The Touchdown Club of New Orleans hosted the 45th Annual Meet the Saints Luncheon on Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown New Orleans.
The Touchdown Club, founded in 1967, is a non-profit organization that aims to be "the best fan club and social organization that promotes and creates spirit and enthusiasm among friends, family and the community connected to the New Orleans Saints."
The entire Saints roster and coaching staff, members of the team's business staff, Owner/Chairman of the Board Tom Benson and his wife Gayle, and Owner/Vice Chairman of the Board Rita Benson LeBlanc were joined by members of the Touchdown Club and over 1,300 fans for the event.
Jim Henderson, the long-time voice of the Saints for WWL Radio, served as the Master of Ceremonies, introducing all members of the head table and providing an introduction for each player. Then, he introduced Head Coach Sean Payton to present team awards given at the luncheon annually.
The Meet the Saints Luncheon was cancelled in 2011 due to hurricane preparations, so Payton started with the 2011 season awards.
TE Jimmy Graham was presented with the Ed Block Courage Award, given annually to a player voted on by the team who overcameadversity throughout the year. Graham enjoyed the most prolific season by a tight end in franchise history in all categories, pulling in a club-record 99 receptions for 1,310 yards (the second highest total by a TE in NFL history) with 11 touchdowns while being named a Pro Bowl starter and second-team Associated Press All-Pro.
Graham and QB Drew Brees were named Co-Offensive Players of the Year. Brees completed 71.2% of his passes for an NFL single-season record 5,476 yards, adding 46 touchdowns for a passer rating of 110.6.
S Roman Harper was named Defensive Player of the Year after finishing the season with 116 tackles (77 solo) and a career-high 7.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery while earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors twice.
RB Darren Sproles was named Special Teams Player of the Year after setting an NFL-record 2,696 all-purpose yards and becoming the only player in 2011 to score on a rush, reception and punt return.
Payton then introduced Head Athletic Trainer to present the 2012 Ed Block Courage Award to RB Mark Ingram. The former Heisman Trophy winner led the team in rushing, carrying 156 times for 602 yards and a team-leading five rushing touchdowns.
Wide Receivers Coach Henry Ellard presented the Offensive Player of the Year award to WR Lance Moore who recorded his best season to date in 2012. Moore exceeded the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, pulling in 65 receptions for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns while appearing in 15 games, eclipsing the 120-yard mark four times and finishing first on the team in yards per catch (16.0).
Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt and Defensive Line Coach Bill Johnson presented the Co-Defensive Players of the Year awards to ILB Curtis Lofton and DE Cameron Jordan. Lofton led the defense in tackles in his first season as a Saint, starting all 16 games at middle linebacker and totaling 157 tackles (94 solo), one sack, 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while posting double-digit tackle numbers seven times. Jordan finished the season with 76 tackles (52 solo) to lead the defensive line, a club-best eight sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
To close out the awards ceremony, Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon presented the Special Teams Player of the Year Award to P Thomas Morstead. Morstead served a weapon in the field position game, finishing first in the NFC and second in the NFL in gross punting average (50.1) and second in the conference and league in net (43.2), both franchise records. His net average was the fourth-highest single-season total in NFL record books. Morstead earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and was named Sports Illustrated and NFL.com All-Pro and Associated Press second-team All-Pro.
Following the meal, players spent time signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans before leaving to travel to Houston to face the Texans.
For more information on Touchdown Club of New Orleans, including information about membership and upcoming events, please visit www.tdcno.co.