Jahri Evans, Roman Harper to be inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame
Former New Orleans Saints standouts Jahri Evans and Roman Harper will be this year’s inductees into the Saints Hall of Fame while former long-time New Orleans Saints Spanish play-by-play broadcaster Marco Garcia will receive the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis award.
A fourth-round draft choice out of Bloomsburg in 2006, Evans was part of the renaissance of the Saints as the Sean Payton regime began in 2006.
Evans played 11 seasons for the Saints (2006-16). He ranks 11th in franchise history in games played (169). Evans started all 16 games in nine of his 11 seasons in New Orleans. He was a unanimous selection for induction.
A member of five playoff teams, Evans played in 10 playoff games, including the 2006 New Orleans Saints squad which went to the NFC championship game. He was a prominent member of the Super Bowl XLIV championship team.
Evans was selected for the Pro Bowl for six straight seasons (2009-14) and he earned first team All-Pro honors in four consecutive seasons (2009-12).
A second-round draft choice out of Alabama in 2006, Harper was also part of the renaissance of the Saints coinciding with Payton’s arrival in New Orleans.
Harper played nine seasons for the Saints (2006-13, 2016). He recorded seven interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Harper also defended 52 passes and recorded 38 tackles for loss, including 17 sacks. Harper finished with 685 tackles, forced 15 fumbles and recovered three fumbles.
Harper played in eight playoff games, forcing a pair of fumbles and recording 1.5 sacks in those games.
The University of Alabama product was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010.
The pioneer of New Orleans Saints broadcasts in Spanish, Garcia starting the offering in 1996 and served as the Hispanic play-by-play voice of the Saints on radio from 1996-2019.
Garcia managed to stay true to his duties during a very difficult time for his family with the loss of his son on the eve of the Saints Super Bowl run in the 2009 season.
Garcia was a significant bridge for the Hispanic community embracing American football in a large, growing Hispanic community in Greater New Orleans and beyond, giving much of his time and effort to help attract more of the Hispanic community to the NFL and New Orleans Saints.
Evans, Harper and Garcia were chosen by the Saints Hall of Fame Media Selection Committee.
The actual induction will take place concurring with a New Orleans Saints home game at a date to be determined during the football season.
New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame Press Conference
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Mark Romig Opening Statement: “Good morning everyone! I’m Mark Romig, board member of the Saints Hall of Fame and stadium announcer for the Saints. Thank you for being here for today’s press conference to introduce the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame Class of 2020. Founded in 1987, the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame recognizes former players, administrators and individuals who have played a significant role both on-the-field and off-the-field in the franchise’s history. The Class of 2020, will be honored on the weekend of a home game during the regular season to be announced. The New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a media selection committee with the assistance of an advisory committee, consisting of previously inducted Saints Hall of Famers. This year’s class of 2020 is strong, made up of two players, who were drafted by the team in the 2006 draft class that helped form a foundation that led to a Super Bowl victory. Both of these players were selected to multiple Pro Bowls and in addition to their excellence on the field, also represented the organization with class off the field and in the community. I’d like to introduce guard Jahri Evans and safety Roman Harper. In addition to Jahri and Roman, we would like to also introduce the Joe Gemelli “Fleur De Lis” award recipient. This honor is presented to a person who has contributed to the betterment of the New Orleans Saints and supported the franchise. Congratulations to longtime Spanish language radio play-by-play announcer Marco Garcia. At this time, I’d like to welcome Saints Owner Gayle Benson to the podium to introduce for a few remarks prior to Coach Payton’s introduction of Jahri Evans and Roman Harper.”
