that they're part of a family."

Those players are also a part of the Gulf Coast, which has suffered some major setbacks in recent years.

With hurricanes Katrina and Rita among others and now the British Petroleum oil spill, many of the Saints are busy in the offseason helping their community in any way possible.

Four busloads of Saints players, staff and management visited the oil-ravaged coast in June to boost morale.

Hales said it's all to give back to the fans that have stood by the team for so many tough seasons.

"In particular when they're part of this fanbase and they see the type of passion that exists, the players love it here," he said. "There were questions from some of the players when we came back after Katrina like, 'Do I want to be here; is this right place for me?' I can't think of a player who wouldn't say now that it was the best decision they've ever made, and that was before winning the Super Bowl. They just get an unbelievable amount of support here."

Lewis traveled to Monroe as part of the Saints Championship Tour on Wednesday, where he showed off his Super Bowl ring and signed autographs for fans.

He knows firsthand, as a native of New Orleans, the devastation the city endured and what the team meant to the area during its toughest times.

Giving back to them now by letting them share in the experience of the championship, he said, is the least the Saints could do.

"Every time you hear about Louisiana it's always about hurricanes and things like that, but the Saints came back," he said. "When you've got a Super Bowl after everything that's happened, it's bittersweet. You say, 'Look how far we've come and how the fans have come back to the Dome.' In 2006 it was sold out, and now there's a waiting list. That shows you how much the fans really care about the New Orleans Saints."

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