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FEBRUARY 6, 2010

Saints in Super Bowl Team takes on Indy in first title game appearance MIAMI – A pair of high-powered offenses led by two future hall of fame quarterbacks will battle it out Sunday night when the New Orleans Saints take on vs. the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV from Sun Life Stadium Sunday in Miami. Both teams finished 5:25 p.m. the regular season at Sun Life Stadium the top of their respecMiami, Fla. tive conferences. The NFC champion Saints finished the season with a 13-3 record, followed by victories over the Arizona Cardinals (45-14) and the Minnesota Vikings (31-28) in the playoffs. The AFC champion Colts managed a 14-2 regular season mark and cruised to playoff victories over the Baltimore Ravens (20-3) and New York Jets (30-17). Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup, which kicks off around 5:30 p.m. on local CBS affiliate WWL, will be the first time since the 1993 season that the two top seeded playoff teams meet. The game will mark the first ever Super Bowl appearance for the Saints, who have overcome 44 years of mediocrity on the football field. The team first made the playoffs in 1987 and notched their first postseason win in 2000 after three previous unsuccessful tries. The Saints came within one game of the Super Bowl in 2006, before losing to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship. For the Colts, it’s their second Super Bowl appearance in four years. The team last made it in the 2006 season when they defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI, which was also played in Miami. Both quarterbacks, Drew Brees for the Saints and Peyton Manning for the Colts, are among the top of the league at their position. Both have been known to pick apart opposing defenses with decisive throws, quick action and very few mistakes. The game has the potential to be a fast paced, high scoring affair that may ultimately come down to which team has possession of the ball last. According to Las Vegas odds makers, the Saints enter the game as a five-point underdog as of Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks will square off in Super Bowl XLIV this Sunday in Miami, when the New Thursday, but they are the sentimental favorite to Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees (top) takes on Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts. win Sunday night.


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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS


FEBRUARY 6, 2010

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

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FEBRUARY 6, 2010

Whiskey bottle has seen it all

Showing Saints love Tania Tabor’s kindergarten class at St. Joan of Arc School in LaPlace find the words to express how they feel about the Saints.

The late Roland LaBranche Sr. won this gallon-sized bottle of Old Grand-Dad Whiskey during the first ever New Orleans Saints football game in 1967. LaBranche made a promise that he would not open the bottle until the Saints reached the Super Bowl. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Prized bottle of whiskey won at first Saints game in ‘67 BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – Fortythree years ago, LaPlace native Roland LaBranche Jr. wagered a bet on the first play of the first game of the first season in the storied history of the New Orleans Saints. On that play, Saints kick returner John Gilliam ran the game’s opening kickoff back 94 yards for the Saints’ first ever touchdown. Although the Saints would end up losing that game 27-13 to the Los Angeles Rams, LaBranche, by virtue of the opening score, would walk away from the stadium a big winner. “He entered a pool at the game and wound up winning this huge bottle of whiskey,” said LaBranche’s daughter Annette Ayme. “It came with its own little platform and, as kids, we were never able to touch it.” The prize was a gallon-sized bottle of Old Granddad Whiskey. Ayme said her father

saw his little victory as a sign of bigger and better things, which explains the little pact he made with himself and his family. “He specifically stated that the bottle would not be opened until the Saints reached the Super Bowl,” Ayme said. “I don’t think he quite expected it to take this long.” As the years passed — and the Saints’ struggled along season after season — the bottle continued to sit, collecting dust in a bedroom at LaBranche’s LaPlace home. In 2000, LaBranche’s home caught fire, and the roof caved in on the room holding the bottle. Ayme said as the family sifted through the rubble, they came across the bottle still sitting in its metal carrier in the corner of the room. “It looked like it wasn’t even touched,” Ayme said. “It was clear that this bottle had something special about it.” Ayme said her father passed away in 2005, the year before the Saints

would come as close as ever to reaching the big game. With family by his side, Ayme said her father uttered his final instructions to his four children. “He said to all of us, ‘Do not touch that bottle until we get to the Super Bowl,’” Ayme said. “It was very important to him.” Now that the Saints have finally reached the big game, Ayme said her family is ready to crack the seal on the aged bottle of alcohol, either to celebrate a monumental victory or agonize in defeat. The family has scheduled a party that will bring Ayme’s brothers, Roland LaBranche Jr. and Timmy LaBranche, and sister Patsy Millet together. “We will definitely open it win or lose.” Ayme said. “His instructions were to wait until the Saints get there, not to wait until they win. I think we will probably wait until the end of the game just to be safe.


