From A to Z, the reasons the New Orleans Saints, who open Sunday against the Atlanta Dirty Birds, are Mississippi’s team:
A is for Archie, as in Archie Who? He was the Saint of Saints.
B is for Brees. We should make Saint Drew an honorary Mississippi citizen.
C is for Cothren, Paige Cothren, from Natchez, the very first New Orleans Saints player under contract.
D is for Deuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccce McAllister, the Saints all-time leading rusher.
E is for Elex, as in Elex Price, a great Saints defensive tackle from Yazoo City and Alcorn State.
F is for Fagan, Julian Fagan, a fine Saints punter from Laurel and Ole Miss. F is also for Fast and Freddie, as in Fast Freddie McAfee, maybe the best Saints special teams player ever. He was from Philadelphia (MS, not PA).
G is for Gajan, as in Hokie Gajan, who is from Louisiana and played at LSU but is such a good guy we’ll claim him.
H is for Hattiesburg, where the Saints trained in their early days. H is also for Hamp Cook, a long-time Saints scout and Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer from Hattiesburg.
I is from Itawamba, where Joe Horn played his junior college football.
J is for Jimmy as in Jimmy Heidel, a Mississippi business leader who started at safety for the first Saints team. J is also for Jubilee, as in wide receiver Jubilee Dunbar, who has no Mississippi connection, but, man, can you believe, a receiver named Jubilee? He once broke a pass pattern and caught a touchdown from Archie Manning, who was trying to throw the ball away.
K for Kendrick, Kendrick Clancy, a former Saints defensive tackle who played at Ole Miss.
L is for Louis and Lipps, Louis Lipps, the great Southern Miss wide receiver, who ended his splendid NFL career as a Saint.
M is for McCrary (Fred) and McKinley (Alvin), two Mississippi State Bulldogs who played for the Saints. M is also for Millsaps where the Saints trained.
N is for N’Awlins, which most smart Mississippians always have considered an extension of the Magnolia State.
O is for Owens, Joe Owens, a Saints defensive end from Alcorn State.
P is for Parys, Parys Harrelson, our newest Saint from Mississippi.
Q is for questionable. So many of those early Saints decisions, including hiring an astronaut as GM, were so very questionable.
R is for Roussel, as in Tom Roussel, a fantastic defensive end at USM and a solid linebacker for the Saints.
S is for Superdome where the Saints moved from....
T is for Tulane Stadium. God, that place, may it rest in peace, was fun.
U is for Uglesich’s, my all-time favorite restaurant, about a mile from the Superdome on Barrone Street, where you could usually find a Saint scarfing down a oyster or shrimp Po Boy or oysters on the half shell.
V is for Vilma, Jonathan Vilma, another Saint who wasn’t from Mississippi, but we’ll claim him.
W is for Walter as in Walter Payton. The Saints could have had him, but won one too many games in 1974. Ended up with somebody named Larry Burton instead. Probably wouldn’t have taken Sweetness anyway.
X is for, well, x is the third letter of the name Erxleben, as in Russell Erxleben, a punter/kicker the Saints took in the first round of the 1979 draft. A fellow named Joe Montana went in the third round.
Y is for Yepremian as in Garabed Sarkis “Garo” Yepremian. How many of you remember that he played for the Saints after the perfect Dolphins?
Z is for Zanders, Emmanuel Zanders, a Jackson State alum who started several seasons at guard for the Saints or otherwise I’d have been sweating this final letter of the alphabet.
Reach Rick Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame at firstname.lastname@example.org