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New Orleans Saints History: Wayne Wilson

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One of the better all-around football players who ever wore a Saints uniform.

The names are familiar. Darren Sproles. Reggie Bush. Pierre Thomas. Even older fans still remember Tony Galbreath. But when it comes to all-around RBs in Saints history a name that's rarely, if ever, mentioned is Wayne Wilson. And make no mistake about it Wayne Wilson is one of the better all-around football players to ever play for the New Orleans Saints. He could run, catch, block, and return kicks.

Wilson was drafted in the 12th round by the Houston Oilers in 1979 but was released by the team and then later picked up by the Saints that same year. He didn't get much playing time in his rookie season as Thunder and Lightning (Muncie and Galbreath) were in full effect during the Saints most successful season in team history up to that point. The team was 8-8 (their first non-losing season ever) with 5 players being named to the Pro Bowl (Archie Manning, Chuck Muncie, Wes Chandler, Henry Childs, Tommy Myers).

Over the next couple of years his playing time increased as the team experienced major changes in player personnel and coaching during and after the disastrous 1-15 season in 1980. Bum Phillips came aboard and began his reformation process from the New Orleans Saints to "Houston East" while futilely attempting to shut down the French Connection which ran down Airline Hwy and straight to the Saints facility over on David Drive.

But, throughout all the changes, Wilson remained. At 6'3" 215 pounds he had an NFL body that was big enough to carry the ball yet lean enough to make plays out of the backfield and on special teams. When you add in his work ethic and willingness to play wherever the team needed him, you had a guy who became a valuable asset to Bum's squads. He could backup George Rogers as the tailback and also split FB duties with first Jack Holmes and then later Hokie Gajan.

Due to his versatility Wilson became the first Saints player in history to have at least 1000 yards in rushing, receiving, and returns for a career. He was the founding member of what has remained a very exclusive club which also includes Deuce McAllister, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles.

There are 12 players in Saints history who have scored 30 TDs in their career and only 4 have scored at least 10 TDs in both rushing and receiving. Again an exclusive 4 member club of which Wilson was the first and also includes Dalton Hilliard, Reggie Bush, and Pierre Thomas.

If you're noticing a theme which includes some of the same players, let's take a look at the career totals of some all-around RBs in Saints history.

Player

Years

Games

Rush Atts

Rush Yards

YPC

TDs

YPG

Receptions

Yards

YPR

TDs

YPG

Tony Galbreath

1976-1980

75

760

2865

3.77

27

38.2

284

2221

7.82

6

29.6

Wayne Wilson

1979-1986

102

658

2462

3.74

16

24.1

179

1517

8.47

14

14.9

Dalton Hilliard

1986-1993

108

1126

4164

3.70

39

38.6

249

2233

8.97

14

20.7

Reggie Bush

2006-2010

60

524

2090

3.99

17

34.8

294

2142

7.29

12

35.7

Pierre Thomas

2007-2014

105

818

3745

4.58

28

35.7

327

2608

7.98

12

24.8

Darren Sproles

2011-2013

44

188

1067

5.68

5

24.3

232

1981

8.54

16

45.0

Although Wilson lead the team in rushing with 645 yards while also catching 38 passes during Bum's final season in 1985, I would have to say his best season was 1983 when he was backing up Big George and mixing in at FB with Hokie. Wayne was all over the place that season rushing, catching, and returning a few kicks. He had the highest rushing total of his career with 787 yards which included him taking over at TB for 4 games when Rogers was injured.

The Saints were 3-1 during that stretch with Wilson rushing for over 100 yards in 3 straight games. The Saints could easily have been 4-0 in those games if not for the infamous Dallas game in which the Saints lost 21-20 on a blocked FG returned for a TD followed by a safety on Ken Stabler after the Saints were up 20-13 in the 4th quarter at Texas Stadium. Wilson carried the team on offense with 108 yards rushing and scored the Saints only two TDs.

Um, pardon me while I editorialize for a brief moment.

F***ING KEN STABLER!! THE SAINTS DEFENSE FORCED 6 TURNOVERS AND SACKED DANNY WHITE 7 GAWDDAMN TIMES!! WTH WERE YOU DOING OUT THERE! JESUS H. 1000!!!

So, anyway. No, Wayne Wilson was a not superstar football player. At 6'3" 215 pounds he could serve as a body double for Eric Dickerson but he didn't have Dickerson's talent. He was simply a good professional. A football player. Someone who was able to come into the league grab a job and keep one for 9 seasons. He played multiple positions, gained yards, and scored touchdowns.

And he was one of ours.