Willie Roaf preparing for Hall of Fame enshrinement - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Willie Roaf preparing for Hall of Fame enshrinement

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New Orleans, La.- On Saturday, August 4th, former Saints left tackle Willie Roaf will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. 

Fox 8 will have coverage of the week's festivities starting Thursday.  We will also have extensive coverage of the Saints' preseason opener against the Cardinals starting with a pregame show from 6-7 p.m., followed by the game and postgame analysis and reaction.

This transcript of Roaf's conference call with the media was provided by the New Orleans Saints:

Are you nervous about Saturday?

 "I'm working on my speech, getting a few butterflies, but looking forward to having a good week."

 Can you talk about your decision to have your father as apresenter?

 "That was a no-brainer. He came to pretty much every homegame down in New Orleans or Kansas City, drove to most of them. He was one of the guys who played in the yard with us. He was always there to help anybody on our teams that needed advice in high school or before I made it to college."

 Bobby Hebert is quick to say that in all respect to DrewBrees, you are the greatest Saint. Can you talk about what your time mean there, playing at Louisiana Tech and then playing for the Saints before moving on to the Chiefs?

 "Growing up in Arkansas and moving on to Louisiana Tech and the Saints drafting me close to home. They broke up the Dome Patrol. I would have loved for Bobby Hebert to stay, but he had some differences with the team. I remember in college when all that stuff was going on with Bobby Hebertand his contract and seeing all the stuff that happens in pro football, when Jihad gotten there, Bobby had left and I came in Rickey's (Jackson) last year,Sam Mills, Jim Wilks and Frank Warren, all those old school guys. Wayne Martin was still playing along with Jim Dombrowski, Dombro. I came in with a lot of vets of 12 or 13 years. I tried to pick up as much as I can. I don't know if I agree with Bobby, I think Drew Brees is setting the bar real high. I would have to argue with Drew Brees that he's the best Saints player to play though, even though he's playing still."

 Coming out to Pine Bluff high school you weren't highly recruited and ended up at Louisiana Tech, can you talk about how you picked football over basketball?

 "When I went into my senior year (of high school), I went to basketball camp at UCA (University of Central Arkansas) the year (Scottie)Pippen had come out. Before I played football my senior year, I had a couple of basketball scholarships (offers). It was kind of funny how I got the football scholarship. Jerry Baldwin was coaching at Louisiana Tech and he came therefrom Natchez Mississippi where Walter Johnson decided to play at Tech. He played in the league for some years for the Houston Oilers. He was at Tech,came to Pine Bluff, we had two players that were all-state. They saw me on film. I made all-conference and all-super team in 1987. That's how I got scholarship offer. I just went ahead and took the scholarship offer before basketball season. I was 6-5, I just didn't think I was going to be tall enough to keep playing. I was pretty athletic, but I decided to go with the football scholarship."

 Who was the toughest defensive end to defend and who was the hardest hitter you faced?

 "Playing as long as I did, I would say Reggie (White), a guy that had the power and could get in my body a little bit. Me and Chuck (Smith)tangled a lot. It wouldn't be the guys who were the household names. It would be the guys who played real well against you. Maybe not Hall of Fame type guys.Chuck Smith, Mike Rucker from Carolina who will be at the Hall of Fame ceremony. We used to go at it. He was very strong and had good leverage. SeanJones, guys who had real long arms and could use their leverage on you, TimHarris. The guys who gave me some problems wouldn't be the household, ProFootball Hall of Fame type of guy. Ken Harvey, another guy with the Redskins.I'm thinking of games I had that were bad, where guys had good games against me. Mike Mamula when he played for the Eagles when he first got in the league.He was a hell of a player and we played in the Superdome back when Jim Everettwhen was still playing and he was still young and he was a good pass rusher too."

 Talking to you in Oxnard last year and when you watch the current Saints team from afar and that they seem to have a proven method that works, do you think they will fare pretty well even without Sean Payton?

