In 44 days, on Sept. 11, the Minnesota Vikings will host the New Orleans Saints, in the 2017 season opener for both teams. Canal Street Chronicles continues our own series of countdown to kickoff; today we take a look at a few Saints players that have worn the No. 44. This jersey number typically identifies fullbacks, running backs, linebackers, and occasionally hybrid defensive ends. Unlike my journey through the 70s, this segment of the list has many candidates.
Mike Karney (FB, 2004-2008)
Karney was selected 156th overall by the Saints in 2004. He participated in 48 games as a collegiate at Arizona State. Standing 5’11”, 260 lbs, Karney was a brick-house back with soft hands as he accumulated 4 times more receiving yards than rushing yards in college. As a Saint, Karney achieved two Pro Bowl alternate selections and one All-Pro nod. After leaving New Orleans, Karney played 2 seasons in St. Louis with the Rams before meeting with Seattle Seahawks and eventually hanging up the cleats after a 6-year NFL career. Karney was reportedly cut on the night of his wedding dress rehearsal.
Heath Evans (FB, 2009-2010)
From one fullback to another, Evans was signed after the previously mentioned Karney was released. As luck, or good fortune should have it, Heath landed in New Orleans just in time to ride the championship wave to a Super Bowl 44 ring with the Saints. Though he was only in New Orleans for two seasons, Evans was a punishing blocker on an offense that was more balanced and run-oriented than we’ve seen from a Sean Payton team in a long time. Looking back, Evans was drafted No. 82 overall in the 2001 draft by the Seahawks and hung around from 2001-04, and then moved on to the Miami Dolphins in ’05 until six weeks into the season before being cut. One week later, Heath latched on with New England Patriots, and then remained with the team through 2008 before signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Saints. Evans is now an analyst with the NFL Network.
Dave Waymer (S, 1980-1989)
Waymer holds a special place in the hearts of many longtime Saints fans. Dave played at a time when the front seven of the black and gold defense was nothing short of amazing. Memories of quarterbacks being hurried and rushed into poor passes that fell into the hands of defensive backs still linger in my mind. Waymer is also beloved because even though he had an opportunity to more than likely make more money with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, he chose the Saints and shared this sentiment “I always wanted to play there. I've got a lot of friends there, and that is where, hopefully, I'll finish out my career.”
Unfortunately, he left for the sunny West Coast and played two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers from 1990-1991, then one season with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992. At age 34, Waymer died of a cocaine induced heart attack in 1993 after a 13-year career in which he achieved a Pro Bowl nod in 1987 and collected 48 interceptions total.
Hau’oli Kikaha (2015-Present)
Kikaha is the long-haired wonder that simply cannot remain healthy. Present-day Saints fans fall into two basic perspectives on this player. One group is high on the potential production from Kikaha over the course of a season and the other group thinks he is devalued because he cannot remain healthy. Many are content to add him to the long-list of recent Saints draft picks with extensive injury histories that didn’t pan out. Hau’oli completed his freshman season in college injury-free, but suffered an ACL tear in 2011, the again in the preseason of 2012. Kikaha would have quality junior and senior seasons before becoming the 44th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Consi
dered a pass rush specialist, due to injury, Kikaha has only 4 sacks as a pro. On the brighter side of things, he has shown a nose for the football with 4 forced fumbles and 56 tackles in 15 games. This is potentially a make or break year for a young player with grand potential.
Other Saints players to wear No. 44: George Rose, Mike Fink, Chris Farasopolos, Rob Kelly, Fred McCrary, Terrell Smith, and punter Olie Cordill
Who was your favorite Saints player to wear No. 44?
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