Mrs. Benson: “Thank you Mark. Thank you everyone and good morning. Once again, I would like to briefly thank everybody again for participating in this press conference today. Like many other obstacles in life, we will hopefully be through this soon and I look forward for all these faces to be together in a room next time. When our football team had a new beginning in 2006, starting with the hiring of coach (Sean) Payton, that first draft class that he and Mickey (Loomis) selected really served as the backbone to establishing the culture that our organization has to this day. Both Jahri Evans and Roman Harper had long, outstanding careers as members of the New Orleans Saints. They played an important role in establishing that culture, that allowed us to have quick success as we built and won a Super Bowl that made my late husband Tom (Benson) so proud.14 years after they were drafted though, what makes me just as proud as the football players that they developed into, was also the men, husbands and fathers that they developed into off the field and what they are today. It’s a pleasure to see them at different team events, see them with their families and see how successful they continue to be in both their personal and professional lives. When they were playing for the Saints, both Jahri and Roman made themselves active, engaged members of their community. When their careers started, there were a lot of community service projects associated with rebuilding our community after Hurricane Katrina. These two stepped up and as our region recovered, they would continually step up as the needs for our community changed. I would also like to thank Marco Garcia for his long service, as a Spanish language broadcaster in the community. Reaching everyone in our community is a big priority for our team. Marco and his broadcasting ability really connected with our Hispanic fans, a group that has grown over time. Jahri and Roman, thank you for all of your contributions on and off the field as Saints and congratulations on being named to the Saints Hall of Fame. Marco congratulations on being named the 2020 Joe Gemelli Fleur-De-Lis Award winner. Thank you.”
Mark Romig: “Thank you Mrs. Benson and now ladies and gentlemen in his 15th year as the Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints please welcome Coach Sean Payton.”
Sean Payton: “I appreciate the introduction Mark. Mrs. Benson thank you for making this all possible today. There are so many thoughts that go through my head now as we begin to induct players from our first draft class in 2006. To Marco (Garcia), Jahri (Evans) and Roman Harper, all three of you congratulations and I’d echo what Mrs. Benson said. I’d much rather be in a press conference right now, having a chance to see your reactions and I know we’ll hear from every one of you. Not too long ago we had a dinner at training camp and had a handful of players at that dinner that were with the organization for more than 10 years. Jahri and Roman both coming in that draft class have a lot in common. I think it’s important to always review history, because there will be a day where I’ll get these stories mixed up and it won’t be as clear, but my memory, fortunately, serves me well. They have a lot in common. Number one, both of these players played multiple years, ten or more years with the Saints. (They) went off to another team briefly and yet came home to New Orleans. Both of these players went drafted, Roman in the second round, (we) were involved in a trade where the Saints backed up a handful of selections and then acquired a player that started for us that year as well. In Roman’s case we had a trade with Cleveland, we selected Roman out of Alabama and we acquired Jeff Faine. In Jahri’s case we had a trade with Philadelphia, we backed out of our early spot in the fourth round and acquired not only Jahri Evans, with the selection, but also Hollis Thomas. I would say without a doubt, there would be no argument from anyone that has any knowledge of the Saints organization, that these two gentlemen are part of a draft class that completely changed the culture and began, really, the pillars of a Super Bowl Championship run. I think we are going to be, for the next few years, introducing members of that draft class. But the one thing they didn’t have in common and I’m talking about Roman and Jahri, I would say is the size of their schools. Roman came from the University of Alabama, bviously, a well-storied program and Jahri from Bloomsburg. So when the tape was watched on Roman you had every angle possible. You saw sideline, endzone, you saw endzone tight, sideline tight. When the tape came on Jahri it kind of came in like on a horse and buggy (laughter). You had one copy of it and we wanted to hold on to that tape thinking no one else in the league might have the same copy, because we saw what a good football player he was. I’d say and Mrs. Benson already hit on this, the two of these individuals are not only great players for us, but were tremendous leaders and a tremendous presence in our locker room. Both of them played pivotal roles. Both started from the beginning of the (2006) season. Roman was someone I can recall his first sack as an NFL football player was at Cleveland and I had to make Gary Gibbs call a blitz. Roman ended up having more sacks as a strong safety than anyone in the league during his time as an NFL player at safety. Both of these players obviously went on to play in a number of Pro Bowls. Jahri, I can recall his first year, when you get a player from a smaller school like Bloomsburg, you really don’t know how the transition’s going to be. But it was immediate and I can remember the first time one of the defensive tackles from (another team) was kind of giving Jahri a little bit of a hard time or a hands to the face. Man, there was a quick, brief fight and that was it. Man, I’m proud to have had the opportunity to coach both of these players and lastly the thing I’ll miss most are the families of both of these players. Jahri, many of you don’t know, was the only boy in the household. When his family came it was all women and then with Roman you got his mom, dad and his brother. Almost like a college program, we as coaches and everyone in our organization got to know not just the players, but also their families and I think that’s the part we miss most. Today, it’s an honor and again a pleasure to congratulate all three of the gentlemen being inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame. It is much deserved and I’m proud to have been your coach.”
