NEW ORLEANS — Former LSU star and Baton Rouge native Jimmy Taylor was the special honoree at the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Merlin Olsen Luncheon on Friday.
The luncheon, which took place at the National World War II Museum, is held annually in conjunction with the Super Bowl. It brings together 25 of the members of the Hall of Fame to honor one of their own while raising money for the Hall and its Enshrinee Assistance Fund.
Taylor, one of three former LSU players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was inducted in 1976. The other former Tigers enshrinees are halfback Steve Van Buren (1965) and quarterback Y.A. Tittle (1971).
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank may have been thinking about what might have been when he visited the Media Center on Friday.
Blank’s team was 10 yards away from reaching Super Bowl XLVII, which will be played in the home stadium of their bitter rivals, the New Orleans Saints, in the NFC title game before the San Francisco 49ers pulled out a 28-24 victory.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed we’re not playing here, but we’re not discouraged,” he said.
“I like where we are, but we’ve got to get back in this position, and hopefully get a different outcome than we had.”
When it was suggested Saints fans are thrilled the hated Falcons aren’t here, Blank said it didn’t feel that way to him.
“It’s a great rivalry we have, and I understand the way Saints fans feel,” said Blank, who revealed he received nice notes from Saints owner Tom Benson and wife Gayle and coach Sean Payton.
“I’m sure, if we were here, (Saints fans) would be proud of the fact that a member of their division was representing the NFC.”
As a subtle reminder that the city would love to get the Super Bowl back in short order after an 11-year absence, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been handing out pins.
The oblong pin features a Fleur-de-lis with the year 2018 on it. Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation CEO Jay Cicero said Monday the plan is to seek the 2018 game, which would coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans. The bid process will begin at the owners’ meetings in October and the 2018 game is expected to be awarded in May 2014, Cicero said.
With Super Bowl festivities in town this week, the highly successful St. Augustine High School football program is using the occasion to recognize many of its athletes who went on to play in the NFL.
Thirty-three former and current NFL players will be honored Saturday at a special reception at the school cafeteria from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Among those to be honored are BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jackie Wallace, Leroy Hoard, Louis Oubre, Marcus Quinn, Lonnie Marts, Tyrone Hughes, Derrick Rodgers and James Hall. Green-Ellis is one of three former St. Augustine players currently active in the league.
According to a preliminary study by the New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee, the game and related events this week are expected to have an economic impact of about $434 million on the region.
The last two Super Bowls played here in 1997 and 2002 brought in $249 million and $299 million, respectively. By comparison, Mardi Gras is worth about $238 million to the local economy, Landrieu said.
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