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“Something about the team just draws you in, and the same could be said about the city.” CRAIG RUSHTON Saints fan from Stoke-on-Trent, England

A ‘Who Dat!’ from across the pond Rushton travels from England to celebrate historic win BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – Few of the fans who relished in the ecstasy following the New Orleans Saints’ victory in the NFC Championship game Sunday evening traveled as many miles as Craig Rushton did to join in the celebration. Rushton, 46, a devoted follower of the “Black and Gold” since 1991, journeyed more than 6,000 miles from his home in England to claim his spot inside the Louisiana Superdome. “I’ve followed the NFL for years from England,” Rushton said. “One year, on a trip to New Orleans, I watched a game from the Superdome, and I was hooked. Something about the team just draws you in, and the same could be said about the city.” Rushton was in LaPlace last week with friends Wayne Vicknair, Fay Stanley and Trudy Torres, who all joined him for the game. Rushton said he and Torres forged a friendship after the two met boarding a cruise ship in Tampa, Fla., in late December on the same weekend the Saints were playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in New Orleans. “I was on vacation with my wife, and we were waiting to board the ship,” Rushton said. “I went into a sports bar to watch some of the game, and they told me they didn’t have it on television, so I went to grab my laptop to watch the game from there.” Torres said she walked into the same bar and shouted in disbelief that the game wasn’t on. “I couldn’t believe the game wasn’t on,” Torres said. “As soon as I open my mouth, I see Craig jump up with his Saints stuff on watching the game. At that

moment, we were joined at the hip. Where that laptop went, I went.” Rushton, a season ticket holder, said he was only able to attend four games this season including the victory over the Vikings Sunday. He said his obvious travel constraints force him to make tough decisions about which games to go to. “I try to get them when they are playing two home games back to back in order to optimize my time in the city,” Rushton said. “I actually faced an unfortunate dilemma in deciding whether to attend the Cardinals game the week before or this past game. I gambled that they would make the championship and, fortunately, I guessed correct.” Rushton was in attendance for several marquee moments in recent Saints history. He was in town when the Saints played the New England Patriots earlier this year and was also present when the Saints reopened the Superdome in 2006, following Hurricane Katrina. “That was such a pivotal moment for the team and the city,” he said. “Prior to the storm, I think a lot of people were starting to think the team was going to move out of the city to San Antonio. I think Katrina went a long way in securing the team’s place in New Orleans. The Saints are a way of life here. It is everything to these fans. Everyone who follows the Saints puts so much passion into those 16 weeks.” Rushton said the passion of Saints fans week after week rivals the passion of devoted soccer followers in Great Britain and other parts of Europe. The only difference is that a Saints game is a family event.

Trudy Torres (left) and Craig Rushton share a laugh Monday in Torres’ office at Iberia Bank in LaPlace. (Staff photos by Robin Shannon)

Craig Rushton (far left) chats with (left to right) Trudy Torres, mailman George Green and Wayne Vicknair in the lobby of Iberia Bank in LaPlace about the Saints dramatic victory against the Minnesota Vikings. Rushton traveled from England to be present for the historic game.

“If you go to any other stadium for a football game or soccer match, the crowd is predominately white, middle class men with some amount of money,” said Rushton. “You don’t see that with the Saints. People of all races and all ages go to these games. There are a lot more women and children in the crowd, and they are not just going for the game. Saints game days are social events.” Rushton, a magazine publisher and advertiser, makes his home in the city of Stoke-onTrent in the county of Staffordshire, England. The city is situated about 100 miles north of London and 40 miles south of Manchester. “It’s literally the middle of England,” said Rushton. “It’s a city that is actually comparable in size to New Orleans. Our big claim to fame is pottery.” Since the NFL has started scheduling regular season games in

London, Rushton said the league’s following has grown tremendously. He said there are other Saints fans here and there, but most people follow the teams closer to the east cost of the United States. “There are lots of fans of the (Miami) Dolphins, New England and the New York teams,” he said. “It is usually places where they end up when they come across to visit the states.” Rushton said he has stuck by his team during the highest highs and the lowest lows and has never given up on their success. He said the team has enjoyed a steady improvement that culminated with the win on Sunday. “I think when the game ended I was more in shock than anything,” Rushton said. “This sort of thing just doesn’t happen to the Saints. I’m still waiting to wake up from this dream. When I think

about it, 24 hours from now when I am sitting at my office desk I will be saying to myself,

‘Did this really just happen?’ It is amazing, and I am so proud to have witnessed it.”


