Saints happy to have McAllister at Super Bowl

As Deuce McAllister sauntered into a lounge inside the stadium

that will host Sunday’s Super Bowl, Saints running back Pierre

Thomas caught sight of him and shouted “Doooooose!”

“He’s done so much for New Orleans. He’s done so much for this

team, in the community, for the fans,” Thomas said. “The coaches,

they did a good job of bringing him back because he deserves

it.”

McAllister won’t be getting any carries against the Indianapolis

Colts on Sunday, but he might get a ball.

“I really want to go out there and play for him,” said Thomas,

the Saints’ leading rusher this season. “My first touchdown, my

first (game) ball is going to Deuce.”

McAllister, who has not played since last season, officially

retired only days after being re-signed for a purely ceremonial

role in the Saints’ divisional-round playoff victory over

Arizona.

He ended his playing days as the Saints’ all-time leading rusher

with 6,096 career yards. His 55 total touchdowns and 49 rushing TDs

also are club records.

At 31, McAllister wasn’t really ready to retire, but operations

on each knee had slowed him. After it became apparent that no team

was going to give him a chance to play again, he got a call from

the Saints. Head coach Sean Payton said he wanted to find a way to

make McAllister a part of what seemed destined to be a special

season.

With McAllister at practice and on the sideline during games,

the Saints made their first Super Bowl run in franchise

history.

“It’s better than nothing and this is the closest that I’m

getting as far as to be a player, be a part of it,” McAllister

said. “You’ve always seen this on TV and just to be this close to

it, to be a part of it makes it special.”

A Saints first-round draft pick out of Mississippi in 2001,

McAllister has been wildly popular among fans along the Gulf Coast

for the past decade. Teammates loved him and opponents respected

him.

“Deuce is a great guy, and although (the Saints) didn’t need

his services as a running back, his leadership skills are

tremendous,” said former St. Louis Rams running back Marshall

Faulk, a New Orleans native and unabashed Saints fan. “I hear

about Deuce. I’ve listened to the Willie Roafs, I’ve listened to

the Joe Horns talk about how much of a leader Deuce McAllister was

in the locker room and I think that coach Payton understands that

having him around is advantageous to the program.”

Although McAllister didn’t have breakaway speed, he was renowned

for his vision and ability to set up blocks, as well as his

toughness, balance and nimble footwork, which made him tough to

tackle. He could move piles and reliably succeed in short yardage

situations. He rarely missed a block on a blitzing linebacker,

sparing the quarterbacks he helped protect from untold pain.

He was accessible to fans, never losing touch with his humble,

small town Mississippi roots. He’s ben a constant presence at

charity functions ever since he turned pro, shaking hands and

chatting with fans from all walks of life.

Thomas recalled a turkey giveaway McAllister hosted during a

recent Thanksgiving.

“So many fans came up to Deuce saying, ‘Thank you for all

you’ve done,”’ Thomas said. “I’d seen one lady just start crying,

and when you see that, you know that this is a special guy,”

McAllister isn’t yet sure what his long-term future may hold

with he Saints. He said he’s had “conversations” with Payton

about various roles he could fill. McAllister said he’s not yet

ready to be a coach, but might be interested in working in the

front office, perhaps one day moving up to general manager.

For now, though, he’s enjoying his current role as honorary

captain.

When McAllister led the Saints onto the Louisiana Superdome

field for their playoff opener against the Cardinals, the Superdome

crowd went wild. Although McAllister was not in uniform, fans still

called out, “Deuce!” in key short-yardage situations during that

game.

“I heard it and I’m not even dressed. I’m in street clothes,”

McAllister said, starting to laugh. “That just shows you I guess

the love that I have from that city.”

“I loved it,” Saints kicking consultant John Carney said of

the chants for Deuce during the game.

Carney played with McAllister in New Orleans for a half-dozen

seasons and said it was important to have McAllister along for the

playoff ride.

“When I think of Deuce, I think of a player that embodies what

we want to be about and we want to represent as a New Orleans

Saints,” Carney said. “That is tough, dependable, strong – a guy

who’s got strong faith in his abilities, a guy that anybody would

want as a teammate and friend.”