The 2017 New Orleans Saints will begin their 51st National Football League season in just 21 days. The Saints open their year with a Monday night road game against the Minnesota Vikings. Canal Street Chronicles continues our countdown to kickoff series today with a look back at some of the Saints players that have worn the No. 21.
Dalton Hilliard (RB, 1987-1993)
A Saints 2nd round draft choice in 1986, Hilliard makes his second appearance on our countdown after wearing No. 40 in his rookie year. Switching to 21 in 1987, Hilliard led the Saints with 7 rushing touchdowns, was second on the team in rushing yards, led all New Orleans backs in receptions and receiving yards. His 823 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns in 1988 led the team in both categories, as he again was the team's top running back in receptions and receiving yards.
Hilliard's finest year was 1989. He rushed for 1,262 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, added 52 receptions for 514 yards and 5 more scores, all career high marks. His 18 total scores were an NFL best that season, and his 1,776 yards from scrimmage were 2nd in the league, resulting in the only Pro Bowl berth of his career. Injuries limited him to only 16 games in 1990 and '91, but in 1992 bounced back to be a dangerous all-purpose threat, scoring 7 touchdowns on 910 yards from scrimmage.
Hilliard retired after the 1993 season. His career totals of 4,164 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns, to go along with 249 receptions for 2,233 yards and 14 more scores all rank among the best in franchise history. Hilliard was a unanimous selection to New Orleans' 45th Anniversary team, and in 1998 was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame.
Eric Allen (CB, 1995-1997)
Allen joined the Saints after a seven-year Pro Bowl career with the Philadelphia Eagles. He made the Pro Bowl in his first season as a Saint, extending his streak of five straight years doing so starting in Philadelphia. Allen started all 48 possible games during his three seasons in New Orleans, totaling 5 interceptions. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a 4th round pick in the spring of 1998, where he would play the final four years of a 14-year career.
Mike Bell (RB, 2009)
Bell was signed by the Saints midway through the 2008 season to provide depth to the New Orleans backfield. He wore No. 40 for the four games he appeared in that year, but switched jersey numbers to 21 heading into the 2009 campaign. Bell ran for 654 yards and 5 touchdowns during the Saints Super Bowl championship season of '09, both marks good for second on the team. He left the Saints after that season (hopefully getting better cleats), signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was traded from the Eagles to the Browns midway through 2010, where he would play the final year of his career.
Patrick Robinson (CB, 2011-2014)
Robinson was selected by the Saints in the 1st round of the 2010 draft. He wore No. 34 during his rookie season, switching to 21 before the start of 2011. Robinson led the Saints with 4 interceptions during the 2011 season, finishing second in passes defensed despite starting just seven games. He became a full-time starter for the first time in 2012, leading the defense in passes defensed and finishing tied for the team lead with 3 interceptions, while adding a quarterback sack along with a forced fumble. Robinson returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the season, tying a franchise record.
He suffered a serious knee injury in Week 2 of the following year, forcing him to miss the season. Robinson returned to action in 2014, and although he tied for the team lead in interceptions, was benched numerous times during the year for struggles in coverage. He left the Saints after the year, signing a free agent contract with the Chargers. Robinson spent 2016 with the Indianapolis Colts after one season in San Diego, and signed a free agent contract in the spring of 2017 to join the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cornerback De'Vante Harris enters his 2nd season with the Saints wearing No. 21. He appeared in 10 games during his rookie year as a special teams player and reserve defensive back. He looks to progress up the team's depth chart in a rebuilt Saints secondary to take a prominent role in coverage packages.
Other Saints players to wear No. 21: John Douglas (1967-68), Carl Ward (1969), Joe Scarpati (1970), Reynaud Moore (1971), Nate Ramsey (1973), Greg Boyd (1974), Ken Reaves (1974), David Gray (1979), John Krimm (1982), Earl Johnson (1985), Derek Brown (1994), Earl Little (1999), Steve Israel (2001), Dale Carter (2002-03), Terrence Holt (2008), Jason Craft (2004-08), Julius Jones (2010), Keenan Lewis (2015)
Who was your favorite Saints player to wear No. 21?
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