Glover, Finney in Saints HOF class
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS — When La’ Roi Glover first joined the Saints in 1997, Mike Ditka was the coach and constantly mispronounced his name.
Glover tried to correct him, only to have Ditka fire back that he would continue calling the defensive tackle “LEE-roy” until he accomplished something.
As Glover stood in front of the Saints Hall of Fame museum on Friday, when his selection for the Hall’s 2013 class was announced, he figured he must have done enough to have his name pronounced the right way.
Glover averaged 10 sacks during five seasons in New Orleans from 1997 to 2001, and is the lone player being inducted this year — an honor he did not see coming.
“I was at a loss for words. I thought it really was a joke,” Glover said of the moment he was informed of his impending induction. “It was kind of a surreal moment. It does bring back a lot of good memories, a lot of fun times.”
Long-time sports writer and columnist Peter Finney Sr. of the Times-Picayune has been chosen to receive the Hall’s Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis award, presented to a person who has contributed to the betterment of the franchise during many years. Finney, 85, began his sports writing career 22 years before the Saints’ very first game in 1967 and continues to write part-time. The induction will be held at a date to be determined during the 2013 season.
Glover amassed 50 sacks and forced 10 fumbles while he was with the Saints. In 2000, Glover had a league-high 17 sacks, was named Associated Press All-Pro and earned a Pro Bowl invitation while helping the Saints to a division championship and first-ever playoff victory over the St. Louis Rams in the Superdome.
Glover, who now works for the Rams as director of player engagement, said being a part of the Saints’ emotional first playoff triumph, some 34 seasons into the franchise’s existence, is his favorite memory of his playing days in New Orleans.
“It was crazy. I mean, it was bananas. People were screaming, crying. Every emotion you can imagine, you saw it all in that moment,” Glover said. “That’s what you love about not only football, but the fan base here in New Orleans as well. They really do care.”
When asked what it took for Glover to amass 17 sacks in 2000, he deflected credit to his teammates on the defensive line — nose tackle Norman Hand and defensive ends Joe Johnson and Darren Howard.
“That is what allowed me to do it, and then sort of the vision and philosophy of (then-head coach) Jim Haslett to move his guys around in order to play a lot of different positions along the front, to take advantage of match-ups,” Glover said.
The Saints parted ways with Glover after the 2001 season, and he want to have four more Pro Bowl seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Glover said he is not certain why the Saints did not push harder to keep him while he was still in his prime, but did not hold a grudge.
“At the end of the day, things worked out,” Glover said. “I went on to have my own success and I’m still a member of the Saints Hall of Fame, so that’s what’s important right now.”
The Saints had losing records for their first 20 seasons, and Finney covered all of them. He also knew Gemelli, a clothing store owner who was among the team’s most active — and optimistic — boosters until his death in 1991.
“Joe always saw a light at the end of the tunnel. It was a long tunnel,” Finney said. “He was born with a fleur-de-lis on his forehead.”
When John Gilliam ran back a kickoff for a touchdown on the first play in Saints history in the old Tulane Stadium, Finney was in the press box, four seats from then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
Rozelle stood up and yelled, “Go!” as the return developed, and it was Finney who reminded him, half-jokingly, that cheering was not allowed in the press box.
Finney said covering the Saints was the best assignment he could have had, in large part because of the way the fans — his readers — stuck by the team through so many losing seasons.
“I don’t know if any fans around the league supported a losing team the way they did here,” he said.
Finney also was in Miami in February 2010 when the Saints, in their 43rd season, played in and won their first Super Bowl.
“I still don’t believe it happened,” Finney said. “I swear to God.”