Rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro is quickly earning a reputation in training camp with the New Orleans Saints as a player who makes receivers keep their heads on a swivel.
This year's top draft pick for the Saints has given notice that there is more to come of his physicality when the real bullets start flying in September. But the former Texas Longhorns standout is not the first assassin the Black and Gold has employed in the defensive backfield.
Vaccaro is not a solo act as a big hitting safety for the Saints since veteran Roman Harper has made his name with his physicality for many years. However, New Orleans has featured a few other fearless hitters at safety throughout franchise history.
Tommy Myers (5'11-184) arrived in the Crescent City as a 3rd round draft pick out of Syracuse in the 1972 draft. He played 10 seasons for the Saints, earning All-Pro honors in 1979. He led the team in interceptions on five occasions.
Sometimes it seemed that Myers got the worse out of his collisions with opponents, but they had to beware when crossing the path of number 37.
Myers entered the Saints Hall of Fame in 1989.
Sammy Knight, a free agent signee by the Saints out of USC in 1997, paced the team in picks five times. He had two interceptions against the Cardinals in 2000 and totaled 42 for his 12-year career.
The converted college linebacker also played for the Dolphins, Chiefs, Jaguars and Giants after leaving New Orleans. He played with a fierceness whenever he stepped between the white stripes.
Knight, a true warrior on the field evidenced by his 792 career stops, is also a Saints Hall of Famer.
Gene Atkins was a 7th round choice of the Saints in the 1987 draft. Mean Gene dropped the hammer on more than his fair share of ball carriers during his 12 years in the NFL, seven with the Saints and five with the Dolphins.
The Saints leader in picks in four seasons, the Florida A&M product finished with 25 career interceptions. Collisions involving Atkins were like bad train wrecks.
His son Geno Atkins is an All-Pro defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Russell Gary played for New Orleans from 1981-86, leading the team in interceptions in 1982. The 2nd round pick would really bring the lumber.
Frank Wattelet was another undrafted free agent steal by New Orleans in 1981 who played NFL seasons between the Saints and Rams. He always laid it out on the field, leaving his calling card with receivers that crossed his territory. The former University of Kansas star had 12 interceptions during his pro career.
Vince Buck, a 2nd round pick in 1990, had 10 interceptions. He was the NAIA Player of the Year in '89 after a stellar career at Central State (OH).
The physical Buck was carted off the field following a collision against San Francisco, sustaining a severe neck injury which nearly ended his career. He played with a total disregard for his body.
Sean Lumpkin, a fourth round pickup of the Saints in 1992, played five seasons in the Black and Gold. Lumpkin (6'0-206) amassed 206 tackles during his tenure. While with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, he was selected as the Nagurski Award winner in 1991.
Bennie Thompson is a native New Orleanian who starred at John McDonogh before embarking on a solid college career at Grambling under legendary head coach Eddie Robinson. Thompson's 11 year NFL career included stops in New Orleans, Kansas City, Baltimore and Cleveland.
A two-time Pro Bowler for his special teams prowess, the 6-foot, 210 pounder brought damage and destruction in kick coverage. Thompson's style meant the chances were high that he was going to deliver a knockout-like blow to an opposing return man.
Thompson played north of the border in Canada with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, leaving the CFL after winning the Grey Cup in 1988. He also was a member of the Super Bowl XXXV Champion Baltimore Ravens after their win over the New York Giants.
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