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Pierre Thomas weighs in on Sean Payton’s retirement

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 10:01 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2022 at 10:17 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Saints Hall of Fame running back Pierre Thomas was thinking the same thing that a lot of local fans were when the news broke that Sean Payton was stepping down as head coach.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Thomas. “I’m still in a little bit of disbelief. I thought that man would be there forever.”

While many of us watched from the outside as Sean Payton helped elevate the franchise at a lightning quick pace, going to the NFC Championship Game in his first season and winning a Super Bowl in his fourth, Pierre Thomas lived it and witnessed the way Payton brought the best out of everyone around him.

“He pushed us to our max, our limit, to our potential that we probably didn’t really fully understand at the time,” says Thomas. “He really showed us that you have the potential. Having that close-knit of a bond is something different.”

Similar to some of the best and most impactful players in Saints history, like Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Zach Strief that were all either seventh round picks or undrafted, Thomas joined the Saints a long shot in 2007, but credits Payton for seeing in him what others did not.

“For him to give me an opportunity to be on that team, to say, ‘Hey, we want to keep Pierre,’ That showed me a lot right there about him,” says Thomas. “He’s gutsy. He’s willing to make these crazy calls like the Super Bowl. He called an onside kick out of halftime. He goes with his gut. He’s a risk-taker. You want that as a head coach because it means he’s trying. He’s willing to see how many ways he can move forward and be successful. He took a risk on me, and he saw the talent within me.”

Thomas also reaffirmed what we all saw on the sideline on Sundays. Payton is a passionate coach. So if his heart isn’t in it, it must be time to go.

“He’s a great coach, great leader, and it’s shocking,” says Thomas. “But when you know, you know. When your time comes, it comes for you. But he did so many great things for that city. We thank him so much for what he did for all of us, and he will be missed.”

What we don’t know is just how long he’ll be missing from the game of football. Payton didn’t rule out a television role if he’s approached and even said he could see himself coaching again one day. But right now, it’s just not what he wants to do.

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