Tooting the horn of gracious Joe Horn as Michael Thomas passes him in all-time Saints record books

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Ken Trahan, Joe Horn at SHOF

Everything is temporary, nothing lasts forever. There is a time to pass the torch.

Joe Horn gets it.

The flamboyant former star wide receiver of the New Orleans Saints worked as hard as hard as anyone at his craft.

Horn was one of the very best moves the Saints have made in franchise history.

They signed him in 2000, giving him a shot to be a starter.

Instead, he became a star.

Horn would regularly draw attention to himself. That is his style. There is nothing wrong with it if you can back it up and if your teammates respect your work ethic.

Both were true of Horn.

It is never easy to watch someone erase your greatest accomplishments.

Horn has spent the last few years watching the likes of Marques Colston and now Michael Thomas do just that.

While there is no way Horn or anyone would love watching this happen, Horn has handled the situation beautifully.

Looking ahead, I made a call to Joe about six weeks ago, asking him if he would appear at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum for the regular season finale against Carolina. In the back of my mind, I knew that Thomas had a good chance to erase Horn’s record of 1,399 receiving yards established in 2004, one of his four Pro Bowl seasons among his seven years with the Saints.

Fate intervened.

Thomas waited until the game with the Panthers to accomplish the feat. Let’s just say that we hit it right. The stars were aligned. It was a late Christmas present. The Lord blessed us.

Here was Horn this morning in New Orleans on a dreary day outside that turned out to be a dreary day inside.

Horn knew the questions were coming. He handled them graciously.

“Records are made to be broken,” Horn said. “I am a big fan of the young man. Michael Thomas is a lot like I was. He is a fierce competitor. He always wants the ball. He always thinks he can make a play, even if he is covered. He is physical. He is strong after the catch. He will block for his teammates. That defines a complete receiver.”

If you want to know about the character of Horn, consider this.

His two-year-old son had been ill and he thought about cancelling his appearance. It was Friday afternoon. That brought a whole new meaning to widespread panic for us associated with the Saints Hall of Fame.

Later on Friday evening, Horn confirmed that he would find a way to make it, that his son was improving and that she would fly with their son to meet him in New Orleans early this morning.

As for Horn, he was in Charlotte Saturday for a noon game, the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC to watch son Jaycee’s team, South Carolina, lose to Virginia.

When the game ended, Horn paid homage to his son and made his way to New Orleans.

“I hate flying,” Horn said. “I always have. I will drive anywhere, everywhere, if I can.”

We remembered this well when Joe was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2010. He drove in from the Atlanta area for the induction, drove back to Georgia after the induction to watch his son Joe, Jr. play a game, and drove back to be honored at the Saints game that Sunday.

Fast forward to Saturday.

Horn began his journey, a ten hour, 30-minute drive from Charlotte to New Orleans through the night. He arrived in the wee hours of the morning.

With no sleep, Horn made his way to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“I have always played for and honored the fans,” Horn said. “I love the fans of the New Orleans Saints. They are simply the best. They were great to me when I played here and I never forgot it.”

The fans have not forgotten the brilliance of Horn in a Saints uniform, either. They have never forgotten how Horn stood up for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

With the future of the city and football franchise in doubt, Horn spoke up for the region, saying the Saints belonged here and that he wanted to return and bring a championship to New Orleans.

“It was the right thing to do,” Horn said. “This was our city, our fans. They deserved us and we deserved them.”

Sunday morning, Horn navigated a line of over 1,000 people with many more waiting, hoping to see him, get a picture with him or obtain an autograph.

With each fan, it was personal. Joe wanted to know his or her name. He insisted on speaking with them. He smiled broadly.

As the time got closer to him leaving to be escorted to the field for pre-game pictures and a live interview for the fans to see, Horn left his chair and walked down the line waiting for him to get to each and every person still in the line, which had been cut off. He missed no one.

Upon leaving, he stopped to greet more fans on the concourse, taking a few pictures, signing a few more autographs.

“If I had more time, I would have gotten every one of them,” Horn said. “They pay good money to be here and to watch the Saints play. They work hard for their pay. I will always honor the fans.”

Horn made his way to the field and the fans in the stands saw what the fans in the museum had already seen.

Horn was wearing a color rush No. 13 New Orleans Saints jersey with the name Thomas emblazoned on the back of it.

“I wanted to honor the young man,” Horn said. “He is going to get the record. He deserves it. He has earned it. I am a big fan of his and of the Saints.”

Horn received a huge applause from the fans and made his way to watch the game from the Coca-Cola suite, courtesy of our board member, Rocky Weigand.

It took Thomas a while but he got the record-breaking catch in the fourth quarter.

While I was in my perch in the press box, I know Joe was smiling when it happened. I am sure he was using his cell phone to text others as he is apt to do.

“I thought it was very cool when Michael pulled out the cell phone earlier this year,” Horn said. “It made me feel good. I know such things can be distractions and I really don’t want to dwell on it but I feel there is a definite tie between us.”

Another record is gone. Horn still lives forever as a member of the Saints Hall of Fame. He will always be remembered fondly by fans and admired by many.

“I am a huge fan of the Saints,” Horn said. “I believe they can win the Super Bowl. I have been telling people that for weeks now. They have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew (Brees). They have a superstar receiver in Michael. They have two great running backs. They are really good up front, force a bunch of turnovers on defense and have a really good kicking game. You want to come in this building and beat them when it counts? You had better bring your absolute best. Good luck with that!”

It would have been easy for Horn not to make it this morning, given the circumstances.

In the final analysis, Joe kept his commitment. That should come as no surprise. He is a gamer. He always shows up on game day when he is being counted on.

“I always felt my coaches and teammates could count on me giving my very best every week,” Horn said. “How else are you supposed to play the game? I know people were counting on me today and I did not want to let you or any of them down. My son is doing a little better and my wife was able to fly here with him. It couldn’t be much better, having them here, seeing the fans again and seeing Thomas earn the record.”

Horn made a lot of people very happy today. He enjoyed the process.

Joe is no doubt on the road, making the long drive back to South Carolina now. Hopefully, he will embrace the memories made today. We certainly did.

I have no problem tooting Joe’s horn. He deserves it.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and 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 Football Foundation, College…

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