Mark Romig: “Thank you, Coach Payton. Ladies and gentleman, we’re now going to here from both Jahri (Evans) and Roman (Harper). First, I want to give a little background on Jahri. He is one the most decorated offensive linemen in franchise history. He played 11 seasons with the Saints from 2006-16 after being drafted in the fourth round in the 2006 NFL Draft. Among his accolades were five consecutive selections to the Associated Press All-Pro teams, including four consecutive first-team selections from 2009-2012. He was also selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2009-2014 and was awarded the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award in 2009 and 2011. (He) started all 169 regular season games (he appeared in). Evans was selected to the club’s All-50th team in 2016. Ladies and gentlemen, Jahri Evans.”
Jahri Evans: “Thank you for that, I appreciate it. Thank you Mrs. Benson, Coach (Sean) Payton and Mickey (Loomis). You think back to when I first got to New Orleans, me, my brother and my nephew drove up from Philadelphia and we made two stops along the way. Here we are now and it feels like getting drafted all over again. I just want to say thank you to everybody who has been instrumental in my career from coaches to father figures to my parents, my mother and my father, my sisters like Coach Payton says. I do have a younger brother and I do have a younger sister, but we always just saw my mom’s side of the family. I just want to say thanks a lot to everybody that has been instrumental in my career. This is awesome, it feels like being drafted all over again. I’m glad to join the rest of my guys from the 06 class and all the great Saints players that are in the Hall of Fame. I’m looking forward to really getting back down there to see the guys, watch the guys put up a lot of points, watch the guys win and have a great season. I just want to say stay safe and God bless and thanks everybody.”
Mark Romig: “Thank you, Jahri. And now ladies and gentlemen, Roman Harper who was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played in 124 career games for the Saints from 2006-13 and in 2016 with 108 starts and recorded 775 tackles, 548 of those were solo, 17 sacks, 7 interceptions, 53 passes defensed, 13 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and 43 special teams stops. From 2006-16, no defensive back in the NFL had more sacks than Harper’s 18 and no Saints defensive back has matched his 775 stops in a black and gold uniform. Roman was a two time Pro Bowl selection in 2009 and 2010 and was also selected to the Saints All-50th team in 2016. Ladies and gentlemen, Roman Harper.”
Roman Harper: “I want to say first of all, thank you. Sorry, I’m in my car and don’t know how to do this. I’m at the hospital. My wife just had a baby yesterday so I’m happy about that as well. Thank you to Mrs. Benson, Mickey (Loomis) and Mr. Benson as well, God rest his soul, Sean (Payton). I’m so excited. In couldn’t go into (the Hall of Fame) with anybody better than my friend Jahri Evans. Like Sean said, Jahri was the first to guy to actually start starting from our rookie class. I remember back there in Millsaps how terrible that dorm was. I really think they screwed us over (laughter). I probably could have played two more years if we didn’t have to go there, but that is water under the bridge. We have all moved on and I have clearly gotten more gray as I can see myself right now. It’s good though, I’m just so excited. I can’t thank enough people for this opportunity. I do not take this lightly. It’s an honor to actually be able to be recognized as one of the greats in the organization. It’s just so cool that I’ve gotten to know so many people throughout this organization. My family is also appreciative and I’m just looking forward to being able to get back and actually see everybody, hug people and actually say what’s up to them. I can’t say enough. Everybody in the media that voted us in, for all the Saints Hall of Fame guys that came before us, we’re very appreciative and we’ll make sure we’ll continue to push this honor forward and continue to be better because of it. All my coaches, DA (Dennis Allen) already texted me saying I’m late which we should all be used to because I’m always late. I appreciate it and Roll Tide! I can’t wait and Sean is right, my film was a lot better than Jahri’s. Thank you.”
