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Life of a Saint: Junior Galette

Galette speaks about his road from Haiti to the NFL, his desire to get back into the league and questions about his character

Chicago Bears v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Junior Galette started just 30 games for the New Orleans Saints, yet he ranks 13th all-time in sacks for the team. He is one of only a handful of players that wore the black and gold to achieve back-to-back double-digit sack seasons. There is no denying that Galette was one of the most effective pass rushers to ever play in New Orleans. But as Saints fans are well aware, accomplishments on the field were only one part of Galette’s story.

Life of a Saint: Junior Galette

The bumpy road for Junior Galette started in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Galette spent his youth like many children in third-world countries, without many of the common conveniences we take for granted here in the United States. When Galette moved to the U.S. at the age of nine, one would think it would have been an easy transition to a better life. This wasn’t so for Galette.

“It was awful, but one of the experiences that made me who I am today. I felt like I wasn’t even part of this world,” Galette remembered. Junior Galette spoke of the confusion of this new world and the struggles he faced adjusting and being accepted in his Spring Valley, New York neighborhood. He then added, “At that age, I wanted to play basketball and football. Kids wouldn’t let me play with them because I couldn’t speak English. I had to learn to speak it so I could just play.” Galette, motivated to play sports, turned to television shows like Barney and Sesame Street, as well as reading books, as the foundation for speaking English.

Persistence Overcomes Resistance

Junior Galette has maintained a philosophy throughout his life that with hard work, he can overcome anything in front of him. This philosophy has served him well in sports. Galette was successful growing up in both basketball and football. Galette explained that this mindset goes beyond sports, stating “I was just confident in my abilities. For example, learning how to speak English. I wanted to be the best speller in the school. I motivated myself to do that and ended up winning the spelling bee in sixth grade, from a kid that couldn’t speak English.”

Galette Chooses Football

Being a three-star recruit out of high school, Galette didn’t have a long list of colleges courting his talents. He ended up getting a scholarship to Temple University, a scholarship he initially thought was for basketball. Galette laughed as he mentioned, “When the coaches showed up at my high school I thought I got a basketball scholarship. They said, ‘What are you talking about? This is for football.” I said, ‘Temple ain’t got no football. What are they D2?’ Well, they weren’t the Temple that you know now. It took guys like me, Mohammed Wilkerson, and other guys to come through there when times were tough.”

There was one game that Galette specifically remembers as the moment he knew he was destined to eventually play in the NFL. “My freshman year in college we were playing Vanderbilt. That was the game I realized I was on another level from everybody else. I was at Sam linebacker and they had an older guy rushing the passer. They had me in coverage. Coach put me at defensive end and said ‘Just run around that guy’, Galette said. Galette would never lose his role as a pass rusher from that game forward.

Undrafted Talent

As Galette progressed through college, his character was under attack for an incident involving his cousin selling stolen laptop computers. Because his cousin was living with him, Galette was associated to the ordeal and discipline was handed out. Galette was suspended his senior year at Temple and was forced to Stillman College to finish out his schooling.

Galette was confident in his ability to play at the next level, but as he arrived at the NFL combine, there were many more questions about his character than his play. While the constant questioning made Galette uneasy about where he would get drafted, he was still very confident that one of the several teams that verbally committed to draft him would do so.

The NFL Draft

Junior Galette ended up waiting through the entire draft without hearing his name called. Galette was upset when he recalled, “Yeah, I was very surprised. Louis Riddick had a list of day two players who were most underrated and most talented. He was saying Junior Galette needs to be on a team. More teams called in the sixth round. I think I had a total of 14 teams call.”

Galette went on to speak about the stress and embarrassment of watching the draft surrounded by friends and family and not hear his name called. Following the draft, the New Orleans Saints called and made him an offer to come aboard. Galette shared, “I was around my family. I was in tears and I didn’t care. I was upset I didn’t get drafted, but at the same time I was motivated.” Galette would carry this chip on his shoulder into the NFL.

Joining a Super Bowl Roster

Junior Galette joined the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints in 2010. Galette looked for a mentor and friend in the locker room and found just that in Anthony Hargrove. “Anthony Hargrove was like a big brother to me. Knowing his story, he went through a lot of adverse situations, off the field issues. He took me in and I was living with him for the first two months of the season, like legit living with him. He said, ‘You don’t have to pay for a spot. You can just stay here’”, Galette stated. Galette then spoke about how he would share his frustrations with Hargrove, feeling like he was clearly better than the players getting more snaps that he was.

