Skip to main content

Saints News | New Orleans Saints |

Willie Gay feels at home joining New Orleans | Saints Podcast Rewind

Two-time champion joins franchise closer to his home of Starkville, Miss.

Linebacker Willie Gay participated in the team's 2024 OTA practices on May 21, 2024 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.
Linebacker Willie Gay participated in the team's 2024 OTA practices on May 21, 2024 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.

For linebacker Willie Gay, signing with the New Orleans Saints was about more than just where the two-time champion will continue his football career after departing the Kansas City Chiefs, it was about getting the self-described "country boy" closer to his home.

Gay signed with the Saints on March 13, joining one of the NFL teams closest to his hometown of Starkville, Miss.

"I'm so excited," he said on the New Orleans Saints Podcast earlier in the offseason. "I'm literally four hours away from home right up the road, and family gets to come to the games even more than last year. This fanbase, this city, I got old teammates here and, man, I mean, we got a lot of Saints fans back home in Mississippi, so close to home. So, I feel like I'm home."

Gay said he did not realize how big a deal having easier access to his family would be until he joined New Orleans.

"To be able to see my family and to be able to be a part of the cookouts and the family gatherings every chance I get, it's a big deal," he said. "It keeps me level. You can't forget about anyone at home when you're here all the time."

Being closer will also let him get out into the country for recreation in his hometown.

"After football, after the fast life, I come here and literally get away from everything and everyone and it's the most fun ever," Gay said.

On top of being near family, it gives Gay the chance to partake in the outdoor activities he enjoys. Gay said all he does is "football and country activities."

"We don't need much, a four-wheeler and some mud, or a fishing pole and some water, and we'll be alright," Gay said.

Gay said it will not be a problem for his family to switch allegiances from the Chiefs and that his family will get to see him play in person more now that he is with New Orleans.

"We were ready to switch over to a down-South team man," Gay said. "So, it's going to be an easy transition."

Gay said Starkville built him and that he fell in love with football at his great-great grandmother's yard. He would play his high school ball for Starkville High School becoming one of the most sought after recruits in the nation. Gay stayed in his hometown to play for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, playing 31 games with six starts and racked up 99 tackles (46 solo), 11 stops for loss, six sacks, three interceptions, seven passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries before he was selected by the Chiefs in the second round (63rd overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft.

"I remember every up, every down in this city, from the struggles, to the good days, to the bad," Gay said.

On top of being closer to family, Gay gets to rejoin several former teammates from Kansas City in defensive tackle Khalen Saunders, safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon as well as two teammates from college in safety Johnathan Abram and defensive back J.T. Gray. He also played under Saints defensive line coach Todd Grantham who was the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State in 2017.

Gay said he briefly talked to Saunders before signing with the team.

"He told me how much he loved it over there, the defense, the city, how much the people love their players," Gay said.

He also got advice from Abram about the Saints.

"He told me all of the goods, ins and outs of it, man, and how he loves it here," Gay said. "And I was like, 'Man, I hope I get to join you brothers,' and now we're here."

He'll also get to be teammates with another Mississippi man in linebacker Demario Davis. Gay said he's been watching Davis since eighth grade.

"Like for him to still be here man running things and being a leader and the player that he is, you know I'm just so excited to be in the room with him," Gay said. "You know I'm just going to shut up and watch and learn and I'm just definitely looking forward to it."

The 6'1, 243 lbs. linebacker was an important part of the Chiefs' back-to-back Super Bowl victories. Over four years he played 57 regular season games (47 starts) and accrued 231 tackles (148 solo), 17 stops for loss, five sacks, four interception returns for 85 yards with one touchdown, 19 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two special teams stops. He started all nine postseason contests he appeared in and recorded 29 tackles (18 solo), three stops for loss, a split sack, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.

His energy on and off the field earned him the nickname the "Juiceman."

"I just love the game so much," Gay said. "I can have a whole bad day, and I get on that field whether it's practice, I get in a weight room, football field, in the game, and it turns me up a notch. Like I said, I'm a kid again when I get out there. And, to be able to be around my teammates, the fans, the coaches, it's so exciting, man. ...You know I'm looking forward to it. And they'll see why they call me the Juiceman."

Gay said he is eager to "earn his stripes" and find a role on the defense.

"Whatever they need me to bring, I can bring anything, Swiss Army knife, baby. I can blitz, cover, tackle, whatever," Gay said. "Like I said, man, whatever they need me to do, I'm going to do it at the best of my ability and make plays."

Gay was regularly used as a quarterback spy during his time with the Chiefs, something the Saints could look to utilize to contain mobile quarterbacks.

"It's like a cat and mouse game for me," Gay said. "That's easy. Ain't no a quarterback in the NFL outrunning me sideline to sideline. So, you tell me do that, hey that job is done before it even got started."

Despite this being his first change of teams during his professional career, Gay is not shaken by the adjustment.

"It's football," Gay said. "I'm closer to home. I'm at a good team, good defense. You got some good guys around me, good people and it's down South. Once again, how can I not like this. I'm excited."

Related Content