[to top of second column]
"Al Hirt starts playing his trumpet over and over. It was wild," he said this weekend, laughing while singing the opening stanza to "When the Saints Go Marching In."
"They loved us. You couldn't go into any restaurant without someone buying you a meal. I remember walking down Bourbon Street and a man in a shoe store recognized me and came out and gave me a free pair of shoes."
Gilliam said training camp that summer was nuts.
"It was like everyone wanted to be part of the Saints. I think there were 300 players there. I remember I was getting dressed next to a guy who said he was a bus driver. He didn't play football, he didn't know how to put on the pads," he said. "A coach came by and told him to start up his bus and take a bunch of guys with him."
Among those early Saints was Jim Taylor. A punishing running back, he'd built a Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers and had scored a touchdown a few months earlier in the first Super Bowl. A former star at LSU, his move to the Saints was so heralded that he signed his contract in the governor's office.
The Saints went 3-11 in that first year, and Taylor retired.
"It was a little bit difficult," Taylor said. "We'd had such great teams under Vince Lombardi. You just had to accept you were an expansion team."
Danny Abramowicz was a New Orleans rookie in 1967 and quickly established himself as a sure-handed pass catcher. He played several years with the Saints, coached for them and was on their broadcast team.
"It didn't take much to excite those fans, even when we weren't winning. I think half of them were oiled up at the games, and they loved the Saints," he said.
"I'll tell you what I remember: the halftime shows. They were like Super Bowl spectaculars. Bands and balloons and ostrich races, everything. We hated to go to the locker room because we'd miss them," he said. "I once came back onto the field to warm up and a Roman chariot almost ran me over. Those were wild days."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Sports index
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor