The 2017 NFL regular season begins for the New Orleans Saints on Monday, September 11. Just 59 days from today, the Saints tangle with the Minnesota Vikings in a nationally televised contest. Canal Street Chronicles continues our journey towards the new NFL season with a look back at the Saints players that have worn the No. 59.
Wayne Colman (LB, 1969-1976)
Colman joined the Saints midway into the 1969 season after the second-year pro was released by the Philadelphia Eagles. By the '71 season, he had worked his way into a starting linebacker position with New Orleans, a role which he would hold down for the next five years. He would have 2 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries during his Saints career, and was also on the field goal protection unit in 1970, during Tom Dempsey's record 63-yard game winning field goal against the Detroit Lions. Colman retired in 1976, after being unable to regain his starting position following a broken arm suffered the year before.
Rufus Porter (LB, 1995-1996)
Porter joined the Saints after seven stellar seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. His first season with New Orleans flashed the production he had with Seattle, putting up 3 sacks along with 2 fumbles forced and recovered. Although he did log action in 26 games in his two seasons with the Saints, the vaunted defense that preceded his arrival was beginning to crumble.
Keith Mitchell (LB, 1997-2001)
Mitchell made the Saints as an undrafted free agent from Texas A&M in 1997. He appeared in every game as a rookie, and by his second season was a starter at outside linebacker. Mitchell's explosiveness off the edge consistently caused opponent's problems, evidenced by his 18.5 sacks, 17 fumbles either forced or recovered, 4 interceptions, and 3 defensive touchdowns during his New Orleans career. His best season was in 2000, when 6.5 sacks and 2 defensive scores helped the Saints to an improbable division title, and earned Mitchell a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Derrick Rodgers (LB, 2003-2004)
The St. Augustine, LA. native returned home in 2003, when Rodgers was traded to the Saints after spending his first six seasons as a Miami Dolphin. His first season in New Orleans produced 15 starts, a 40 yard interception return for a touchdown, and 2 fumble recoveries. Generally speaking, he did not generate the explosiveness that coach Jim Haslett had hoped for, and Rodgers was out of the league by the end of the 2004 season.
Dannell Ellerbe (LB, 2015-present)
Ellerbe was acquired by the Saints in the offseason of 2015 in a trade that sent wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for Ellerbe. The first four years of his career were spent in Baltimore, where he was a key member of the Ravens Super Bowl XLVII championship squad.
Ellerbe's first two years as a Saint were a mixed bag. He has only played in 15 out of a possible 32 games in New Orleans, a recurring problem throughout his career. When he has played however, Ellerbe has been one of the best players on the field. That was particularly true in 2016, when the Saints defense surrendered almost 8 points less per game in the contests Ellerbe was active, as many thought he played the best football of his career.
The spotlight will be on Dannell Ellerbe as the Saints enter 2017 training camp. The team has retooled it's linebacking corps, and a high salary veteran that cannot stay on the field will not likely be in the team's plans for the immediate future, no matter how much talent he possesses.
Other Saints players to wear No. 59: Fred Whittingham (1967-68), Chuck Evans (1980-81), Chris Martin (1983), James Campen (1987-88), J.J. Jones (2002), Derrick Rodgers (2003-04), Ronald McKinnon (2005), Matt McCoy (2007), Anthony Waters (2009-10), Nate Bussey (2011), Jerry Franklin (2014)
Who was your favorite Saints player to wear No. 59?
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