Want to know how big of a gamer Saints safety Roman Harper is? All you have to do is hear about his birthday party.
Think muscle-bound football players huddled around flat screens with Xbox controllers gripped tight as they blast each other in "Call of Duty: Black Ops" and you get the picture.
Oh, and did I mention there were party hats?
"I'm a big 'Call of Duty' player ... it consumes my life in the offseason," admits Harper. "So earlier this year when I was in Southern California, the people at Activision saw how big I was into the game, so they surprised me with a 'Call of Duty' party. It really turned out fun.
"I even got a motorcycle helmet that looks like one of the helmets the guys wear in the game, and I wore that around all night. We had some fake guns, we had little bullets everywhere, and a 'Call of Duty' mural in the background. I don't think any of my teammates were expecting anything like that and they all enjoyed it. It was a really good time."
I even got a motorcycle helmet that looks like one of the helmets the guys wear in the game, and I wore that around all night.
Harper claims that the "Call of Duty" franchise is the most addicting of any video game series ever made, and he's such a fan, he even convinced non-gaming teammates like Darren Sharper to join the online fray.
And now Sharper, a guy who hasn't been into video games since the days of "Donkey Kong," is hooked.
"The thing about 'Call of Duty' is that when you're playing, you really can imagine yourself in that moment," says Sharper. "It lets you know how serious, how scary it would be if you were caught in that moment for real, and that's an adrenaline rush for me. It really gets those competitive juices flowing every time you play the game, and I think that's why it has been so popular."
And when it comes to playing the game, Sharper boasts he's the best on the Saints by far as military instincts run in his family.
"I'm the best 'Call of Duty' player because my father was in Vietnam," Sharper says. "It's just in my genes. I have that sixth sense of knowing when to duck, knowing when to shoot, knowing when to hide. I think that comes from my father being a Vietnam War veteran. He won a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star medal and I think that relates to me being the best 'Call of Duty' player on the team."
When Harper hears this, he bursts out with laughter.
"I'm not even going to steal your thunder, Sharp," he says. "I'll let you have it with that.
"But 'Call of Duty' is definitely a big deal in our locker room. A lot of my teammates play it -- from Malcolm Jenkins to Tracy Porter -- it's a big hit with the defense and some of the O-linemen play it as well."
And when the Saints get together to shoot it out, they say everyone plays with a distinct style.
For Darren Sharper, that means finding a good place to hide when the match starts. "I like to sit back and let things clear out," he says, "then when everybody is distracted and shooting each other, I come in from out of nowhere and go in for the secondary stomp."
Roman Harper, on the other hand, plays aggressive from the opening second.
"I want first blood," Harper says with a laugh. "I want first blood and the last kill, that way I can do my dance on them.
"What's crazy, though, is how good the game looks on my 3-D TV. I'll be sitting there with those big old goggles on, but I love it. I've had my 3-D TV for five months, and this is the only thing I do on it. The guns are a little more raised out and once you get used to it, it's actually easier to shoot guys from further away."
As for how long they play the game in one stretch, Harper says he's embarrassed to admit it, but he's played for eight hours straight before, although right now, he says all of the Saints have bigger things on their minds than video games with the playoffs approaching.
"I have to put the controller down right now," Harper says as the Saints prepare to defend their title. "I can't be addicted to 'Call of Duty' during the season. We have a few more games to win first.
"But in the offseason, I'll be back on strong."