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Unique class enters Saints Hall of Fame

The Saints Hall of Fame welcomed on Thursday its latest class, one that carries a characteristic that sets it aside in its uniqueness.

Receiver Lance Moore and running back Pierre Thomas, whose names are listed on several top 10 lists in franchise history, both were undrafted rookies who, in nine (Moore) and eight (Thomas) seasons with the New Orleans Saints, etched their names into franchise lore for signature plays and production.

The two were selected for induction along with Saints director of photography Michael Hebert, recipient of this year’s Joe Gemelli “Fleur de Lis” award for his contributions to the Saints organization.

The New Orleans careers of Moore (2005-13) and Thomas (2007-14) virtually coincided, and paralleled with some of the most prolific offensive seasons in franchise history, and some of the most successful years on the field, including victory in Super Bowl XLIV in 2009.

“The thing I would say about both Lance and Pierre is, they’re like identical players at different positions,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said. “You’re going to hear the same things from me: You’re going to hear reliability, smart, you’re going to hear tough, you’re going to hear clutch, you’re going to hear the epitome of what we were looking for as we began to build in ’06, the playoff team and later in 2009 the Super Bowl team.

“If you began to assemble some key puzzle pieces to what led to a Super Bowl championship, but also key puzzle pieces that were important for our community, both of these two individuals would be at the foundation.”

Moore, who initially signed with the Browns before being released and signed by the Saints, had 346 receptions, 4,281 yards and 38 receiving touchdowns in 101 games for New Orleans. In franchise history, he’s ninth in touchdowns (39), fifth in receiving touchdowns, fifth in receptions, seventh in receiving yards and first in touchdown dance moves.

“I was able to play in other places, before and after (New Orleans),” Moore said. “This organization is the most family-oriented place that I’ve ever been. And this city and this community embraces this organization as a family.

“Everywhere you go, you find Saints fans and everywhere you go, people are thanking you and everywhere you go, you feel as if you know them even though you’ve never, ever seen them a day in your life. That is something that’s most special to me about this organization.”

Moore said it especially was fulfilling to be inducted in the same class as Thomas.

“Pierre and I sat next to each other from Day 1, when he came in in ’07,” Moore said. “Our lockers were next to each other. So it’s really cool to go in with somebody that isn’t just a former teammate. Pierre is my brother. Pierre is my family. We talk regularly, so it’s a pretty cool thing.”

Thomas proved to be one of the most versatile backs – arguably, the most versatile back – in franchise history.

He finished with 3,725 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on 818 carries, and caught 327 passes for 2,608 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thomas is fourth in franchise history in rushing yards, seventh in yards from scrimmage (6,353), eighth in touchdowns (41) and sixth in rushing attempts.

He joined a team with a deep running back corps, that had drafted another back (Antonio Pittman) in the fourth round, and played his way onto the roster and into the Saints Hall of Fame.

“When I came here, I just thought to myself, ‘I’m going to make it, I’m going to make it,’ ” Thomas said. “I drove down here from Chicago. That’s how I knew I was going to make it. There was no flying out here and saying, ‘OK, I’m going to fly back to Chicago.’ No, I drove down here and I brought my stuff with me because I knew to myself that I was going to make this team.

“But what really touched me so much was how the people of New Orleans, the Who Dat nation, rooted for me. They drafted a fourth-round running back, Antonio Pittman. And they had Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, Aaron Stecker. They were set. They didn’t need me.”

While Thomas was carving out a roster spot and Moore was making clutch grabs, Hebert was documenting much of the franchise’s history.

In 22 years with the Saints (36 as a professional photographer), Hebert has produced iconic photo after iconic photo, including many that are exhibited in the Saints Hall of Fame.

“This is an incredible honor,” Hebert said. “To say I’m humbled is an understatement.”

“He has been capturing our moments for well over 22 years,” Payton said. “It’s only fitting that he is coming into this Hall of Fame at the same time two of our great players are coming in.

“Michael’s got a great way about him. He’s got the tough job, really – he’s invisible and yet, you’ll see a picture and think, ‘Man, I don’t recall anyone having that access or angle.’ There’s an art to that, trust me.”

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