AFC East: Bobby Hebert
John David Mercer/US PresswireAfter over 40 years of waiting for a Super Bowl team -- and suffering through some painful seasons -- Saints fans can finally celebrate making it to Super Sunday.MIAMI -- How far have the New Orleans Saints come as an organization?
From their first season in 1967 to the paper-sack-wearing Aints days, the franchise has endured a lot to win their first NFC championship and finally reach the Super Bowl.
"It didn't take us but 43 years to figure it out," said Archie Manning, a local icon who quarterbacked the Aints and still resides in New Orleans.
To get an idea of how much pride Saints alumni are feeling in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIV, I asked Danny Abramowicz, Conrad Dobler, Henry Childs, Bobby Hebert and Manning to share their memories of some not-so-pleasant days.
Abramowicz (an original Saint -- drafted in the 17th round -- and Pro Bowl receiver and later a Saints broadcaster): "I can remember running out on the field the first day, opening game at Tulane Stadium in front of 85,000 people. We ran the kickoff back for a touchdown, and it went downhill."
Hebert (a Baton Rouge, La., native and Saints quarterback from 1985 through 1992): "It was always 'Wait 'til next year.' They didn't have a winning record their first 20 years."
Abramowicz: "We were involved with one of the biggest fights of all time [Oct. 8, 1967 against the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium]. All the fans were pouring out onto the field. We had a guy on our team named Doug Atkins, who really was a freak of size. The last pass to me in the game against the Giants was a Hail Mary-type thing, and it was incomplete. I look up the field, and they had Doug pinned down and were beating him with helmets.
“I thought 'Well, I better get out of there.'
“In Yankee Stadium, you had to go through dugouts. I looked back one last time to see what was going on and missed the top step. My head hit the top of the dugout. I had to go back to the locker room and sit down in a chair. Guys were coming in with their shirts torn, and they were bleeding. A lot of silly stuff happened in those times."
Manning: "You never get used to losing. The Saints can tell you, the Colts can tell you, when you win those games, the next Sunday comes around too quick. It's such a great feeling. The atmosphere is so good. But when you lose, that next Sunday almost won't get there."
Abramowicz: "People came to our games for the halftime shows. We had Al Hirt, Pete Fountain. There were some great times, but an awful lot of bad times, a lot of butt-whippings."
Abramowicz: "The lowest time in the franchise for me was in 1973. We opened the season, and everyone's fired up. Everyone thinks we're going to the Super Bowl on opening day. If you don't feel that way, then get the hell out of the game.
“We opened against the Atlanta Falcons, and that was our big rivalry at the time. They beat us that opening game, 62-7, just whipping the you-know-what out of us. This wasn't the Dallas Cowboys. This was the Atlanta Falcons. That was, in my time, the lowest.”