Check out photos from the 2022 New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Saints legends Fred McAfee and Devery Henderson join the Saints Hall of Fame as Kevin Mangum receives the Joe Gemelli "Fleur de Lis" award for his vast contributions to the Saints organization.
By Grace Ostendorf, special to NewOrleansSaints.com
It was an emotional afternoon at Jefferson-Orleans North in Metairie as the New Orleans Saints kicked off their alumni weekend with the 33rd annual Induction luncheon, where the three members of the 2022 Saints Hall of Fame class were recognized. The trio - former wide receiver Devery Henderson, former running back, special teams aficionado, and current Vice President of Player Engagement Fred McAfee, and current athletic trainer, going on 42 seasons, Kevin Mangum - are the epitome of hard work and dedication, and all played a key role in New Orleans capturing the Super Bowl XLIV title.
First to be honored was Mangum, the recipient of the Joe Gemelli "Fleur de Lis" Award, which honors an individual who has contributed endless time, love, and devotion for the betterment of the Saints. Mangum has been an athletic trainer for the Saints since 1981, though as former Saints athletic trainer Dean Kleinschmidt tells the story, he has really been with New Orleans for longer than his biography lets on.
"The bio does not include his years in high school, when he would drive from his hometown Tylertown, Mississippi, to the old Saints facility on Thanksgiving morning, the only day he had off, to meet me in the parking lot to help, learn, prepare, and observe how we did things," Kleinschmidt recalled in his presenter speech. He went on to tell the story of how Mangum continued throughout his high school years and into his college days, where he interned during training camp every year and drove from the University of Southern Mississippi every Sunday to help prepare the team for games.
Since being with the Saints, Mangum has worked with 10 head coaches, 154 assistant coaches, and about 1,100 players, six of whom have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and others who have won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
"This award is not something I've done myself," Mangum noted, as he thanked all the people he has worked with, as well as his family. "We traveled so many roads together and many of those roads had not been paved, but we survived together."
Following the presentation of the Joe Gemelli Award, it was time to roll back the highlight tapes of Henderson, a Louisiana native. A former standout wide receiver known for his lightning-fast speed, Henderson was drafted in the second round of the 2004 NFL draft and played nine seasons for the Saints, recording nearly 4,400 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 17.9 yards per reception, the best in franchise history.
While these statistics tell a story of a well-trained receiver, Henderson was only converted to wide receiver right before the first game of his junior year at LSU. With no coaching and limited knowledge of the position, he managed to get noticed by the Saints at LSU's Pro Day after running a blazing 4.36 40-yard dash. He quickly made a name for himself and made historical plays such as the double reverse deemed the "Superdome Special" in the 2006 re-opening of the Superdome.
"It's been an honor to represent this state, my hometown," the Opelousas native said in his induction speech. "The whole community was really supportive and gave me the courage to represent them in the right way. I wouldn't be up here without my experiences there."
The final person to be inducted at the luncheon was McAfee, a former running back and one of the top special teams players of his era. A product of Division II Mississippi College, McAfee set multiple records at his alma mater before being drafted in the sixth round of the 1991 NFL Draft. He made an impact right away, leading the Saints in rushing as a rookie in 1991, when New Orleans captured its first division title.
McAfee went on to have a 16-year playing career in the NFL, spending 10 seasons in New Orleans over two stints. He was a force to be reckoned with on special teams, totaling 210 career stops on coverage units, two forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and one blocked punt recovery, in addition to receiving a nomination to the Pro Bowl in 2002. McAfee was also an asset at running back, tallying 304 career carries for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns, as well as 35 receptions for 211 yards.
But in 2006, McAfee's position with the Saints would drastically change as he ran into Executive Vice President/General Mickey Loomis at a gas station in Madison, Miss. McAfee had previously been offered a job in player engagement, but was told to take his time in deciding on the position.
"That was a sign to me, seeing him at that gas station," McAfee recalled during his induction speech. That day, he officially retired as a Saint and started his new position in player engagement, a role he has been in ever since allowing him to contribute to each of New Orleans nine division titles, as well as the Super Bowl XLIV title.
The role is a fitting one, as McAfee had set an example for and been a mentor to younger players who have come through New Orleans long before being named to his current position. "I always called him my big brother on the field because he took me and made me the guy that I am today on the football field," said former wide receiver Michael Lewis, who played with McAfee in New Orleans from 2002-2006.
All three will be honored in a pre-game ceremony prior to a noon kickoff against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at the Caesars Superdome.