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LOCAL SAINTS FANS CELEBRATE! At 5 months old, Maddox Madere of Norco (left) is one of the youngest Saints fans around. He is the son of Randy and Nicole Madere.

LaPlace resident Mike Tregre (right) shows off his Saints flag while wearing one of the organization’s “Finish Strong” T-shirts.

Allene Gregoire, who had had season tickets since 1970, has clippings from the Saints covering the walls of her garage.

According to her greatgrandmother, Donna Saacks, 2year-old McKayla Tregle (left) can already sing the “Who Dat” song.

When the residents of St. James Parish celebrated the Christmas season with the traditional bonfires this year, at least two bonfire builders’ thoughts were on the Saints.

Mathew Zeringue shows off his reading skills using the back of Alana Baker’s jersey.


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LOCAL SAINTS FANS CELEBRATE!

Jennifer Glidden of Reserve and Mike Silva of Lutcher (above) enjoy the NFC Championship game at the Super Dome. Mike Silva (right) gets fired up outside the Super Dome before the Saints game against the Vikings.

St. Joan of Arc Catholic School student, Janet Nelson, shows her Saints Pride during the St. Joan of Arc Krewe Jeanne D’Arc Carnival Ball.

Although it may not be official Saints gear, James Heard’s “St. John Saints” jacket still helps him show his spirit after the NFC Championship game.

Aubrey Madere (above) and Leah LeBlanc (below) like to wear matching outfits when they watch the Saints.

Madeline Mora and Kynlee Madere of Lutcher love the Saints.

Tabatha Leblanc of Lutcher takes in a game at the Dome with her good buddy, former Saints star Joe Horn.

St. Joan of Arc Catholic School Pre-Kindergarten students (left to right) Chase Bordelon and Payton Bailey show their Saints spirit during “Black and Gold Day” at St. Joan of Arc School.

Matthew Lambert of Lutcher is obviously an extra large fan of Jeremy Shockey.


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LOCAL SAINTS FANS CELEBRATE! Jake Mora, Easton Madere, Will Baker and Alana Baker, all from Lutcher, don’t have time to look at the camera when the Saints are playing.

Local Saints super fans Wayne Vicknair (left) and Natalie Tatje stand on the sidelines before one of the Saints’ home games.

FEBRUARY 6, 2010


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THE ROAD TO MIAMI

REGULAR SEASON (13-3) Sept. 13 DETROIT LIONS

W

45-27

Sept. 20

@ Philadelphia Eagles

W

48-22

Sept. 27

@ Buffalo Bills

W

27-7

Oct. 4

NEW YORK JETS

W

24-10

Oct. 11

BYE

Oct. 18

NEW YORK GIANTS

W

48-27

Oct. 25

@ Miami Dolphins

W

46-34

Nov. 2

ATLANTA FALCONS

W

35-27

Nov. 8

CAROLINA PANTHERS

W

30-20

Nov. 15

@ St. Louis Rams

W

28-23

Nov. 22

@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

W

38-7

Nov. 30

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

W

38-17

Dec. 6

@ Washington Redskins

W

33-30 OT

Dec. 13

@ Atlanta Falcons

W

26-23

Dec. 19

DALLAS COWBOYS

L

17-24

Dec. 27

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

L

17-20 OT

Jan. 3

@ Carolina Panthers

L

10-23

NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS Jan. 16 ARIZONA CARDINALS

W

45-14

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME Jan. 24 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

W

31-28 OT

SUPER BOWL XLIV Feb. 7 Indianapolis Colts 5:25 (CT)

