The New Orleans Saints regular season starts with a Monday night trip to Minneapolis, MN, for a primetime showdown against the Minnesota Vikings. The game is September 11, just 23 days away. As the team prepares for it's season opener, Canal Street Chronicles continues our journey into the past, with a look at some of the Saints players that have worn the No. 23.
Dave Whitsell (CB/S, 1967-1969)
Whitsell was a member of the inaugural Saints team, taken by New Orleans in the 1967 expansion draft after three years with the Detroit Lions and six with the Chicago Bears. Whitsell led the entire NFL with 10 interceptions in his first year as a Saint, returning 2 for touchdowns and finishing 2nd in the league with 178 return yardage. His accomplishments led to him being voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career; also as the first Saints player to receive the honor. He led the Saints with 6 interceptions in 1968, while also recovering 2 fumbles. Whitsell's final NFL season was 1969, and he went out by again finishing tied for the Saints team lead with 3 interceptions. Sadly, he passed away from cancer in 1996, he was only 63 years old.
Dave Whitsell was elected to the Saints Hall of Fame in 1996, the first Saints defensive back, along with Dave Waymer, to recieve the honor.
Doug Wyatt (CB/S, 1970-1972)
Taken in the 17th round by the Saints in the 1970 draft, Wyatt not only made the roster, but was also second on the team with 4 interceptions. He moved to safety in 1971, where he was again second on the team with 4 interceptions, returning 1 of them for the Saints lone defensive touchdown of the season. Wyatt found the end zone again during the '72 season, this time returning a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
New Orleans traded Wyatt to the Detroit Lions in 1973, where he would play the last two years of his career. It was later revealed that prior to being drafted, Wyatt had been involved in an accident where a bottle had exploded near his face. What he never told anyone, was that the accident had left him blind in one eye, a condition that he overcame during a five-year playing career.
Buford Jordan (RB, 1986-1992)
Jordan joined the Saints in 1986, after a two-year career with the New Orleans and Portland Breakers of the USFL where he rushed for 2,093 yards. Used as more of a utility back and special teams player on Jim Mora's Saints squads, Jordan had 687 career rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. He also added 6 fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown.
Kevin Mathis (CB, 2000-2001)
Mathis was acquired by New Orleans in a 2000 trade with the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for linebacker Chris Bordano. He started every game that season for a Saints team that surprised the league in winning a division title and advancing to the 2nd round of the NFC playoffs. Mathis was released in the offseason the next year after suffering an injury late in the 2001 season. He'd go on to play his final four years with Atlanta, suffering a career ending neck injury midway through the 2006 season.
Pierre Thomas (RB, 2007-2014)
Thomas made the Saints roster as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2007. He was the Saints leading kickoff returner that first year, and the team's 3rd leading rusher. Thomas stepped up his production in 2008, as his 625 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns on the ground were both team highs, while again leading the Saints in kickoff return yards. Thomas rushed for a career high 793 yards during New Orleans' Super Bowl championship season of 2009, while adding a team leading 6 rushing touchdowns and adding two more through the air.
He was even better during the team's run through the playoffs. Thomas scored two touchdowns, and led the Saints in rushing, and converted a key 4th Down on the game winning drive, during their overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. Thomas scored the Saints’ first touchdown and again led the team in rushing during their Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Injuries limited Thomas to only six games in 2010, but he bounced back the following season with 962 total yards and 7 scores. He once again led the Saints in rushing yards during the 2013 season, contributing 1,063 total yards, 5 touchdowns, and leading all NFL running backs with 77 receptions. Thomas was released by the team after the 2014 season. His 6,353 total yards from scrimmage over his eight year career with the Saints, scoring 40 touchdowns. He was one of the league's most effective at executing the screen pass during his career, and came up big during a couple of the franchise's biggest games.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore will wear No. 23 for the New Orleans Saints in 2017. The 11th overall pick is looking to be a key piece in the rebuilt Saints secondary this year.
Other Saints players to wear No. 23: Joe Profit (1973), Craig Cassady (1977), James Marshall (1980), Lorenzo Neal (1993), Ricky Whittle (1996), Chris Hewitt (1997-99), Victor Green (2003), Fred Booker (2005), Omar Stoutmire (2006), Marcus Murphy (2015-16)
Who was your favorite Saints player to wear No. 23?
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