Colston, Bush set for Saints Hall of Fame
Players from opposite ends of New Orleans’ 2006 draft class reshaped the franchise
The start of the 10th anniversary of the New Orleans Saints 2009 Super Bowl winning season kicked off with the announcement that Marques Colston and Reggie Bush, two superstars from that championship-winning team will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame this season. Both players were selected in the 2006 NFL Draft – albeit at opposite ends of the selection process – and became featured players in the strongest teams the franchise ever put on the field.
“There is some oddity that we’re honoring the first pick of our 2006 draft and the last pick of our 2006 draft,” Payton joked during the introduction of the honorees.
“They arrived here in a little different way.”
The two went on to help change the face of the franchise and lifted the spirits of the region reeling from disaster recovery. Under first-time head coach Sean Payton, the Saints went to their first NFC Championship game in 2006. They would help the team win its first Super Bowl in 2009, and establish a winning culture that survives today.
Of course, in 2006, the Saints were coming off a road-weary 2005 season when the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the failure of federal flood protection flooded the city and forced the team to play every game of the season away from their home field at the Superdome.
The Saints had the No. 2 overall pick that year. Many thought they would take Heisman Trophy winning USC quarterback Matt Leinart, but the team took a chance on Drew Brees, who was released by the San Diego Chargers after suffering what looked to be a possible career-ending injury to his throwing shoulder. Even with Brees’ signing, there was no concrete evidence the team could move forward without drafting a younger QB.
On Draft day, the Houston Texans selected defensive end Mario Williams with the top overall pick. The Saints looked to Los Angeles, but instead of picking their quarterback, selected the Trojans Heisman winning running back Reggie Bush. Paired with Veteran Deuce McAllister, the team put together a backfield with power and speed. With Bush, the Saints knew exactly what they were getting – an electrifying player who could change a game in an instant.
“I would say on a 10 Richter scale, the selection of Reggie Bush was a 9.9 for this organization,” Payton said. “If you have a clear memory, you remember the crawfish boil across the street, you remember season tickets being sold out within two hours and they have been ever since that selection. That’s pretty dynamic. This was Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. That’s how big it was.”
Bush played five seasons in New Orleans from 2006-10.
In the seventh and last round of the 2006 Draft, the Saints selected Colston with the 252nd overall pick – the fourth-from-last selection in the draft. Unlike Bush, who came from a college football powerhouse, Colston went to Hofstra, a virtual unknown at the collegiate level. Picks this late in the draft are usually a gamble. But what the Saints – and the rest of the league – didn’t know was the team discovered a diamond in the rough who would go on to have one of the best careers of any player to wear the Black & Gold.
“Every once in a while, you’ll get a tape from a smaller school,” Payton said Wednesday. “You do look for traits. He had these traits. Now, the route tree was limited. The offense he played in, you didn’t get to see a lot of what we were going to see for the next however many years that he excelled here.”
Colston played with the Saints for a decade and retired in 2015 as the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions (711), receiving yards (9,759), and receiving and total touchdowns (72).
At the Hall of Fame announcement, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who was in office during and after Katrina, was awarded the Joe Gemelli Fleur De Lis award, for her efforts in rebuilding and renovating the Superdome and helping to keep the Saints in New Orleans.
“In my mind, every time I looked at the Superdome (after Katrina) – the roof just ripped across it – it was a symbol of despair,” Blanco, who lost her re-election bid to Bobby Jindal and recently ended treatment for cancer, said at the announcement. “And I thought, if we drive around every single day looking at the symbol of despair, we’re all going to despair. We’ve got to change that image and make this a symbol of victory.
“Now, that didn’t come without me paying a price, being told that I had the wrong priorities, using money for a stadium. But at the same time, I knew the value was greater than just building a building. This city, and this region, and Saints fans everywhere, really needed to have something to rally around. And after a year of hard, hard work – people who were rebuilding their homes and their businesses, and that really needed a place to rally and to express joy – and that is what we found.”
Bush said the coaches and players who made up the 2006 team and beyond knew they were playing more than a simple game.
“I truly believe that everybody that came to this team during that time period was brought here for a purpose: For a purpose to help restore hope into the city, to the people by going out and doing what we do best, and that’s playing football and winning football games. It’s amazing when you have that opportunity to be able to do something like that, when you look back at it and you accomplished it with the guys…that are still some of my best friends to this day.”
The New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame 2019 induction ceremony will take place on Oct. 27 during the weekend when the Saints host the Arizona Cardinals.