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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A former Saint reflects on an incredible journey

New Orleans Saints fans
Saints fans, at long last, have their team in the Super Bowl.

For many people in New Orleans, the Saints' NFC Championship Game victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday brought jazz, jubilation and a justification to slam the snooze button come Monday morning.

But for one former Saint, New Orleans' most important victory in franchise history allowed for another emotion: reflection.

Former wide receiver Ike Harris, 57, played on the Saints' 1980 team that finished a franchise-worst 1-15 and drove fans to slip paper sacks over their faces at the Superdome. That fall, New Orleans allowed an NFL-worst 487 points and became known by frustrated followers as "the 'Aints."

On Monday, Harris and other Saints fans referred to New Orleans as something much sweeter: Super.

"I was happy for the team, but I was every bit as happy for the city of New Orleans and the fans," said Harris, who played for the Saints from 1978 to 1981. "The years and years of adversity have solidified the city and the support. They're a determined people, as you saw post-Hurricane Katrina. It was nice to see them rewarded after all these years, because the people I knew in the '80s I'm sure had the same attitude as the people today, and that is that we will never give up."

Harris, who caught 37 passes for 692 yards in 1980, was the team's third-leading wide receiver that season. He credits the Saints' commitment to building a consistent winner under coach Sean Payton as the reason for the organization's transformation. For him, he said, watching the NFC Championship Game was a special moment, one that cannot be put in words because of how far New Orleans has come.

From paper sacks to NFC powerhouse, the Saints are anew.

"We were a piece of that history," Harris said. "I think the organization and the management of the team learned every year and made themselves better every year. They've been a great team the last couple years. Once a Saint, always a Saint."