When you spend nine years with one organization, the ties run deep. The memories remain vivid. Even a less than desirable ending cannot erase the good times and accomplishments.
William Roaf was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1993 out of Louisiana Tech and made his impact felt immediately. By his second season, he was a Pro Bowl choice and he went on to make seven straight Pro Bowls as a member of the Saints. He attained first team All-Pro honors three times with New Orleans.
After departing for Kansas City, he made the Pro Bowl in each of his final four seasons and earned first-team All-Pro honors three more times. He retired at the top of his game after 13 seasons in the NFL.
Roaf was recently (February 4) elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility. He will be formally inducted later this year.
Roaf is humbled by the honor and he was a bit anxious when the announcement came.
"I was in California kind of running around my house," Roaf said. "It was quite a thrill. I was able to get on a flight quickly to get to Indianapolis and it was nice to be on the field at the Super Bowl. It is nice being fitted for that yellow jacket. You know you are at the top of the game when you receive that. It's unbelievable to experience. It was like being a little kid and going to that first banquet and getting that first trophy. It's outstanding."
When he looks back on his days with the Saints, Roaf clearly has one moment that stands out.
"When we got that playoff win over the Rams in the 2000 season," Roaf said. "That was special."
Roaf injured his knee in 2001 and then quarreled with certain aspects of the coaching regime and encountered issues in his personal life before being traded in March of 2002 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
"All things happen for a reason," Roaf said. "I wouldn't change anything because I think it made me a better person today, to have to deal with some adversity and go to Kansas City and have those four years there."
In New Orleans, Roaf arrived on the back end of the fine success of the Jim Mora regime.
"I loved coached Mora," said Roaf. "I chose him to present me to the Saints Hall of Fame. When he left in 1996, we went through some tough times. It was not fun losing. In 1997, I had that radio show with Buddy D and I was having a tough year. The fans got on me and that was a real growing time as far as me becoming a pro. I went to Duke that summer and got in real good shape. I did not take things for granted after that."
Roaf is thrilled to be recognized for his excellence, considering that offensive linemen are often ignored, even overlooked. Roaf says this year's induction class is special with fellow offensive lineman Dermontti Dawson, defensive linemen Chris Doleman and Cortez Kennedy, running back Curtis Martin and senior selection Jack Butler.
"We call this the blue collar Hall of Fame class because you've got two offensive linemen, you have two defensive linemen and you have Curtis Martin who was a blue collar type of running back, a real quiet guy and unassuming," Roaf said. "I'm glad I'm going in with these type of guys, the ones who did a lot of the dirty work and did not get a lot of the accolades for it."
Roaf has many favorites from his days with the Saints.
"I would say Coach Mora had a lot to do with my success," said Roaf. "He made sure that I didn't rest on my good rookie season, telling me that they wanted me to keep working hard to avoid a sophomore jinx. John Matsko was the line coach, a real pro who really helped me to know what it took week in and week out on that level. Playing with Jim Dombrowski and watching him go to work every day. I learned from him how to be a pro."
Roaf has high praise for a couple of other former Saints players who became Saints Hall of Fame inductees, one of whom preceded Roaf into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Practicing against Rickey Jackson and Wayne Martin helped me a lot my rookie year because you were practicing against two of the best in the league at the time," Roaf said. "I am proud to follow a great Saint like Rickey into the Hall of Fame."
Recovering from Hurricane Katrina was tough for long time residents of the New Orleans area. Roaf sympathizes with those who have done so and loves the city he once called home.
"New Orleans has been through a lot," Roaf said. "The people there are real tough, very resilient. I learned a lot of that from being down there for those nine years. It is a great city. It made me a better person. I will always love New Orleans."
Roaf has tried coaching, working offensive linemen at Santa Monica College (California). He owns properties and enjoys being an entepreneur.
"I enjoyed coaching those young guys but you have to help them to go to class as much as you have to help teach them football," Roaf said. "My kids are getting older. I want to spend more time with them. I own some properties and an apartment building in Kansas City with 14 units that we are renovating now."
Roaf was excited to be inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2008. He says this started the ball rolling.
"The Saints Hall of Fame was the start of it, what got it going," Roaf said. "I got into the Louisiana Hall of Fame the following year and now this. Things are going real well. Coach (Sean) Payton was really good to me when I was there for the Saints Hall of Fame induction. It was great to be around the current players and to see them go on and win the Super Bowl the next year."
Roaf said he will be coming to New Orleans to appear at a Saints game this fall to be honored by the organization.
"I look forward to getting back down there and allowing the great fans to be part of the honor, to receive that Hall of Fame ring on that field in the Superdome," Roaf said. "It's going to be a wonderful day for me and my family."
While he would liked to have played his entire career in New Orleans, circumstances conspired to move him to Kansas City. He has no regrets.
"As I said, I wouldn't change anything about how I got here," Roaf said. "You know you go through those experiences in life and you learn from them and improve," Roaf said. "That is what I chose to do. I ended up here today, getting measured for a yellow jacket. It was all worth it."
While he is thrilled to be enshrined as one of the greatest to ever play tackle in the NFL, Roaf has one more desire for his former team that helped make things possible.
"Hopefully, the Saints will make it back to the Super Bowl next season in their home stadium and I can be there to be part of it, to be part of a big party in New Orleans. I have been very, very blessed."
So have we, Willie, to have witnessed greatness.
"You know you go through those experiences in life and you learn from them and improve," Roaf said. "That is what I chose to do. I ended up here today, getting measured for a yellow jacket. It was all worth it."
|< Prev||Next >|