Romig: “Thank you, Roman and congratulations on the baby. And now ladies and gentlemen, our Joe Gemelli “Fleur de Lis” award winner. Marco Garcia is a native of Honduras, who began his broadcasting career announcing soccer matches in his native country. A New Orleans resident since 1975, he initially read Latin American soccer scores, called local amateur matches and hosted a Spanish language radio talk show. He then served as the voice of the Saints Spanish radio broadcast from 1996-2014 and from 2016-18, calling 191 regular season and postseason victories, known for his trademark touchdown call “Gooool-tooochdownn Santos.” Now Marco, I know I didn’t even come close to how you do that so you’ll have to repeat it. With over 20 years of experience in the booth, Garcia played an instrumental role in connecting the NFL and the Saints with the fast-growing Hispanic community in the New Orleans area, whose Hispanic population increased by nearly 80 percent since 2005. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Marco Garcia.”
Garcia: “Thank you, Mark. I’m very happy to be here. I’m honored to be a member of such a prestigious award. I want to give thanks to the Saints organization, thanks to God, thanks to my family, thanks to the Hispanic community, they were the big support for me to be here today. This is so important for me. Today, as I said, for my family it’s special, my wife, my kids, my wife Ophelia, being a big supporter for me. It’s a big moment for me. I remember when the radio station approached me to become the Saints’ Spanish language play-by-play broadcaster, I went to my house, talked to my family and that day my ten-year-old boy told me, ‘daddy, you can do it. Go for it.’ Ten years old. That gave me courage to go back to the radio station and tell the people yes, I’ll take the job, I’m going to try. The following week was my first trip, my first experience. The first game that I was accompanied with Hector (Pineda), which was the guy who started with me (who had also ) a long career. It was emotional when my son told me that, I was so confident. We had to call the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts in July of 1996 for my first game and the first Hall of Fame game for me. The years came (with) a lot of experience, learning one way or the other, but everything was so good for me because it was the biggest step of my career. My family stayed behind me and it wasn’t easy, but the good memories I have in these 23 years from 1996 to 2018, so many memories. Good ones because I enjoyed the job I did, I really enjoyed it. I want to give God thanks for the talent and giving it to me and bringing me to today and this position. Thanks to everybody again. I have a lot of good memories, special. What these two guys share with me today, they were on the field fighting for the first New Orleans Saints Super Bowl and I was in a booth trying to bring my people joy and be part of this grand event for the city. I know they enjoyed it with me because we had a lot of phone calls, but it makes me proud that I was working for them and I give them thanks for the big support they’ve given to me for these 23 years. Memories of my son one year. Especially after my son Luis Fernando (passed away from cancer in 2009), who is in heaven now, he told me daddy, yes you can do it. I remember in 2009 the Saints season he was in Dallas in a hospital fighting with the cancer and I tried to go visit him a couple times and he told me daddy, I don’t want you to come see me. I’m okay. I want you to be there because the Saints, they’re going to be in the Super Bowl. He told me that. Stay there and it wasn’t easy for me to call. Daddy’s on a game. It wasn’t easy for me to call the Minnesota game, but I had to do it for my people. I had to do it because he was behind me too. All the experience I’ve had and I keep it in my mind because I want to give thanks to everybody who was on my side because they were a big support of my career too. In the Super Bowl game, (a co-worker) put a chair beside me and a lot of people from the media tried to take it and she stopped everyone who came and tried to get it. At the end of the game I looked at her and asked her, why didn’t you let the media take the chair beside me and she told me because your son Luis, it was for you. That was part of my career, it was the big support that I had. He is in heaven now. He enjoyed that with me. He enjoyed with the whole family because he was the biggest supporter I ever had. I want to give thanks to everybody again. The people who were with me inside Sunday to Sunday in the (Super)Dome or the people in the stadiums around the country, thanks to them because they were a big part of my job. This was the big compliment of the 23 years. Thanks to everyone. Thanks, one more time to the Saints organization, to the community, to god because for him we get everything. He gives us something that we can make alive and make our dream come true. Thank you very much.”
