After Deuce McAllister was released by the New Orleans Saints on February 17, I wrote the following column regarding my feelings towards my all time favorite football player.
I have to admit it, today was awful. It was absolutely awful. Even if you don’t follow football, or think that “it’s just a ballgame”, today was still awful. My favorite player on my favorite team is no longer with them. Deuce McAllister is no longer a New Orleans Saint.
Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Walter Payton, Steve McNair, Archie Manning, Drew Brees, Emmitt Smith. Those are my favorite players of all time, but Deuce is in a class by himself. To people who love Deuce as much as I do, today took the wind out of your sails.
Professional sports under all the glitz and bright lights is an ugly business. Deuce is a 30-year-old Running Back (A dinosaur in NFL numbers) with two serious knee injuries (’05, ’07) in the last 4 years. He’s owed 7.5 million dollars on his contract, but coming yet another off-season knee surgery, he can’t even pass a team physical. So today, we got to see the ugly side of pro sports…..the business side. Today is like having to take a class in college from a teacher you hate. You can put it off and wish it never happens, but at the end of the day, you know it’s inevitable. That’s what today felt like- that and a kick in the stomach.
Deuce McAllister isn’t the kind of guy that would want big headlines over this, because despite being named to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2002 and 2003 and being the Saints all time leader in touchdowns and rushing yards, he would always remain humble and just be grateful for the opportunity to even wear the black and gold at all.
Football fan or not, you seriously can’t find a reason to not like McAllister. This is the guy who was drafted in 2001 to a team that already had Ricky Williams and was not only told to basically go to h-e double hockey sticks by Williams, but was hazed and humiliated his entire rookie season by the same running back who was supposed to be the “savior of the franchise”. Fast forward 5 years, in 2006 the Saints draft Reggie Bush, another running back with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. What does Deuce do? Does do repeat the childish actions done to him by Williams? No. Deuce took Bush under his wing, taught him the game, taught him the system and instead of being concerned with his own personal stats, he learned to create a formidable backfield tandem that wound up getting one win away from the Super Bowl.
Did Deuce use all of his money to buy big expensive houses, cars, jewelry, and other useless nonsense? No. Deuce took care of his family first. He moved his mother out of her small house in Morton, MS to a house she would be comfortable and happy in. He bought car dealerships in Jackson, MS and endorsed local businesses that showed him support in college. He headed up a group to renovate and rebuild the now defunct Jackson landmark Hotel King Edward just because he wanted to bring a once positive icon and business back to the town to which means so much to him. Did Deuce only sign autographs for the rich season ticket holders? No. Deuce would go out of his way to invite disabled children who will never play football to have VIP seats at Saints practices and would give them all personalized Saints memorabilia. This probably kept me from getting yet another autograph of from him, but sometimes you have to think about how much it meant to those kids that he went out of his way to feel special. It was Deuce who started the “Catch 22” Organization that gives money through fundraisers and money out of his OWN POCKET to low income children who may not have had the same shot in life or in football that he had. Only people like Deuce who care about where they came from do this.
Thank you, Deuce, for the great memories. Thank you for letting me watch you play in 2003 in the Superdome when you ran over Keion Carpenter and win the game in overtime against the Falcons. Thank you for letting me see your last game with the Saints in person this season against the Panthers. Thank you for allowing me to see you pull off one of the craziest plays in NFL history against the Jaguars in 2003, only to lose the game. I will never forget that look on your face. Thank you for hanging in there when your teammates didn’t care. I’ll never forget your performance in the 2006 playoff game against the Eagles. Thank you for letting me and the world see how tough you really were in 2002 when you ran all over the “unstoppable” Tampa Bay defense on ESPN. Thank you for letting me see you break the Saints all time touchdown record on Monday Night Football in 2008. No one deserved it more than you.
There is nothing that will take away from how much I love Deuce McAllister. He was MY GUY on MY TEAM, and nothing will ever change that. Some of you who don’t like the Saints or even like football may never understand, but as my eyes tear up now, the thought of never seeing my hero play for my team again is a little harder than I thought it would be. I take pride in the fact in knowing that #26 will one day hang from the rafters of the Superdome and that his bust will one day be in the Saints Hall of Fame, but you never wanna see something you love so much end.
Everyone should want to be like Deuce McAllister. Not because of the way he played the game, but because of the way he LIVED. Deuce never did it because it was “cool”, or “sexy”, but because it was RIGHT. I have a feeling that watching the Saints now will be kind of like it was when I saw them “play” two games in Baton Rouge in 2005 on the campus of LSU while Deuce was injured. While Antowain Smith, and *cough* Ki-Jana Carter filled in admirably, something was missing. Now that thing missing will be pieces of Saints fans’ hearts.
Here’s to you, Deuce. You have no idea how much I’ll miss you.