 "Yes, I think they're going to fare well. The key was getting Drew (Brees) signed back. They have their leader signed back. They have it on both sides of the ball. I know they lost one of the leaders on defense in(Jonathan) Vilma, one of the top guys, but you have a bunch of veteran guys on defense. I know Will (Smith) will miss a few games and you still got (Scott)Shanle and some vets. I think if you look at it, you have more vets on the offensive side of the ball than the defensive side of the ball. You have a lot of vets on that team and I think they'll be there. I think look out for the kid from Alabama to really do it this year, Mark Ingram. You have Pierre (Thomas),you have (Lance) Moore. You have Jimmy Graham who had a breakout year last year. With all the weapons they have, they have a lot of veterans on the defensive and offensive side of the ball."

 What's your fondest memory playing for the Saints?

 "Other than how much fun I had in getting drafted close to home and being the guy you traded Pat Swilling for, the 2000 season was fun, we went 10-6 and won the playoff game and we got the monkey off our back. Other than that, just me being able to be close to home and having so much fun.That's my fondest memory, all the fun I had. It would be the year (2000), the offensive line did such a good job and we had no injuries and despite a lot at the skill positions, we were still able to get that playoff win."

 When you look back on your career and what's in front onSaturday, with enshrinement, are you pinching yourself?

 "I think I will. I'm not there yet. I think when you get on that stage and you're trying to do your speech, I look at it now. I know it's getting close. I wouldn't say it's a dream come true because I never dreamt I'd be a Hall of Fa mer, but everything progressed one step at a time. You playedhigh school as a little kid. You were so happy to get a scholarship offer to college for a couple years. Then you think if I keep doing it I'll end up in the NFL and then when you're in the NFL, I'm looking like I'm starting to put few Pro Bowls together and made All-Pro and you keep playing ball and you have chance to be a Hall of Famer. You maybe start thinking about it your fourth or fifth year in the league, like when I played in Kansas City and was able to play coming off the knee injury and that helps me getting in early on an early ballot. I look back over the career and was very fortunate in all I did,especially after the knee injury. It worked out for me to be with an elite group of athletes. It's really special. I think my jacket is going to be 273.All those guys who played sports, including football and all the people playing now, there's not even 300 guys in that group of guys that are in that hall.It's a very, very select group that I'm going to be enshrined with in that museum with those guys. It's a real, real big honor."

 What are you doing now? We know you were doing some coaching in Santa Monica Junior College.

 "I was coaching a few years ago. My kids are starting to graduate…I have a daughter who turns 17 who's going to be a senior in Denver and I have another daughter who's 15 and my two little kids in New Orleans, soI'm just making sure I spend more time with them. They're finishing up school.I have some property out here in California that's going pretty good and an apartment building in Kansas City. I'm spending more time with my kids, becauseI didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted to when I was playing football."

 What did Petey Perot mean to your development?

 "That was key for me, being athletic at the time. I was good athlete. He was going to make sure regardless of who it was, he was going to make sure he got the most of you. He really stayed on me and made sure I was going to get the most out of my ability. He was really instrumental in using the fundamentals of using my feet, my hands, good balance and technique. He was really instrumental in making sure I was going to finish the play and the blocks. When I got to the pros, it was hard and some of the fundamental defenses were hard, but as far as me being ready to play football, I was ready to play in the league after having played at tech for five years."

 You have to be thrilled about this, right?

 "I am so thrilled. I am so thrilled that the team is coming to play and all of the players are going to be there at the Hall of Fame ceremony. I am excited because a lot of fans should be there and will be a part of it too."

 How much did going against Ricky Jackson in practice help you become a better player?

 "It helps you a lot, practicing against Ricky and all of those vets. I looked up to those guys. I practiced with Ricky (Jackson) andWayne Martin and you had get down and try to cut off. Then you had Jim Wilks,Frank Warren, Sam Mills and Vaughn Johnson in his last year. We went against an outstanding defense and we had to practice against those guys all the time."

 When did you feel that you could be a Hall of Famer?

 "I would say after I had played for three or four years. Wouldn't say it was a game or a moment. I got off to a real good start. I had are al good rookie year and played pretty good against Reggie White my rookie season. I had met Reggie White at a benefit basketball game in Little Rock and he had a bunch of athletes from Arkansas play in it. That was going in to his first year in Green Bay. Reggie White said some very good things about me afterI played him my rookie year. It was after I had put a string of a few Pro Bowls together, maybe three or four, and I said to myself ‘if I can continue to do this, I might have a chance to be a Hall of Fa mer.' I would say after the 1996season or around that time."

 What motivated you to come back and return to a Pro Bowl level after you suffered a season-ending injury?

 "I didn't want to end my career like that. I don't think that if I had come back off the knee injury and had played in Kansas City Would be in the Hall of Fame now. If you look at Richmond Webb's numbers inMiami, I think Richmond Webb went to seven Pro Bowls and had some real good years blocking for Dan Marino, he hasn't made a finalists list yet. I think our credentials to this point, when I left New Orleans, I think he made the all-decade team, but I think they were pretty similar. I just wanted to comeback and really establish myself as one of the best tackles again. It was more when I got hurt and left, I still had some football left in me. Going to KansasCity and getting another chance gave me a spark. Like in 1997, I had a tough year. I had the radio show with Buddy D and the fans got on me. I needed to be motivated so I went to Duke after that in 1998, 1999, and 2000 and made sure Iwas in pretty good shape. In 2001, I went through the injury and I paid formyself to go back to Duke before training camp. Sometimes you go throughadversity and it was a good thing. I needed that to get me motivated to want toplay some more football. I think that is the reason I got in the Hall so early,because I did play on those real good lines in Kansas City."

 Even with Drew Brees, can you reflect on being referredto as the best Saints player in team history?

 "I don't understand that. Drew Brees is one of those guysthat had a lot to prove. He has always proved stuff. When I was in Kansas City,we played against Drew twice a year. I think, at that time, the AFC West wasthe toughest division in football. You had Drew and the Chargers who were realgood, the Denver Broncos who were still playing good. You had us in Kansas Citywith Priest Holmes and Trent Green. The Raiders weren't as good, but we werepretty good football teams. Drew had that injury before he came to New Orleans.I don't think Drew had much attention, except for the Dolphins, before goingwith the Saints. Drew has had a lot to prove. Since he got there in 2006, howmany times has that team been to the playoffs? He has a Super Bowl ring on hisresume. Drew is one of those types of guys who is always going to be motivatedto play great football and he is self-motivated where I was one of those guyswho was motivated. When you are losing a lot, it takes a little bit out of youand you are not as hungry sometimes. I was probably one of those guys whoneeded to go through some adversity or have something happen to me to get meback on track. I say Drew, already, Drew is the best football player to put thejersey on."

 How much gratification was it that after sufferingthrough those losses, Jim Haslett came in and helped make Saints history atthat point?

 "That was a very special year. Jim Haslett, Randy Mueller,and Mickey Loomis came in and we brought in some new guys. We had some old guysthat had been there for a while. It was special because we did it up front onboth sides of the ball. We lose Jeff Blake and (Aaron) Brooks comes in. We loseJoe Horn during a playoff game and Willie Jackson steps up. You lose RickyWilliams and we had running back by committee. Mike McCarthy was the(offensive) coordinator then. The fact that we were able to win that playoffgame, and we battled through all of those injuries. The fact that we were ableto battle through all of that adversity and we stayed healthy on the offensivereally helped us that year. If we could have kept those guys together for a fewyears, maybe things would have been different. After that, things kind of wentsour in 2001."

 Can you talk about being passed over in your first yearof eligibility to the Hall of Fame?

 "There some tough guys on the list. You had Marshal (Faulk)and Deion (Sanders). You had Shannon (Sharpe) who had been sitting there forthree years. I think I was the next guy that was going to get in. And Ed Saboltook a player spot. They wanted to get Ed in there. He had been doing thosefilms for a long time. I think I was the next guy. They had a lot of meetings.I think the met for seven hours and I think that is what it came down to. Ithink it came down to me and Shannon Sharpe and Ed was going to go in. It istough and I didn't get in on the first ballot. Once you are in, you are in. Iknow it is great to be a first ballot, it would be great for me to be on thetop 100 team they have on NFL network but the bottom line is that once you area Hall of Famer and you are in the museum, in 50 or 100 years nobody is goingto know which ballot you were chosen. They are just going to know you are aHall of Famer. I didn't get on the first ballot but I am number 273 in the Hallof Fame. It would have been nice but I made it on the second ballot. I don'thave that much to be upset about."