Super Bowl XLIV officials named Referee Scott Green will lead the seven-man crew of game officials selected to work Super Bowl XLIV this Sunday between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts at Sun Life Stadium, the NFL announced. The other members of the Super Bowl XLIV officiating crew are Undrey Wash (umpire), John McGrath (head linesman), Jeff Seeman (line judge), Rob Vernatchi (field judge), Greg Meyer (side judge) and Greg Steed (back judge). The Super Bowl XLIV officiating crew collectively has 66 years of NFL officiating experience and 36 combined playoff game assign-

ments. Green, in his 19th season as an NFL game official, served as the back judge in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII. Promoted to referee in 2004, he has officiated in 12 playoff games – two Super Bowls, one conference championship, three divisional playoffs and six wild card games.

Under the NFL officiating program’s evalua-

tion system, the highest-rated eligible officials at each position earn the right to work the Super Bowl. Super Bowl officials must have at least five years of NFL experience and previous playoff assignments. Jim Lapetina is the replay assistant. The video operator is Jim Pearson.

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FEBRUARY 6, 2010

Brees named FedEx Air POY FT. LAUDERDALE – FedEx (NYSE: FDX) and the NFL Wednesday announced the winners of the seventh annual FedEx Air & Ground® NFL Players of the Year Awards at a press conference in South Florida, site of Super Bowl XLIV. • Quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was named the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Year. • Running back Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans was named the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year. In honor of the winners’ outstanding play,

Saints O-line wins Madden protector award

Drew Brees won his third FedEx Air Player of the Year Award this season. (Photo from Neworleanssaints.com)

FedEx is donating $25,000 to the Safe Kids USA coalitions in New

Orleans and Nashville, the local organizations in each player’s market. For the seventh season in a row, the Air & Ground program was a win for the local community. As part of this season’s Air & Ground program, FedEx teamed up with Safe Kids USA – a national non-profit organization that works to prevent accidental injury among children – to deliver safe kids. Throughout the season, FedEx made weekly $1,000 donations in the names of the Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week to their local Safe Kids coalitions to fund pedestrian safety improvements and education efforts. To complement the weekly program, FedEx also hosted pedestrian safety clinics with NFL players at a series of elementary schools across the country, to educate students about safety and provide $10,000 in additional funding for each of the local Safe Kids coalitions for community improvements. · In Minneapolis, the coalition’s executive board worked with the city’s public works department to identify a school that was not only susceptible to speeding, but was receiving 500 additional students for the school year. The FedEx donation of more than $25,000 was used by the local Safe Kids coalition at Plymouth

Middle School to install two radar speed signs, updated lighting and safety pylons in the road to slow down traffic near the school. • In San Francisco, the Safe Kids coalition will use its $10,000 in funding to improve pedestrian crosswalks, install flashing pedestrian lights and add “no parking” signs around Fair Oaks Elementary School, an area where a large percentage of students walk to school. Since 2000, FedEx has donated $12 million to support Safe Kids to help improve pedestrian safety efforts worldwide. Outstanding Air & Ground Performances New Orleans’ Drew Brees completed 70.62 percent of his passes in 2009, setting the NFL record for completion percentage in a season. He threw for 4,388 yards, extending his consecutive 4,000 passing yard seasons to four, a franchise record. Brees threw 34 touchdowns and became the first player in NFL history to throw six touchdown passes on Kickoff Weekend. With nine touchdown passes through Week 2, Brees tied for the most TD passes through the first two games of a season. Brees became the fastest quarterback to reach 15,000 passing yards with a team when the Saints beat the Giants in Week 6, reaching this milestone in 53 games. He quarterbacked the Saints to a 13-3 record and the number one seed in the NFC. Brees was nominated for five FedEx Air

