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New Orleans Saints' Hall of Fame fraternity grew by one with Sam Mills

'When he walked into the room, his presence was felt'


The Pro Football Hall of Fame is an exclusive fraternity comprised of 362 members, a number that becomes more miniscule when pared down to inductees whose enshrinement-worthy careers were constructed mostly through their work as New Orleans Saints.

But the Saints fraternity within the HOF fraternity grew by one Thursday night, when linebacker Sam Mills posthumously was selected as a member of the 2022 eight-member class that will be enshrined.

Mills joins linebacker Rickey Jackson, kicker Morten Andersen and offensive tackle Willie Roaf on the list of Saints in the HOF.

In nine years with New Orleans, Mills was a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl player who totaled 934 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 17 fumble recoveries (two for touchdowns), 16 forced fumbles and four interceptions.

He and Jackson were teammates from 1986-93; he and Andersen were Saints from 1986-94; and Roaf joined Mills in New Orleans for the 1993 and '94 seasons. He finished out his playing career with the Carolina Panthers, from 1995-97.

"He was a leader," said Jackson, the franchise's all-time leader in sacks with 123. "He got here, I used to call the defense and he started calling it. It gave me a chance to play football, didn't have to worry about what everybody else was doing, and that fit him perfectly. He was able to tell everybody where to be and what they were doing, and he did it great. So it was good for me that he came in.

"That lets me know that we had some good players on that team. The Dome Patrol has two (in the Hall of Fame), that shows you that we had a good group of guys. You're always hoping that all four of us get in, but we had a great bunch of guys that played together, those four. Two of us out of the four, and me and him played on the same side (of the defense), that means a lot to me."

"He was one of the leaders on that defense, especially after Rickey and Vaughan left after '93," Roaf said. "He was just a great person, a great guy. I lived around the corner from him, got to see his wife and his son. It was just an honor to get to know him.

"He's one of the classiest football players that I ever met, that I ever played with. The way he conducted himself on and off the field, I think that's why he made such an impact in Carolina and they put a statue of him outside of that stadium. Sam was that type of guy. When he walked into the room, his presence was felt."

Jackson and Mills, who died in 2005 after a battle with cancer, were All-Pro and Pro Bowlers in 1992. They combined with Pat Swilling and Vaughan Johnson to form the Dome Patrol, and made NFL history when the entire unit started in the 1992 Pro Bowl.

Mills was selected in his 20th year of eligibility, and his third as a finalist.

New Orleans Saints legend Sam Mills was inducted into the Saints Ring of Honor on Thursday, December 2, 2021 as the Saints took on the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.

"He was all business on that field but off the field he was the nicest guy you could meet," Roaf said. "He was the leader. The way he conducted himself off the field – Sam was basically another coach. He was so smart, the way he got everybody in the right position, similar to (Bears Hall of Fame linebacker) Mike Singletary. He was just a special guy."

"It was one of those 50-50 deals," Jackson said of Mills' selection. "I didn't really know if they looked at him as good enough, but I think by him coaching and going to Carolina, that helped out a lot. The league got to know him a lot better. All those things help you, but he was a great player on the field."

As a Panther, Mills was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 1996, and joined the coaching staff from 1998-2004.

On Dec. 2, 2021, Mills became the seventh inductee into the Saints' Ring of Honor.

"It took him awhile, but I knew it was coming," Jackson said. "I'm happy for him, he deserves it."

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