“This is as big an honor to me as going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.” Willie Roaf, former Saints tackle
During halftime of Sunday night’s game between Dallas and New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf will be the first players lauded with spots in the Saints Ring of Honor.
Their names will be displayed prominently along the fascia on the terrace level behind the visiting team’s bench. Manning’s name will be positioned at the 50-yard line, with Jackson on one side and Roaf on the other.
Manning, Jackson and Roaf — they’re names synonymous with great things when it comes to the Saints.
“These three were a slam dunk,” said Jim Henderson, longtime radio voice of the Saints and a member of the Ring of Honor selection committee. “It’s hard to ignore the only two true Saints in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Rickey and Willie. And everybody knows what Archie has meant to the Saints franchise, its fan base and to the city for all these years. Plus Archie is the ‘father’ of the ‘first family of football’ in a sense.”
Manning and Jackson were among six influential men whose names hung on large banners at the top of the Superdome, including dome visionary Dave Dixon, iconic Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, longtime Saints executive Jim Finks and LSU/NBA great Pete Maravich.
Now Manning and Jackson will trade in those banners for spots in the Ring of Honor.
“I’m indebted to Mr. Benson and the Saints, and I know Sean Payton is very involved with this,’’ said Manning, who spent the bulk of his 13-year NFL career playing quarterback in New Orleans (1971-82). “And to go in with two of the greatest players in Saints history and our only two true Hall of Famers really makes it special.’’
Roaf and Jackson were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and 2010, respectively. Like Manning, each made immeasurable contributions during their careers in New Orleans — Roaf at tackle from 1993-2001 and Jackson at outside linebacker from 1981-93.
“I’m extremely humbled by this,’’ Roaf said. “This is as big an honor to me as going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, knowing my family in New Orleans will be able to see my name up in the Superdome. I’m happy to be going in now because the Saints are one of the elite programs in the NFL. This is a real special time for the team and their fans.’’
Roaf said he remembers his rookie season in ’93 practicing against 13-year veteran Jackson in training camp in La Crosse, Wis. Jackson said he tried to polish his pass-rushing skills against Roaf, a mountain of a man at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds.
“Willie was good even then, but I could still show him a thing or two,’’ Jackson smiled.
“I just remember Rickey wasn’t doing too much banging in training camp back then, being in his 13th year in the league and all,’’ Roaf said. “He’d run around getting in shape, but he’d wear those kid-size shoulder pads in practice, not the big shoulder pads. But he’d always go hard against me in one-on-one and two-on-two drills. He’d win some; I’d win some. It was good give-and-take. But it was all good.’’
Saints officials said the idea behind the Ring of Honor is to pay tribute to former players, administrators and individuals who have played significant roles on and off the field in the franchise’s history. The selection committee is comprised of team ownership led by Tom Benson, front office administrators, select former players and members of the media.
Henderson said the criteria for selection is evolving and there is no time frame for when the next class of inductees will be announced.
But when it is, here are some potential candidates:
- K Morten Andersen (1982-94): Under consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame again this year, the “Great Dane’’ holds multiple NFL records after a distinguished 26-year pro career, the first 13 spent in New Orleans. He is the NFL’s all-time scoring leader with 2,554 points, including 1,318 with New Orleans.
- RB Deuce McAllister (2001-09): A first-round pick in 2001, McAllister finished his stellar career as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher with 6,096 yards.
- Tom Benson (owner, 1985-present): Benson purchased the team from John Mecom Jr. for $70.2 million in 1985, and now Forbes Magazine estimates its value at $1.04 billion. Super Bowl XLIV is his crowning achievement.
- QB Drew Brees (2006-present): When No. 9 becomes eligible, he will be heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In the meantime, a spot has been reserved for him on the Ring of Honor.
- Sean Payton (coach, 2006-present): If for nothing else, winning Super Bowl XLIV makes him a unanimous selection to become the first coach to grace the Ring of Honor.
- WR Marques Colston (2006-present): The seventh-round pick out of Hofstra already owns franchise records for receptions and touchdowns.
- Jim Finks (administrator, 1986-93): Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995, Finks hired coach Jim Mora, and together they helped the Saints to their first winning season (1987), their first playoff appearance (’87) and their first division championship (’91). He died of lung cancer in 1994.
- Jim Mora (coach, 1986-96): Mora helped the Saints to their first four playoff appearances and the first five winning seasons in franchise history. Though his teams lost all four playoff games, the Saints won more games (93) during his coaching tenure than the first 19 teams combined (90) in franchise history.
- LB Sam Mills (1986-94): Called by Mora “the best player I ever coached,” the diminutive Mills anchored the Saints stellar linebacking corps in the early 1990s known as the “Dome Patrol.” A four-time Pro Bowl selection with the Saints, he played 12 years in the NFL with New Orleans and Carolina.
- WR Eric Martin (1985-93): A former seventh-round pick out of LSU, he leads the franchise in receiving yards with 7,854.
- DT Wayne Martin (1989-99): The 19th pick in 1989, he played all 11 NFL seasons with the Saints and ranks second in franchise history in sacks with 82.5.
- Other candidates to watch: DE Will Smith, DE Wayne Martin, WR Joe Horn, LB Scott Fujita, S Darren Sharper, RB Dalton Hilliard, QB Bobby Hebert, LB Pat Swilling, LB Vaughan Johnson, LB Jon Vilma, G Jahri Evans, DE Joe Johnson, WR Danny Abramowicz, TE Hoby Brenner, OT Stan Brock, DT La’Roi Glover, TE Henry Childs, OL Jim Dombrowski, S Sammy Knight and K Tom Dempsey.
Hall of Fame museum update
Because of Rickey Jackson’s Ring of Honor commitments, he will not appear at the Saints’ Hall of Fame Museum on Sunday as originally planned. Jim Mora will sign autographs from 6 to 6:50 p.m. at the museum, located at Gate B on the plaza level of the Superdome.