NEW ORLEANS -- In a sense, La'Roi Glover's NFL career has come full circle.
From an under-sized and unheralded defensive lineman who got his career jump-started in New Orleans, Glover is returning to the Big Easy to take his rightful place among the best players to wear a uniform for the New Orleans Saints.
As Glover awaited his introduction at a press conference Friday to announce his selection to the Saints Hall of Fame, he seemed to be the prototype of what the Saints are looking for in a defensive tackle as they transition to the 3-4 under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan.
Big, quick, tough and immovable.
He was all that for the better part of 13 NFL seasons, including five with the Saints before his unceremonious departure in the spring of 2002 following the second of his six consecutive Pro Bowl selections, two in New Orleans and four in Dallas from 2000 through 2005.
And to think that the Saints claimed him off waivers in 1997 for the meager sum of $100, a castoff from the Oakland Raiders who now will become the 42nd member of the SHoF during ceremonies this coming football season.
"Glover proved everybody wrong, especially our defensive coaches in New Orleans who initially thought he was too small to play in the middle of our 4-3,'' said former Saints president/general manager Bill Kuharich who gives credit to pro personnel man Chet Franklin for spotting Glover. "He turned out to be the greatest waiver claim in the history of the Saints.''
For Glover, the pending induction is a warm reminder of his first meeting with then-Saints coach Mike Ditka in August 1997.
"There were some concerns with my size; here I am a defensive tackle weighing 265, 270 pounds,'' said Glover, a native of San Diego who starred at San Diego State. "And I remember asking him if that would be a concern. He said, 'I don't care how big you are, as long as you make plays you will have a job here.'
''I've never forgotten those words. To this day, I remember them. Essentially, Coach Ditka was saying if you do your job, you will have a job. I have taken those words with me throughout my whole career, even now.''
In that first meeting, Ditka repeatedly referred to Glover as "Lee Roy,'' with the emphasis on "Lee.'' Before they parted, Glover set the record straight.
"Excuse me Coach Ditka,'' Glover said, "but my name is La'Roi.''
"I don't give a damn what your name is as long as you make plays,'' Ditka barked.
Glover not only made plays during 13 NFL seasons but he made enough "big'' plays to make the NFL 2000s All-Decade team and be voted to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2000 through 2005.
Originally a fifth-round draft pick of the Raiders in 1996, Glover played the next five seasons in New Orleans under Ditka ('97-1999) and Jim Haslett (2000-01) with later stops in Dallas (2002-'05) and St. Louis (2006-'08).
Glover played well under Ditka but his career flourished under Haslett. In 2000, Glover moved to the 3-technique in a 4-3 scheme and recorded an NFL-high 17 sacks (second most by a defensive tackle in league history) and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year.
More importantly, Glover played a key role in helping the Saints win the NFC West and capture the franchise's first-ever playoff victory.
"I had a wrestling background in high school and that helped me tremendously in my career playing against bigger guys in both the 3-4 and 4-3,'' said Glover, who finished his career with 83 1/2 sacks (50 in New Orleans) despite being undersized at 6-feet-2 and weighing less than 300 pounds.
After recording eight sacks and earning a second Pro-Bowl selection in 2001, the Saints declined to pick up Glover's $5.5 million option bonus. The Cowboys quickly swooped in and signed Glover to a stunning five-year, $22 million deal that included a $6 million bonus.
"At the end of the day I was a free agent,'' Glover said. "I think the Saints were transitioning to a larger defensive tackle. They were looking for a bigger, wider body in the middle of their defensive line. But, it also was about the money (in Dallas) and being courted and being showed a little attention. Why I left New Orleans was all of that.''
Glover currently is director of player programs for the St. Louis Rams. In a nutshell, he says, "I'm a life coach who helps younger players transition into the NFL and older players transition out of the NFL.''
"Everywhere I played during my career I learned something valuable,'' said Glover, who has his MBA and is working on his Ph.D. "In Oakland, I learned about tradition and the true meaning of their 'Outlaw' image. In New Orleans, I learned how to become a solid defensive player. In Dallas, I learned how to be a professional and how to play every game in the spotlight. In St. Louis I learned about leadership.
"I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Who Dat fans. We always used to joke in the locker room that fans went to a party and a football game broke out. It didn't matter how we performed or what the outcome was, the Who Dats were always there for us.''
"When I first got the news of this award, I was at a loss for words,'' he said. "I'm very humbled, very honored and very appreciative. I came into the NFL as a wide-eyed rookie not knowing what the NFL was all about. And now this. It is career fulfilling to say the least. All I can say is thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.''
Glover was a unanimous selection of the 18-member media panel.
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