Last night the Saints rookies joined assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Vitt at the Harahan Lions Club for the annual "Superboil" crawfish dinner hosted by the Touchdown Club of New Orleans. The new players were given an introduction to New Orleans cuisine and an opportunity to interact with the area's passionate Black and Gold fans.
The event has been held annually for more than thirty years. "When Sean Payton came in (as head coach), he said the he was going to bring the rookies to introduce them to crawfish and southern living," said John Kohl, President of the Touchdown Club. "It is a great welcome for these players."
The players received just that and true southern hospitality was shown. A crowd surrounded each player and provided instructions on how exactly to eat crawfish, a south Louisiana staple. Some rookies had a harder time than others in breaking and eating the mudbugs.
"Sometimes we have to just walk them through it," said Kohl. "Some of them have no idea if they are grown in dirt or raised in the water," said Vitt.
"It took me a while to get the technique down. Once I got that, I started popping them out. I was popping them like popcorn," said T Marcel Jones, the team's 7th round draft choice from the University of Nebraska. "Once you got the routine down, they tasted pretty good."
G Andrew Tiller, the team's 6th round selection from Syracuse had a different concern.
"It was a little weird to me at first. It is my first time. I thought they were still alive," said the tackle. Once acclimated, Tiller agreed with his offensive line teammate on the taste, which is always enhanced following the boiling process.
Kenner native, S Jerico Nelson, didn't need any help. "I grew up around it all my life," Nelson said. The safety was pleased to be back in his home state after playing at the University of Arkansas. "I am really glad to be home," Nelson added.
WR Nick Toon, drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft from the University of Wisconsin, also ate crawfish for the first time. "It was really good. I would definitely order it," said Toon. Toon is trying to acclimate himself with New Orleans quickly. He said, "It's different than where I am from. Change is sometimes good. I like it down here, I think it is going to be fun."
While Toon came to the Saints after playing college football in the upper Midwest, DT Akiem Hicks came from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Hicks tried crawfish for the first time as well. "Those crawfish were amazing. A lot of hard work but once you get to the bottom of it, it is well worth it."
While the players were given a sample of New Orleans food, they still are adapting to the environment and rich culture in Louisiana. Players have enjoyed their time in the Crescent City thus far. "Everything has been good. The people are nice, the food is great," said Tiller. Hicks added, "From what I have seen, I can tell I am going to love it."
The club's first choice in the 2012 NFL Draft was also pleased with the passion shown by New Orleans fans. "The reception has been awesome. I have never seen fans so excited and ready to see their team take the field. I am ready as well."
At the conclusion of the team's meal, Joe Vitt addressed the audience and discussed the new players. "We have got a lot of great rookies right here. We have a great incoming class that is going to help us win. We are excited about this year," he added.
Vitt also talked about the importance of the event. "Our fans have always been supportive of us. It is the least we can do. We try to build our football team like our fans; with a lot of character, a lot of heart, a lot of resolve. Nights like this prove that."