The New Orleans Saints’ offensive line has been awarded the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award. The award recognizes and celebrates the backbone of every great NFL team - the offensive line. The National Football League, Prilosec OTC® and Pro-football Hall-of-Fame Member John Madden joined forces to create the first Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award, presented by Prilosec OTC. The award was based on 2009 regular season performance, and will celebrate the important role that offensive linemen play in their team's success throughout the season. NFL Player of the Week awards in 2009, winning five times. Tennessee’s Chris Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards in 2009 becoming the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards. He also broke the scrimmage yards record totaling 2,509. Johnson recorded 11 consecutive 100-yard games, tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history, and posted at least 125 rushing yards in six consecutive games, tying the NFL record. This season, Johnson became the first player in NFL history with six consecutive games of 125+ rushing yards and a 5.0+ yards per carry average in each of those games. In Week 2, Johnson became the first player in NFL history to record a 90-plus yard rushing touchdown (91), 50-plus yard rushing touchdown (57), and 60-plus yard receiving touchdown (69) in a game. Johnson started all 16 games and had 14 rushing touchdowns. He was nominated for six FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week awards in 2009, winning twice. Brees and Johnson were selected from a panel of three finalists in each of their respective Air and Ground categories. The finalists were chosen by a panel of NFL experts

based on the season’s fan voting. The other FedEx Air NFL Players of the Year finalists were quarterbacks Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts and Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings, while the FedEx Ground NFL Players of the Year finalists included running backs Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. More than 2,070,665 fan votes were cast at NFL.com from Jan. 1129, to decide the winners. Former winners of the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year Award include: · (2008) New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson · (2007) Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre and Jacksonville Jaguars RB Fred Taylor · (2006) New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and San Diego Chargers RB LaDanian Tomlinson · (2005) Bengals QB Carson Palmer and Seattle Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander · (2004) Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning and New York Jets RB Curtis Martin · (2003) Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning and Green Bay Packers RB Ahman Green

GAME DAY AT A GLANCE • DATE:Sunday, Feb. 7 • TIME:5:25 (CT) • SITE: Sun Life Stadium •WORTH NOTING: The Saints now have a 4-6 all-time record in the postseason, 4-3 at home...QB Drew Brees tied his playoff careerhigh with three touchdown passes, as he completed 17-of-31 passes for 197 yards in the NFC Championship. Brees’ career postseason passer rating of 100.6 is the third-highest all-time of passers with a minimum of 150 attempts. He will become the first Texas native to start at QB in a Super Bowl...The game will be nationally

televised on CBS with Jim Nantz handling play-by-play and Phil Simms serving as color analyst...The game can heard regionally on the Saints Radio Network (870 AM or 105.3 FM locally) with Jim Hendersonhandling play-by-play, Hokie Gajan serving as color analyst and Kristian Garic reporting from the New Orleans sidelines...A national radio

broadcast will also be available on Westwood One with Marv Albert handling play-by-play, Boomer Esiason serving as color analyst and James Lofton and Mark Malone on the sidelines...A Spanish language broadcast is available locally on WFNO 830 AM with Emilio Peralta handling play-by-play and Marco Garcia serving as color analyst.


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FEBRUARY 6, 2010

Portrait raffle to help charity Are you a Drew Brees fan? How 窶話out a fan of George Rodrigue and his Blue Dog? Do you want to help your community? Yes? Then read on. The St. John United Way is selling chances to win a 26-inch by 42inch Drew Brees Blue Dog print for $10 each. The print is numbered, matted and framed and will be signed by both Rodrigue and Brees. Prior to the NFC Championship game, the print was valued at $9,000, according to Dean Torres, director of the St. John United Way. Torres said all proceeds will stay local and benefit agencies served by the parish organization. The drawing will be held March 10. If you want to purchase a raffle ticket, call (985) 651-9118 or go by the St. John United Way office, 1402 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace.

SAINTS RECORDS UNDER SEAN PAYTON (Regular Season) Leading after first quarter: 17-3 Leading at halftime: 32-5 Leading after third quarter: 32-4 Saints score first: 21-6 Saints 200+ yards passing: 31-21 Opponent under 200 yards passing:16-10 Saints have 100+ yards rushing: 28-8 Forcing 3+ turnovers: 16-2

Defense has three or more sacks: 15-6 Indoors: 23-16 Outdoors: 15-10 At Home: 19-13 On the road: 19-13 On artificial turf: 27-15 Scoring 20 or more points: 38-14 Allowing 20 or fewer points: 22-3 Committing zero turnovers: 13-0

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FEBRUARY 6, 2010

A letter from a young Saints fan

Da’Ja Thomas, an 8-year-old second-grader at New Sarpy Elementary School, wrote this letter to Saints.


Super Bowl 2010