Wednesday, 26 January 2011 19:03

New Orleans Saints Eye Roaf For Hall Of Fame, First Ballot

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Ed Staton--Louisiana SportsWillie Roaf is a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist and is likely to be voted in on his first year of the ballot, He'll join former Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson in the Canton, Ohio shrine.

Road (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) established himself as one of the NFL's top offensive linemen during his 13-year playing career, nine with the Saints and four with the Chiefs.

During a disappointing 2001 Saints season, a wild rumor leaked that Saints wide receiver Joe Horn was the father of Roaf's six-week-old daughter. For months the rumor had run rampart on radio talk shows, in chat rooms, barbershops, saloons and supermarkets.

The speculation became so widespread that Road called The Times-Picayune sportswriter Brian Allee-Walsh to publicly clear the air.

"I've talked to Joe Horn about it, and Joe said he didn't even know my wife," Roaf told the sportswriter. "The baby looks like me -- long feet, long hands, she's a big girl. I feel comfortable the girl is mine."

Three weeks later, Roaf dropped a bombshell. Citing unspecified irreconcilable differences with Saints coach Jim Haslett, he demanded to be traded or released.

"There were things said between Coach and me that I don't want to talk about," said Roaf.

Roaf's comments stung Haslett. He respected Roaf more than any player he had ever coached. He knew Roaf was a future Hall of Famer.

The relationship between Roaf, Haslett and his teammates had eroded to the point that a trade had to be made.  Roaf was unceremoniously traded to Kansas City for a conditional fourth-round draft choice.

"Willie Roaf was one of the greatest players in our franchise's history," said team owner Tom Benson. " He's one of the greatest players to ever play his position and someone that myself and our fans have a great appreciation for. Hopefully, William will have the opportunity to join Rickey Jackson in Canton this summer."

During his NFL career Roaf was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times. These 11 nominations are tied for the most ever received by a tackle.

No Saint has ever been to the league's all-star games as many as Roaf's seven, while his four invitations as a Chief are the most nods by a tackle in their franchise history. As a Saint, Roaf is the only player in club history to have been named to the Pro Bowl seven times as he was for seven consecutive seasons from 1994-2000. He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and both the Louisiana and Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Having received one of football's highest honors by being named to the 1990s All-Decade Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was named an All-Pro choice by the AP eight times.

Willie is the son of a dentist and a state of Arkansas Supreme Court Justice. Roaf enjoyed a prolific career at Louisiana Tech where he was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation's top college lineman.

He was selected by the Saints with the eighth over-all pick in the 1993 draft.

WWL sportscaster Hokie Gajan scouted Roaf for the Saints. "I kept my eye on Willie since he was a freshman at Louisiana Tech because Petey Perot (La. Tech offensive line coach) had pointed him out”said Gajan. "As Willie kept going through college he kept getting bigger and bigger. When somebody asks if he was a find, trust me, everybody in the NFL knew about him when he was a senior because he was that good and he was getting coached for a former NFL player."

Saints defensive lineman Wayne Martin was a teammate of Willie's with the Saints. "Willie was Pro Bowl-ready when he got into the league," said Martin. "He had great feet and the other intangibles you look for. He was the best tackle I played against in the league period. They only guy that I played against that came close to him was Anthony Munoz (Pro Football Hall of Famer)."

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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