As the next few years progressed, Galette would eventually get his snaps and make a big impact on the field, finishing 2013 and 2014 with double-digit sacks (12, 10) and was rewarded. In 2013, Galette was given a 3-year, $9 million contract. That contract was ripped up a year later as the Saints replaced it with a 4-year, $41.5 million contract. Galette credits Rob Ryan for having the vision to increase the workload and lean more heavily on the once undrafted free agent.

Galette on Becoming Team Captain

“It meant everything to me at the time,” Galette stated proudly. He continued, “Coming in there undrafted, I knew what it took to get there, to become the face of the defense. The process of an undrafted guy to go to the team that just won the Super Bowl to then become team captain is a legendary process and a tough one for anybody to go through.” At that moment, things appeared to be going just the way Galette had envisioned.

Character, Revisited

Just one year into the lucrative four-year deal that Galette had inked, and immediately following two of the more productive seasons in team history for a pass rusher, the Saints cut ties with Junior Galette. This came as a result of an incident that happened off the field. A video posted online that saw Galette in an altercation on a beach in which he was fighting and swinging a belt at others.

Galette reflected, “To get to the top of the hill and then get shot down for doing something that I felt… At that time, I was not prepared mentally for them to release me. I had too much attachment to New Orleans. I was not ready mentally to handle that type of rejection. I loved New Orleans. I got it tatted on me. But the video came out and it was just too much.” Galette continued, “I definitely have regrets. I was on damn near a $50 million dollar deal and was captain of the Saints. Right now, I don’t have a job. So for me to sit here and say that I don’t have regrets is crazy. I’d be insane to sit here and say that I don’t wish I was on New Orleans still. I feel like leaving New Orleans, my life has been on a downward spiral since.” Galette would go on to mention how he first fell in love with the Saints, “watching them do what they did to Brett Favre in that NFC Championship game. There’s no other team I wanted to play for. That defense was crazy.”

Galette’s Relationship with New Orleans

Junior Galette would be the first person to tell you that the way he handled his relationship with the city of New Orleans was poor. Galette said, “I was angry and bitter toward the whole city of New Orleans as if it was their fault. The situation I was in was my fault. It was me who surrounded myself with the type of people that I surrounded myself with. It was me that took actions to protect people in a certain scenario.”

Galette feels that the most misunderstood thing about him to Saints fans and the media alike is his character. He mentioned, “Anybody who really knows me knows my track record. People can just read a headline and that’ll be the story for them. I try to do good but have put myself in messed up situations and surrounded myself with people that didn’t have my best interest. You live and you learn.” He then went on to address whether all the negative feedback affected him. “Hell yeah man. I’m a player who was always a fan favorite. I was always engaging with the fans. It really hits home. It took me getting released from New Orleans and still having some fans over there to really appreciate the city.”

Galette mentioned he eventually had to delete his social media accounts because the backlash from Saints fans was too much to bear. He has since created new accounts.

Galette Heads to Washington

Junior Galette would eventually find himself playing in the Washington Redskins organization in 2017 after missing back-to-back season due to Achilles tears. He would end up with 3 sacks in his limited role on the field. The amount of playing time for Galette was a disappointment, especially since he wanted to prove to New Orleans that they had made a mistake releasing him. Galette finished the 2017 season as the top-graded pass rusher for the Redskins, despite averaging only 15 snaps per game.

Junior Galette Now

Anyone paying attention to social media can tell you that Junior Galette is actively broadcasting his eagerness to get back into the NFL. This past off-season, Galette’s then agent Drew Rosenhaus rejected what was considered a low-ball offer from Washington. At this point, Galette regrets not looking at the offer as he just wants to play again in the NFL.

As of now, Galette is still a player without a home. He has met and tried out with several teams but still does not have a contract. Galette added, “What’s crazy is, you know who’s helping me through this whole process? Sean Payton. It’s really good. I feel like we can patch things up. He says that there are no hard feelings.”

So the road remains bumpy for Galette. The obstacles, whether self-inflicted or otherwise, continue to find their way onto his path. But Galette still has some things to prove; to prove he can still play at an elite level, prove he has physically progressed from his injuries and prove that he has learned from his mistakes.