Tuesday, 19 April 2011 15:55

New Orleans Saints NFL Draft: Roaf Revisited

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There is no sound quite like the thrilling sound of an announcement that a player has been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

It's a beautiful noise with the power to transform anxiety into fulfillment. Offensive tackle Willie Roaf thought he might be picked by Arizona with the fourth selection.

When Roaf was an Outland Trophy finalist as a senior at Louisiana Tech, it became evident that the NFL would be his next stop. Following the Hula Bowl and the Shrine All-Star Game, he signed with an agent and went to Colorado to train with several other NFL hopefuls, including running back Jerome Bettis.

Even though it was 18 years ago, one of the top draft picks in Saints history, Roaf has a vivid recollection of his process in joining the Saints. Roaf, a 2011 finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was selected by the Saints with the eighth over-all pick in the 1993 draft.

Roaf received an invitation from the NFL to appear at the draft, a sign of his potential status. He brought his family and a few of his close friends to New York. Following a pre-draft dinner on Friday, April 24 with fellow hopefuls, Road and his traveling party enjoyed some of the sights of the city before turning in for the evening.

"It was the first time we were in New York and we had a great time," said Roaf. "I still remember waking up Saturday morning, eating breakfast and hanging out with the guys, waiting to see where I would get drafted. Over-all it was a great experience, taking in the whole moment, waiting for my name to be called."

Although Roaf was in the dark about where he would land, the Saints looked like a possibility. They were in the process of making a draft day trade with the Lions in which they would send linebacker Pat Swilling to the Motor City and acquire the eighth pick in the draft and a fourth-round pick as well. Eight picks into the draft, the Saints decided to keep Roaf in Louisiana, acquiring a tackle in their offensive line who would move to left tackle in1994 and be selected to seven straight Pro Bowls.

"I didn't know the Saints were going to get the eighth pick and choose me," said Roaf. "When they did that and picked me, I was very, very excited, knowing I was going to be staying close to home and playing for the Saints."

After going up to the dias, wearing a Saints jersey with the number one imprinted ot it and doing the typical post-pick interviews, Roaf would meet a future teammate 12 picks later when the Saints traded up with the Cardinals to acquire the 20th pick and chose Notre Dame tight end Irv Smith. Following Smith's selection, the families of the two new Saints celebrated over dinner. The two became good friends.

Roaf still has the number one jersey. "I still have it hanging up and framed at my house in California," said Roaf..

The celebrations didn't last too long in New York. Two weeks later,Roaf reported for his first minicamp, participated in a second one in June. In late July, prior the start of training camp Roaf reached a financial agreement with the Saints on a four-year contract. He started at right tackle, played every snap and earned All-Rookie honors.

"I just wanted to get in to camp on a good start," said Roaf.
I remember Bob Whitman (No. 8 pick in 1992) got off to late start and didn't start his rookie year. They gave me a big contract and I knew Mr. Benson, Bill Kuharich and the front office were expecting me to come in and play."

Roaf credits that start as a rookie with giving him the momentum which carried over to a 13-year career that moved him to the left side in his second season and resulted in 11 Pro Bowl berths before his retirement as a Kansas City Chief after the 2005 season. Enjoying retirement in his California home and on the doorstep of a hopeful election to Canton in 2012, he looks at the hopefuls for the upcoming draft and emphasizes for them to take advantage of the opportunities in front.

"You have to keep working hard and not get caught up in it if you were drafted high," said Roaf. "You have a chance to make a real good living in the NFL. Take advantage of it. In my first year, my biggest challenges were coming from a smaller school and getting a good understanding of the defenses. Once you are drafted you will need to learn as much as you can, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where there is a lot more than in college."



Some hither, others yon: Former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden after visiting the Saints training camp: "The lockout's weird, man. I'm looking around, and the strength coach (Dan Dalrymple) is there, just looking for somebody to coach, somebody to start lifting. Weird." Saints coach Sean Payton on the lockout: "Yeah, it's tough. Our strength coach moved the StairMaster four inches to the left today, He's going to polish all the machines tomorrow."...

As a member of Mississippi State's 2010 recruiting class Dylan Favre packed a video game-like statistics -- nearly 5,600 yards passing and 63 touchdowns his senior season alone at St. Stanislaus -- into a sub-6-0 frame. While the surname may have opened some doors, the younger Favre set out to make his own set of footprints in which to walk before his collegiate career even began, opting for the Bulldogs over interest from, among others, and, his uncle's alma mater Southern Mississippi. In MSU's spring game, Favre hit on 17of-26 passes for 199 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while adding 41 yards on the ground...

Tyson Jackson of LSU was supposed to be a safe, if unflashy building block to Kansas City's 3-4 defense. It hasn't worked out that way so far for the No.3 pick in the draft, but Chiefs GM Scott Pioli said he would make the same pick all over again. Jackson has one sack  in two seasons  is listed as the fourth defensive end. Former LSU All-America Glenn Dorsey is a starting defensive end for the Chiefs...

Hornets center Aaron Gray is questionable for Wednesday night's game with the Lakers at Los Angeles. He suffered a sprained ankle near the end of  Game 1 of the playoffs, and said his range of motion has improved since Sunday He was on crutches while wearing a walking boot as he left Staples Center and said it feltl like there was a softball lodged in his ankle. "The biggest thought in my mind was Game 2 which  is going to be so much more intense," Gray told media at the Hornets' practice. "The Lakers are going to bring it even more.  That was my kind of mindset. I  just want to be at 100 per cent because it's going to be a fight and I want to be there with the rest of my teammates."  The Hornets' medical staff and coach Monty Williams will make the decision of whether or not he plays. "I know what my decision is," said Gray.

by Ed Staton



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.  


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