There has been a tremendous amount of debate about statues in sports. How soon is too soon to erect them? Who deserves them?
Outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, there are two. The first honors Dave Dixon, the man generally considered the visionary who moved the building from idea to the home of more championship events than any other venue since it opened. The other represents “The Block” where Steve Gleason fully splayed out to block a punt against the Atlanta Falcons on the night the Superdome reopened following the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Both are great and appropriate, but there is an egregious omission from this select club.
It is time for “The Dome Patrol” to be immortalized in bronze. I know that I speak for a number of New Orleans Saints fans who are bewildered by the fact that the most famous and honored collective of players in the history of the franchise, a group dubbed the “Greatest Linebacking Corps of All Time” by the NFL Network and a quartet that is still the only set of linebackers named to start in a Pro Bowl, has not been properly honored by the Saints.
Yes, all four members are in the Saints Hall of Fame, but the Dome Patrol is legendary. For half a decade, they carried a team and the hopes of millions of fans. As long as they were on the field, we always felt there was a chance. For all that they gave, they deserve a fitting tribute. They deserve their statue.
Can’t you picture it? Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling poised to come off of the edge. “The City Champ” in a two-point stance is ready to destroy and Swilling with one hand in the ground is about to explode past some unsuspecting lineman. Vaughn Johnson in the middle of it all uses his hulking presence putting fear into running backs and quarterbacks alike while Sam Mills orchestrates the destruction with this fingers pointed as he calls out the signals.
How often to do you think that fans would say “Meet me at the Dome Patrol?" How many pictures would be taken? And just as importantly, how many younger fans would hear stories from their dads, granddads, moms about the time that Rickey played after breaking his jaw or the time Pat had two sacks in the game that clinched the Saints’ first winning season, or just about the relentless effort of Johnson and Mills.
It’s time. If you’ve ever been to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, you’ll see a Sam Mills statue. For any true Saints fan, that can’t feel right. Whatever he meant to them, the "Field Mouse" meant more to us. And now that he’s gone, we should celebrate his memory along with the countless others that the Dome Patrol gave us Sunday after Sunday for more than half a decade.
It also would be a nod to the Eric Martins, Stan Brocks, Dalton Hilliards, and yes, even the Bobby Heberts who were all a part of the first Saints teams to give us exactly what Steve Gleason did on that Monday Night in 2006…hope.
Mr. Benson, let’s make this happen.
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