There are many reasons I love the Saints coach Sean Payton, but none more so than because of the extraordinary gesture he made this past Friday. Here is Sports Illustrated's Peter King describing the events that unfolded in the Saints locker room Friday just before practice:
I believe one of the reasons the Saints play for Sean Payton was illustrated well Friday morning. Payton starts his team meetings with the news of the day usually, and on Friday he had some team business to discuss. "We've placed Rodney Leisle, defensive tackle, on injured-reserve,'' Payton said, very businesslike. "Signed Deuce McAllister, running back, Ole Miss.'' Stunned, the players erupted in cheers.
Payton smells the coffee. He knows how beloved McAllister is in his locker room and in the city of New Orleans, and he knew how much it would mean for McAllister to be involved with the team he had labored with for so long -- and he also knew he had 52 healthy players on his roster and wouldn't need the roster spot for this game, at least. Why not give the city and the player a boost. "I appreciate moments like this,'' he told me. "I realize how precious these moments are, and how quickly they go by. With players, you know, they have a schedule and itinerary in high school, then every day in college, then every day in the NFL, and then they wake up one day and it's gone. I just want to make sure Deuce knows how much we appreciate everything he's done for this franchise.'' "Deuce McAllister has always embodied the spirit of the New Orleans Saints and the city of New Orleans," Payton said. "We're excited to have him back with the team and to have him lead us out on to the field." "I"m speechless," McAllister said. "I don't know that there are words to describe this feeling. I do know that we have unfinished business that we starteed a few years ago and we want to finish the deal."
Deuce McAllister set almost every franchise record a running back could set for his team while playing for the Saints. He single handedly carried the Saints to victory in the 2006 Divisional playoff game versus Philly. And I truly believe he played for us, the City of New Orleans, that night more than he played for himself. For that we should always be grateful. And yes that is a part of why he remains so beloved by this team and this region, but it is not the whole story. He is most beloved because of the man he is. Because in a day where you almost give up hope that an athlete can be a role model, he provides you assurance that they can be. He committed himself to being a part of making New Orleans better long before the Brad Pitts of the world made it cool to do so. And he never did it for publicity or attention. He did it because he loves this city. And in turn, we love him. To see him run through that tunnel Saturday was a moment I thought I'd never see again. I'm sure he felt the same way. For Sean Payton to acknowledge all that Deuce has done for us in this way was truly remarkable.
It makes me proud to be a Saints fan and even more proud to be a Deuce fan. Deeeuuucceee!!!!