Thank you, Marco. Thank you very much. Ladies and Gentlemen we do have some time now for some questions and we are going to do this in order. So start with Jahri, then go to Roman, then we’ll end with Marco. So, let’s go ahead and see if anyone has any questions for Jahri Evans?
Jahri, this is Rod Walker with the Times-Picayune. Just coming out of such a small school, did you ever imagine your career would end up leading you to the Saints Hall of Fame and being one of the best linemen in the league?
Jahri Evans: “It was definitely a goal of mine to be the best player that I could be and I knew the success I had. I also knew how injuries kept me back from being able to display my talent so, I was just very eager and very ready to go get it. But, I never thought that all the great things would come along with it as far as all the stuff we have done as an offense, as an organization, and how we effect the community and things of that nature. It was awesome. But, I always wanted to be the best player I could be and be able to become a champion and the Super Bowl was defiantly a goal and dream from the beginning.”
Just sort of a follow up question, what was it like when you arrived in New Orleans in 2006, with all of that going on in the city at that time. What do you sort of remember about those times?
Jahri Evans: “I remember right after I got drafted I went to the Cadillac dealership and got a Cadillac and we drove that truck from Philadelphia all the way down to New Orleans. Coming into New Orleans I just remember just coming over this bridge and how high the water was up to that bridge and just seeing how the city was, how the area was. There really wasn’t a lot of people around. My rookie year, because in Bloomsburg it’s kind of a flood(prone) area because it is on a mountain. So, we work for Habitat for Humanity in Bloomsburg and my rookie year, my fullback (in college) from the high school up here, Jay Collins he actually brought, he had an RV and brought about 15-20 people down from New Orleans. He came from a family of contractors. I lived with him one semester in school and we went into one of the wards and rebuilt a house. We also, did stuff with the organization as well. So, those are some of the earlier memories that I remember coming down to New Orleans. That will always stay with me.”
Rod Walker: How special is it to go in with a fellow 2006 Draft pick with Roman (Harper)? How special is that for you?
Jahri Evans: “It’s awesome. Roman has been a great friend, him and his family. We hit it off right away. I’ve been to Alabama, Prattville, to his events and his camp and he’s been to Philadelphia, so. We’ve seen each other’s families a lot and it’s a real honor to go in with Roman and to join the rest of the teammates and guys that I played with and all of the other greats in New Orleans. It’s a great moment. Like I said, it almost feels like being drafted again, but this time in the first-round.”
Rod Walker: With Reggie (Bush) and Marques (Colston) going in last year, did you all know at the time how special that class was? I mean, could you tell right away or when did you realize that you guys were a pretty special draft class?
Jahri Evans: “I think that we knew right away. Just being around each other like you are your rookie season. Whether that (would) be going to the rookie symposium or you’re doing all the rookie stuff with player engagement and stuff like that. They just make sure that guys are transitioning well. We knew we had some ballers coming in and a couple guys got hurt, like Roman and stuff (Rob Ninkovich)m but knew we were a talented group and we all kind of made an impact right away. So, we just continued to learn. For me I just continued to learn from the veterans and the things that I had, how to breakdown film, how to hone on my technique and get better, ow to study the game and I think people forget that we were a half away from the Super Bowl my rookie year. I think that’s where it all started. Just the mindset that we took that year and what we accomplished and coach continued to build on that foundation that we had built. As far as players and schemes. Adding to that first year in 2006.”
John DeShazier: Roman, congratulations on the new addition to the family. Did you foresee this in the Saints Hall of Fame in your career?
