Another installment in a series of stories on former New Orleans Saints players. You can check out the 1967 team roster here. The 1968 and '69 rosters are here and you can find 1970-present here. If you have a suggestion for a player we should feature, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jake Kupp always had a dream of becoming a professional athlete. Growing up in Sunnyside, Wash., a small town with a population of just 5,000, Kupp remembers "day dreaming" in the fifth grade to play sports. That began his journey to success.
Kupp started to excel his senior year of high school and was recruited by the University of Washington on a full scholarship. Playing both baseball and football, Kupp had a decision to make when he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the ninth round of the 1964 draft.
"I had just fallen in love so much with football that the minute I got drafted my wife asked me, 'Do you want to play professional football?' "My immediate answer was yes," Kupp said.
In 1967, the New Orleans Saints selected the guard in the expansion draft. Although Kupp had a minor detour to the Atlanta Falcons, he quickly found his way back home in 1968 and played eight seasons with the Saints.
In 1969, things really began to fall into place for Kupp when he made the Pro Bowl. Kupp said it was something special to be chosen by his peers to represent New Orleans.
"I will never forget the end of that season and being selected for the Pro Bowl," the 73-year-old said. "I really have to give credit to coach Brad Ecklund who had confidence and faith in me. He provided me the opportunity to become the player that I ended up being."
Kupp did not stop at Pro Bowl. He was team MVP in 1970 and an offensive captain for several of the eight seasons he played with the Saints. The Saints drafted other guards while Kupp was still with the team and he spent a lot of time trying to help develop their skills.
Kupp said he remembers a few teammates asking him, "Why are you trying to help somebody that was drafted at your position to take your place?"
"I remember how much it helped me to work with somebody who was younger and didn't have the experience," said Kupp, who played 106 games with the Saints. "It really helped me in my own career by giving to others. It helped me understand what the principles of being a good guard were by communicating them to another person."
Kupp, who retired in 1975, said he still remembers his last game like it was yesterday. It was against the Chicago Bears in the Superdome. Kupp was to play only the first half but found himself back in the third quarter due to an injury to another lineman.
Leaving the game was a tough decision for Kupp.
"My mind said play but my body said it was time to give it up," said Kupp, a member of the Saints' 40th Anniversary team. "Giving up football was one of the most difficult things that I ever did. For about two years, every night I would dream about football. At times I would even wake up crying because I missed the game so much."
Kupp, who wore No. 50 and played left guard, was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1992. Sharing the moment with his wife, three sons and their wives, Kupp said the induction was "an extremely big award that was truly satisfying."
Although football may have been in Kupp's past, his career was far from over. After retiring from the game, he went on to work with Pacific Institution, based out of Seattle. He traveled the state giving motivational talks to high school students for a year and a half.
Kupp then transitioned to Trail Wagons. He was a sales manager before becoming a general manager for a food distribution company. The company sold food to schools, hospitals, restaurants and nursing homes in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska.
He ended hisn prosessional career as the president for Quest International, a marketing company in Yakima, Wash. He spent 14 years selling products to Fortune 100 companies before retiring in 2003.
Today Kupp and his wife reside in Yakima, as do his children and eight grandchildren. He is heavily involved in a ministry, enjoys playing golf, and places spending time with his family above all.
Kupp recently returned from a trip to New Orleans with his grandchildren.
"When I look back on my career in New Orleans, there is one thing that I loved more than anything else and that was the way the city embraced us as a team," Kupp said. "Staying in touch with New Orleans is something that is very important to me"