Former New Orleans Saints discuss life post football
By PRESTON GILL
Former New Orleans Saints, LSU and Patterson High running back Dalton Hilliard and Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle teamed to bring several former players from the Saints and NFL to the 6th Annual Dalton Hilliard Networking Tournament.
Several of the players, in their heyday, could play for any NFL team.
Hilliard runs a Houma enterprise that contracts skilled labor to companies in the oil and gas industry and uses the tournament as an opportunity for him and former teammates and other former NFL players to reminisce and network.
Some of the former Saints took time from their activities Friday afternoon to talk about their past with the Saints and their current pursuits.
After 13 years with the Saints, beginning in 1980 as a first-round draft pick, Brock got a Super Bowl ring with the San Diego Chargers, playing for them from 1993-95, and coached Army for two years.
He now resides in Portland, Ore., and is working as a marketing and sales representative for Benelli, a high-end shotgun manufacturer.
He has put together the Black and Gold Classic, a Grand Isle fishing and clay-shooting tournament at Bridgeside Marina. This year the event will benefit the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Green Beret Foundation. Last year it raised money for Children’s Hospital. Expected players participating include Hokie Gajan, Ricky Jackson, Jim Wilkes, Bobby Hebert, Morten Anderson, Hilliard and more. The skeet shooting competition is May 17 and the fishing rodeo is May 18.
Howard Lee “Hokie” Gajan turned a stellar LSU career into a 10th-round pick in a 1981 class of stud draft picks. Until 1987, he ran and blocked for the Saints in an injury-plagued career. He had the unusual distinction of sharing the backfield with two Heisman Trophy winners, George Rogers and Earl Campbell. His 6.03 yards-per-carry average in 1984 is the fourth highest average in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
For the past 14 years, he has worked with WWL Radio, broadcasting Saints football.
He lives in Mandeville where he said he enjoys being a grandpa to his seven grandkids.
“Being a grandpa is always good,” Gajan said. “When the Saints are playing good, then being an announcer is good.”
After concluding an outstanding stint as a record-holding Heisman Trophy running back at the University of South Carolina, in 1981 George Rogers became the first of five Heisman Trophy winners eventually selected by the Saints (Danny Wuerffel in 1997, Ricky Williams in 1999, Reggie Bush in 2006 and Mark Ingram in 2011 were the others).
When asked if he was disappointed about being selected by a team that was at the time notorious for its poor performance, Rogers replied he wasn’t and added, “I knew I was going to run the ball, and that was all I wanted.”
Run the ball he did with a league-leading 1,674 yards, a rookie record at the time. He ended his rookie season with a trip to the Pro Bowl and earning Rookie of the Year honors.
Rogers said he is living in South Carolina and serves as an ambassador for his beloved Gamecocks.
As another of the stellar 1981 class of draftees, Rickey Jackson became an integral part of the “Dome Patrol” that stifled NFL teams and was picked by the NFL Network as the best-ever corps of linebackers.
Jackson is quick to point out that his 136 sacks ranked No. 3 in the NFL when he retired.
In his 13 seasons with the Saints, he was named an All-Pro six times. He got his Super Bowl ring in the first of two years he played with the San Francisco 49ers before retiring. He was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame the day before the Saints won their Super Bowl.
Jackson lives in the New Orleans area and said he runs two businesses. Mister Saints #57 Petroleum Co. of Metairie sells diesel fuel, gasoline and oil and Haul of Fame Transports delivers fuel. Jackson also has a charity foundation, Rickey Jackson’s Friends Forever, that he said assists inner city youths in and around the area in making their dreams a reality.