Roman Harper: “No, not at all. Jahri was way more confident than me. Everybody knew Reggie Bush, but I’m not going to say that our class looked that great to me. Alabama was not who Alabama is now, we were not great (at that time). So, I was excited to actually have the opportunity to play somewhere close in the South. That was the big thing for me. But, we all know my college roommate called me after the Saints drafted me and laughed at me and said that we’d never go to the playoffs. How bad we were. We had a great draft. We got there, (Marques) Colston was way overweight, so I didn’t think he’d turn out to be the great player that he was. Everybody was so high on Mike Hass. We had this very, very tall enormously big white guy named Zach Strief in the seventh-round who everybody was all excited about too. It was just crazy. Jahri had these big glasses on. These big, like really big thick glasses, so how can this guy be an O-linemen, be as tough and great he is. It’s just funny we did not look the part but we definitely came together and were very much so a vital part of getting that organization turned around and immediately we were all thrown in the fire and I think we all responded the right way. Then we really became closer as we were in that rookie locker room. We would all talk about trials and stipulations. I think that is what really made us all together is the bond that we formed and we just kind of kept going. From there that team just really took off and the organization has never been the same since then. It’s very special. For me to say that I played a role in that. For my family to say that we were there and actually saw it all turn around and I think that’s the greatest thing I’ve taken away from all of this.”
John DeShazier: Who was that laughing roommate? Do you give it back to him now?
Harper: “All the time. His name’s Charlie Pepper, he played in the league and won a Super Bowl with Green Bay so, I cannot really laugh at him that much. We proved him wrong though. It was great. It was absolutely amazing to just be able to come back and talk a little trash to him but, he definitely had some concerns and I understand why. The Saints, they had some issues (coming off a 3-13 season). That’s all I’ll say.”
It’s only Tuesday, but it’s been a crazy week with you with a new baby, and your new job possibility with ESPN/SEC Network, and now getting the news that you are going to be inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame. What have these past two days meant to you and just how emotional and big that they are?
Roman Harper: “First and foremost, I will not deny nor confirm anything about ESPN until ESPN releases their own statement. I will put that out there first. Now, ‘wink wink’, but yes, it has been a great blessing. A rollercoaster of emotions. My wife labored for like 12 hours because my son inside, he like did some other stuff and ‘went breech’ or whatever that means, which his feet were down. It was crazy, but it turned out he’s healthy and everybody made it out just fine. The doctors did some stuff and made him come back down. It was definitely an adventure. And then hearing the news about this, about this is coming on and just the timing of it. And all the news breaking on everything else, it’s been an eventful 48 hours for me. I have to get used to getting back on team no sleep. Which, everybody who knows me, I’m always one of those guys that has always kind of stayed up late and hung out a bit anyways, so it will be okay. I’ll make it through. It’s been great and I’m just excited man. It’s cool to actually see how many people in your life actually care about you, and how many people reach out to you when they hear good things. That how many people you represent back home. Like when I was back home with Jahri in Philly, like how many people would come up to him and just thank him for having us come through there to show the young kids what it’s like. Or when they have the opportunity to do those things. Or when Travaris Cadet would go up there and have one of the greatest speeches I’ve ever seen to those kids in that community in Philadelphia. It was just absolutely amazing. And just really sharing about all the trials he’s been through in life. You know, when you go through something, when you walk those hallways, when you grow up, when you do something special that these other kids, they see a chance. That they have hope. And how many people you’re able to effect in your short little lifetime. It really humbles you and gets you outside of your own bubble. And it’s not always about me. This award is so much more representative to so many more than just Roman Harper, and that’s what I get from this.”
How important do you guys think, for both of you guys, obviously on the field that draft class made a difference, but just getting character guys and building a culture in the locker room, so many players from that class became pillars of that. How important was that to building the Super Bowl culture and everything?
Roman Harper: “I think it was huge. I’ll go first Jahri then you can speak. I thought it was huge. I didn’t know we were all such high-character guys until you get there because- and you know, you’re a rookie. You don’t know anything. You just trying to catch up and learn. And you learn very fast that NFL locker rooms are a lot like college locker rooms. Except, they’re older men with a lot more money with bigger toys that cost more money. So, it’s a lot of the same characteristics and guys love to have fun and cut up. And its, how fast can you come together as a team, alright? To where we’re playing for one another and not just ourselves and not just the next contract. And we’re playing for the betterment of the person beside you. I think that was the biggest thing that – one of Sean’s (Payton) biggest things was we all come together. And really getting away that whole Millsaps thing was something special. I hate it, and as much as I hate it, it built a brand new foundation for everything that we were to represent from here on out. And you saw it immediately.”
