The media selection committee of the Saints Hall of Fame has selected Will Smith for induction in 2016, while Hokie Gajan has been chosen to receive the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis award for his vast contributions to the New Orleans Saints organization.
Both men passed away last month. Smith died on April 9 at the age of 34 while Gajan died on April 11 at the age of 56. They will be honored posthumously at the annual Saints Hall of Fame induction luncheon on Oct. 28.
Smith played for the Saints from 2004-13 (10 seasons). A first-round draft choice out of Ohio State (18th overall) in 2004, Smith ranks fourth in franchise history in sacks with 67.5.
Smith led the Saints in sacks four times (2005-07, 2009). Smith was an integral part of the Super Bowl XLIV champion squad in 2009, when he ranked fifth in the NFL with 13 sacks. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl in 2006, when he recorded 10.5 sacks as the Saints reached the NFC championship game. In addition to his sack totals, he added 618 career tackles (363 solo), two interceptions, 24 passes defensed, 19 forced fumbles and seven recoveries. Smith ranks 18th all-time in Saints history with 139 games played. He started 120 games, including all 107 games he played from 2006-12.
“When we drafted Will Smith in 2004, defensive end was not a pressing need for our team,” said Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis. “But more important than that, Will had the talent, leadership ability and work ethic that you look for in a player. In 10 seasons as a Saint, Will more than fulfilled his potential both on and off the field. He was an outstanding player who helped us win a Super Bowl and he was a great representative of the organization in the community. One thing that stands out about Will is that everything he did throughout the week he attacked with a high level of passion, which rubbed off on everyone on our team.”
A native of Baker, Gajan played at LSU before being selected in the 10th round by the Saints of the 1981 draft. In four seasons as a Saint (1982-85), Gajan rushed for 1,358 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 63 passes for 515 yards and two touchdowns in his Saints career. His career average of 5.4 yards per carry and 1984 season average of 6.0 yards per rush both rank second in team history.
After retiring from playing, Gajan served as a scout for the Saints before becoming the color analyst for the New Orleans Saints radio network, working with long-time play-by-play voice Jim Henderson since 2000. Gajan continued to work games in 2015, despite the onset of his illness.
“First as a player, then as a college scout and later as a broadcaster, Hokie Gajan always had a special bond both with everyone he touched with the New Orleans Saints as well as our fan base,” said Loomis. “As both a fullback and as an area scout, those positions placed a premium on hard work and loyalty, which I think are two hallmarks of Hokie. This recognition is certainly deserved considering his outstanding contributions to our organization and community.”
Both men were elected by the media selection committee of the Saints Hall of Fame in early March, prior to their passing.
For more information about the Saints Hall of Fame, visit saintshalloffame.com. Additional information about the Hall of Fame weekend will be announced in the coming months.