Saints owner Tom Benson moved to tears by statue dedication

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson reacts as his wife Gayle Benson holds his hand at the unveiling of a statue of him outside the Mecedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.

Gerald Herbert/AP

The City of New Orleans, New Orleans Saints management and fans across the region surprised team owner Tom Benson with a lasting tribute Tuesday: a larger-than-life bronze statue of Benson’s likeness, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy into the air, in Champions Square. 

The statue commemorates not only Benson’s commitment to New Orleans in the athletic world, but also his philanthropic outreach to better the community he was born and raised in. 

"Oh, that’s real nice," Benson said as he fought back tears. "I never did think this would happen. So please, thank y’all very much."

The 13 1/2 foot bronze statue weighs 1,500 pounds and came as a shock, albeit a pleasant one, for Benson. 

"To have something like this done for you is unbelievable," Benson said. "You just go through life and you don’t think anything like this could ever happen. So naturally, it caught me right in my heart."

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, sculptor Brian Hanlon and head coach Sean Payton had the honor of unveiling the statue to an emotional Benson.

"That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that reaction," Payton said. "So that’s the first sign that it was pretty strong and pretty good."

Benson also owns the city’s NBA franchise – the New Orleans Pelicans, and has made significant contributions to numerous charities including the Catholic Church, Oschner Hospital, The Team Gleason House for ALS patients and various New Orleans area schools. 

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and quarterback Drew Brees all attended the surprise unveiling. 

"Our state, our city, is better off because of Tom Benson," Jindal said. "We are grateful for his being such a great Louisianan. He truly is the best that Louisiana has to offer."

Brees tweeted: