In all of the excitement around Sunday’s Saints wild card win over Carolina, there was also a bridging of Saints generations through the unique culture that is New Orleans. From DJ Mannie Fresh, a local star of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s pop culture, taking song requests from young stars like Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore and Michael Thomas, to Reggie Bush and members of the 2009 Super Bowl team leading the Who Dat chant, it was a day to remember.
But the thing is, this movement started long before January 7, 2018.
Michael Thomas, for example, is a Los Angeles native that played his college football at Ohio State. But when you see him rocking Cash Money shirts after games or his “504” cleats before games, you’d never guess he was from anywhere outside of the Big Easy. Sunday’s celebration of the Saints and the city before, during and after the game is what he’s come to love about his new home.
“We want to involve the fans, the crowd, the energy and the culture,” says Thomas. “New Orleans has such great culture. We want to apply that to what we’re doing here and the great things we have going on.”
The same can be said for most of the locker room that’s clearly adopted the city as a way of life. Even those from the Atlanta area, like Kamara and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, can’t help but embrace New Orleans.
“From the day I got drafted, everyone in the city has made me family,” says Rankins.
It’s a similar tale to the one Reggie Bush spoke about after Sunday’s game in the Saints locker room.
“From the day I got here, the day I arrived here, I’ll never forget,” says Bush, still wearing his Will Smith jersey. “I walked into Emeril’s steakhouse, and the whole restaurant stood up and applauded me and welcomed me with open arms. That was my first introduction into the city of New Orleans, and they embraced me. From that moment, all I wanted to do was give them back something special that they could be proud of, that they could look to and say he’s one of us.”
Reggie, of course, refers to their Super Bowl XLIV victory, which was the culmination of an outstanding 2006 draft class and a rejuvenated, resilient Saints team. Now, the 2016 and 2017 draft classes, as well as many other additions, could be that new wave to push the black and gold to the top once again.
“Being able to come in when we were kind of down but being able to be a part of this resurrection, so to speak, of this team and trying to get back to the top of that mountain has been big,” says Rankins. “You see the fans come alive. You see the city come alive, and we’re looking forward to continue doing something special.”
No matter what happens going forward, this season should be remembered by a lot of crazy, thrilling and sometimes improbable moments that hopefully doesn’t come to an end anytime soon. Certainly, the Saints will be doing all that they can to cement their own legacies, as well as the city’s.
“It’s like a family when you’re winning games,” says Thomas. “I do a lot of community service, and I go out and talk to people during the holidays and Thanksgiving. All of these people, older people, people that probably don’t have TV’s, they know what’s going on with Saints football. I just take a lot of pride in that. I don’t want to let them down.”