 After entering the league, how long did it take you tofeel comfortable?

 "I knew I could be there. After my rookie year, I madeAll-Pro and we didn't give up more than 15 or 20 sacks when Jim Everett came upfrom the Rams. My second and third year, I was pretty comfortable. I playedreal good against Derrick Thomas. I had to learn that you have to be ready toplay every week. As far as practicing, that rookie year was real tough for mejust reading blitzes and understanding stuff. As far as me being realcomfortable in the league, in 1994 and 1995 I played real well. It was probablyafter I had been in the league about five years. I didn't miss a down the firstfour years, we didn't trust the seventh lineman. You were playing pretty muchthe whole game. If you are have been starting for four or five years in theleague, you pretty much get used to it and get used to knowing what you have todo as far as playing football. It was funny because I got to Kansas City andJohn Tait is struggling at left tackle and Will Shields and those guys hadtheir routines. Once you go through some (knee) scopes and you can't practiceduring the week, you kind of get used to being able to play without having topractice sometimes. I would tell them to leave John alone and let him figure itout because they would get on him a little bit or talk to him when he came tothe sideline. I understood that if I was in shape and the right weight and if Ihad gotten my reps that week, you might get out of the game and have some playsand situations that you might not want to. You just have to let it go. Youcan't really dwell on it. You have to move on to the next play or whatever.That is why it is good to have a mix of veterans and young guys so thoseveterans can teach those younger guys how to deal with certain situations inthe course of a game. It is like when I was a rookie and was playing againstKevin Greene, that is another real good football player, and we were 5-0 and wewent to Pittsburgh. I think that was the first game I gave up a sack. He waswinking at me and patting me on the butt and playing games with me. He was avet and I was a rookie. Even though I was a rookie and had that strength andall that ability, he knew how to fool with you and how to mess with you becauseyou are out there playing with grown men and they know how to play football.They know little stuff that will get to you. It is just like when I playedagainst (Dwight) Freeney. He was real good but he was a young guy. It was inthe playoffs, in Kansas City. He was an excellent football player but you arelooking at a guy who doesn't have any hair on his face. He was a little kid.You are thinking that he is a good football player but I am 33 years old and heis 22. He is a good football player but he is playing with a seasoned vet inthe league. There is a difference there when you are dealing with guys that arevets and guys that haven't figured out the game and understand the game yet."

 Have you felt uncomfortable against anyone you haveplayed?

 "I felt uncomfortable in 1997 when Chuck (Smith) had thatbig game against me. I wasn't comfortable. I took some stuff for granted and Iprobably didn't prepare that offseason and that year as well. I wasn't in theright state to play or shape that I needed to be in. I had a tough year. I hada tough game. When we went to Atlanta, it was pretty good. That was the yearthat I didn't do what I needed to do to be ready to play football all seasonand it caught up with me. Like I said, after that I went to Duke and I toldmyself that I am going to make sure I am ready to play football when I step onthat field. If you are hurt, you are hurt and can't play. If I am going to stepon the field and play football, I want to be in shape, I am going to have myrest, I am going to be ready to play football. I would say that game againstChuck in 1997. I can name a few games where a guy had a sack or two or playedpretty good but it is not too many games. I don't think, other than Tampa Bayat the very end of the game, Simeon (Rice) got me and stripped the ball. Youknow how they hit the quarterback and strip the ball out of his hand. I don'tthink that happened to me but maybe one time at the end of the game in mycareer. I wasn't going to let nobody just go around me and hit the quarterbackand knock the ball out of his hands and run it in or let somebody else pick it.That just didn't happen a lot when I played. That 1997 game against Chuck wasthe worst game of my career. It was a learning experience. I never wanted tofeel like that after a football game again, ever."

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