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New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton says Will Smith deserving of Ring of Honor

"As good a leader as we've had here in 13 years, that I've been around"


The late Will Smith, the sixth person to be inducted into the New Orleans Saints’ Ring of Honor, on Sunday at halftime of New Orleans' game against Tampa Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, won't have the most famous of the names in the Ring.

Late owner Tom Benson bought the franchise in 1985 and under his watch, the Saints posted their first winning season, first playoff victory, won their Super Bowl and became one of the NFL's most successful and stable franchises.

Quarterback Archie Manning carried the franchise – literally – and made it watchable when there wasn't much else about it that was worth watching.

Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Willie Roaf was the best, most decorated, offensive lineman in franchise history. Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen is the leading scorer in franchise history and the second-leading scorer in NFL history.

And Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson, the best defensive player in franchise history, held the mantle of "best player in franchise history" until Drew Brees came along and began shattering league and team records.

But his name will occupy equal placement because Smith occupies the same regard within the franchise. From 2004-13, the defensive end from Ohio State was a rock for New Orleans, finishing with 67.5 sacks and helping New Orleans win Super Bowl XLIV.

Smith played eight seasons for Coach Sean Payton, and led the team with 13 sacks in the Super Bowl season. Payton reflected Thursday morning on what it will mean to have Smith added to the Ring; Smith was murdered in 2016.

"Probably a lot of emotions," Payton said. "He was such a special person, special guy, special player. As good a leader as we've had here in 13 years, that I've been around. He was that strong and respected. He was definitely one of the pillars of the success we were able to have and a pleasure to coach.

"His passing has nothing to do with the honor. In other words, if he were alive today and he was being honored, it would be expected and very deserving. And so, I think it makes it just a little bit more emotional."

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