NEW ORLEANS — The Saints Hall of Fame Museum has for years included photos of owner Tom Benson, an open parasol in hand, doing his now-famous “Benson Boogie” after a win.
Now, it has a large portrait of the longtime owner to put alongside many of the team’s all-time greats after he and running back Deuce McAllister were enshrined Friday.
The 24th annual Saints Hall of Fame induction luncheon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome featured Benson and McAllister, one of the club’s all-time fan favorites, as well as Saints radio play-by-play announcer Jim Henderson.
Benson and McAllister became the 40th and 41st men to be inducted since the Saints Hall of Fame first enshrinement ceremony in 1988, while Henderson received the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis Award for contributions to the betterment of the organization.
In his acceptance speech, Benson, 85, recalled his goal when he purchased the Saints in 1985 from original owner John Mecom Jr. after it appeared other potential buyers wanted to move the franchise.
“I said, ‘The only way I’m going to get interested in this, like we do everything else, is we have to bring a championship to New Orleans,’ ” said Benson, whose vision became a reality when his team won Super Bowl XLIV. “We did that. It took longer than we wanted, but we did it. … We’re going to do it again.”
When he bought the Saints, the franchise had not experienced as much as a winning season in its first 18 years of existence. In the 27 years since, they’ve had 10 winning seasons with five division titles and a Super Bowl win.
The 20-person selection committee of the Hall of Fame, a non-profit entity that runs independently of the team, suspended a rule that says inductees must no longer be active in the organization — allowing Benson to become only the second person to go in that way along with the late Jim Finks in 1994.
For McAllister, the Hall induction was his second in three months. In June, he was enshrined in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches.
His message was the same as it was then.
“It’s not really about myself,” said McAllister, whose club records include 6,096 rushing yards and 55 TDs in an eight-year career that was cut short by numerous knee injuries and eight surgeries. “It’s about a great organization and the people that I played with.
“A lot of people you see here, I want to say thank-you to because you guys made my job easier,” he said. “It’s the equipment staff, it’s trainers, it’s the secretaries.”
McAllister, a native of Ludlow, Miss., said he remembered some of the Saints’ lean years and said he was proud to be a part of the transformation.
“You think about 10 to 12 years ago, we were probably not one of the organizations that would be in the upper echelon as far as what people thought around the country,” he said. “Now, when you think of the Saints, you think of a team that can compete every year as far as the Super Bowl is concerned.”
“Deuce really deserves this for what he did for us while he was here playing,” Benson said. “Players today, when Deuce comes to a game, they really respect this guy.”
In addition to the unveiling of their portraits, videos accentuating the enshrinees’ accomplishments were played on TV monitors around the room.
The highlights included some of Henderson’s historic calls from the radio booth.
“So many great memories have been afforded to me by doing this,” Henderson said. “It was never a job. It was always a privilege.”
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, who is serving an eight-game suspension as a result of the team’s bounty scandal, received permission from the NFL to attend the ceremony. He was warmly greeted by theans who bought tickets to benefit the Hall of Fame Museum. … Also in attendance were several former Saints, including 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Jackson. … The annual Saints Alumni Week continues Saturday at 6 p.m. with the All Saints Night Gala at the Rivertown Exhibition Hall, which is located at 415 Williams Blvd. in Kenner. The event features food and beverages from many New Orleans restaurants. Tickets, which are $50 each, can be purchased at the door.