Jahri Evans: “I agree with Roman, but I think coaches and management have a tough job when they are in certain cities in certain areas just because of the distractions that are around them. So, I think that you are exactly right, drafting the high-character guys and guys that you knew are not going to disappoint you. Like Roman said in college, a scout or a recruit starts recruiting this five-star athlete, and then this athlete winds up not making it to his junior or senior year because of academic reasons. So, I look at it like that. You spend this time and energy on this player, and then something happens off the field that keeps them from playing on the field. So I think that that’s a huge reason why we’ve had a lot of success in New Orleans is getting the guys in there and then once they’re there, letting them know the environment that they’re going to be playing in. And try to help them navigate it, because we’re all from different areas. We all have different upbringings and different things that we live life. I didn’t even have my first bill until I moved to New Orleans and bought my first property in 2007. So, just helping guys navigate some of those things early on in their career is definitely helpful. And the Saints organization and the coaches and staff definitely did that for me and a lot of guys I think.”
Jahri, this is Ro Brown from WBOK. First of all, congratulations. You were an established All-Pro in New Orleans, then you leave for Seattle, and you come back at the end of that preseason. Talk to me about your emotions during that time when you left and were you surprised when you ended up back in the Crescent City?
Jahri Evans: “Emotions were different for me. It gave me a new aspect of what guys go through in free agency. That was something that I never experienced. I was there for 10 years. When I signed that seven-year contract which, you won’t see another seven-year contract by an offensive lineman by the way (laughter). But when I signed that contract, I did not see myself not playing out that contract. So that was – it was definitely a surprise when I got that phone call early before OTAs and stuff happened. But I got over it really quickly and I started visiting some teams. And then that was another experience, I was like, ‘This is crazy to me.’ But, that’s the nature of the business. So I was glad to come back. It was a little pressed. I didn’t see myself getting released by Seattle. But I know I didn’t really have support in the coaching, from the coach there. But it worked out well because I was able to come back to New Orleans and get back to what I was used to. And able to be back with the guys, and have that season that we had there.”
How do you guys talk about Millsaps? Does (Sean) apologize to you for that? Or does he take credit that that built you into the Hall of Famers that you’ve become?
Jahri Evans: “I don’t think an apology is needed. I just think as players we know that other player or team experienced that, in my opinion. We saw people come and go, like I said. We were young. I think the best way to describe Millsaps is that each year, we kind of got something. We had to go down the hill first, then come up the hill. Then we got the steps. Then we got the tent, you know what I mean? So, Millsaps did kind of grow a little bit, but it was an experience for me that I’ll never forget. That kind of really molded me as the pro player that I am. Or became to be.”
Roman Harper: “Yeah man, Millsaps sucked. Sean (Payton) is a four-letter-word for taking us there two years straight. But, it is what it is. He’s not going to apologize (laughter). He is not going to do that. He thinks it was great. But look, Jah (Jahri) is right though, we did get steps. And the cars and the transportation, we evolved. It was definitely an adventure going from your rookie year where you were like a mile and a half walking to the practice facility. But I think it built character and no matter what I did at any training camp for the rest of my life, it was never going to be that hard. So, you kind of set a standard and from there on, it’s kind of easier. And I think that actually changed me in a way. That no matter what I did, I could always get through it because my mentality was once I got through Millsaps, there was nothing else that was ever going to be as hard as that. And I remember like it was yesterday, I called my dad my rookie year because it was just so hard. Mentally, I was beat. I was playing three or four positions. I was just trying to keep up and I was losing weight so bad because I was tired, I was so dehydrated. And my dad was like, ‘Well, this is what you wanted to do. So what else are you going to do? You don’t get to come home.’ And then I looked at that signing bonus I got and I didn’t want to give that back, so it is what it is.”
Jahri Evans: “And the best thing about Millsaps was the food. I think everyone would agree on that right there.”
Roman Harper: “Oh the food was great. Yes, that’s very true.”
Jahri Evans: “The food was amazing.”
- < PREV 2020 Preseason All-Louisiana College Football teams
- NEXT > Evans and Harper arrived in 2006 draft class, enter Saints Hall of Fame in 2020
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…