Lewis: Who Dat fans show devotion during minicamp

Kathleen Walsh is eager to use her recently earned medical coding degree from Delgado Community College.

But before looking for a job last week, the Kenner resident had other priorities — attending the three days of Saints minicamp with her mother Becky.

Never mind that it was nearly 90 degrees during the three sessions which were open to the pubic with the heat index approaching triple digits or that the players were working out in shorts or that the players were under no obligation to intermingle with the fans.

Walsh and about 500 of her fellow Who Dats were there, filling the shadeless stands and cheering as if they were in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“I’m sure I won’t have any problem getting a job,” said Walsh, who brought two signs supporting her favorite player, wide receiver Joe Morgan. “I’d rather be here anyway though.

“I think the players love it because they can see how much we love them back.”

Probably not many fans put their careers on hold to attend the minicamp. But it would be hard to find a more diverse gathering — seemingly evenly divided between young, and old, male and female, black and white — outside of a Saints game itself.

“The only colors that matter here are black and gold,” said Michael Jones, a black man who was wearing a Drew Brees jersey, one of 10 he owns.

For those of us who get paid to come to such events — and even get free water provided by the Saints while the fans have to buy theirs (Feeling guilty here about not trying to surreptitiously give any away), it was an eye-opening revelation about the dedication folks have to the team.

“I don’t think there’s any other team that gets shown the large amount of love the city does for the Saints,” said Shane O’Hara of Covington, who was there with his wife, Vikki. “They just bring us hope.”

The O’Haras were far from the only family group on hand.

Jones was there with his 2-year-old son, Michael Jr., and his dad Clarence Robinson, both of them also in Saints gear.

Michael Jr. already knows how to say “Who Dat!” but his interest was more in wanting a ride on the crane that raised and lowered the sideline film station.

“This is his first time at something like this, but he’s got plenty more coming,” Michael Sr. proudly declared. “I’m training him up right.

“If he’s not a Saints fan, he’s going to have to leave my house.”

Michael Sr. is also doing his part to help the team.

“I’m out here supervising,” he said. “Sean (Payton) and I are texting like mad.

“When you see him looking down at something, that’s me on the phone. If there’s something I don’t like, I tell him to switch it up.”

Michael Sr. isn’t kidding about his devotion to the team. He has a Super Bowl XLVII logo tattooed on his chest and “WHO DAT” across his knuckles.

Another fan offers heavenly assistance.

Sister Mary, a Sacred Heart nun from Lafayette was on hand Thursday, dressed from head to toe in her flowing white habit (it actually reflects the heat) topped by a custom-made Saints cap complete with flaps.

She’d brought along four of her Bible history students from Christ the King Church.

“I’ve always loved the Saints,” Sister Mary said, not differentiating if she was talking about the football variety or the canonized ones. “Seeing all of the people out here today shows the great love we all have for them.”

Meanwhile, Kathleen Walsh’s hopes have been fulfilled. Morgan, along with several teammates, came the sideline where the signed autographs and greeted fans, including Walsh who also received a hug.

For Morgan, who was arrested two weeks ago on drunken driving charges, it was as much of an uplift as the one he gave the fans.

“One of the main things that’s helping me cope is seeing how the fans are still backing me 100 percent,” he said. “It’s a family atmosphere out here. I just wanted to let them know how much I appreciate it.”

And if Walsh ever needs a job reference, she now knows where she can get one.