New Orleans Saints arrive at airport to shrieking crowds of fans

Posted on Feb 8, 2010 in Local Issues, Sports


By Mary Sparacello, The Times-Picayune
February 08, 2010, 3:56PM

The Super Bowl champions New Orleans Saints flew home Monday afternoon to find a throng of shrieking fans at Louis Armstrong International Airport.

saints-fans-airport.JPGBrett Duke / The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Saints fans await their team at Louis Armstrong International Airport on Monday afternoon. The team’s charter flight from Miami touched down about 3 p.m., and players, coaches and other personnel began pulling away from the general aviation terminal in their own vehicles.

But it was extremely slow going, as the motorcade inched through thick crowds that had began lining the route before 10 a.m. By the time the plane landed, the crowd stretched back 1-1/2 miles.

Driving alone, head coach Sean Payton hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy out of the sunroof of his Mercedes-Benz, eliciting screams.

One of the first recognizable players in the procession was linebacker Scott Fujita. Others spotted in the line of vehicles were offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Devery Henderson.

Deuce McAllister, the former Saints running back whom the team brought back for inspiration before this year’s playoffs, also was in the motorcade. “Thanks, Deuce,” onlookers yelled.

Team owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle, and his granddaughter, executive vice president Rita Benson LeBlanc, also were popular with the crowd.

Earlier, an entourage of a half-dozen vehicles, one carrying Gov. Bobby Jindal, drove to the terminal to greet the team.

About a half-hour later at the Saints training facility on Airline Drive in Metairie, a crowd of a couple hundred people were gathered as six chartered buses pulled into the facility shortly after 3:30 p.m. The crowd, parked in the area between the Saints offices and the entrance into Zephyr Field, cheered as the buses pulled in, accompanied by Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputies.

Meanwhile, back in Kenner, loud music was blaring throughout the day, kids were throwing footballs and the mood was jubilant, with impromptu second lines breaking out periodically.

“I’m so happy that the New Orleans Saints are bringing the Vince Lombardi trophy to the city of New Orleans,” said Sam Granger, wearing a Reggie Bush jersey. “We have waited for so long.”

“We were coming today — win or lose,” said Stan Engolia of Metairie. He and his family are among the growing number of fans who greet the Saints outside the Kenner airport after every away game.

Karla Bordelon, of St. Rose, also greets the Saints after away games.

“I think it’s better than Mardi Gras,” she said.

John Bondio Jr., of Metairie, dressed up like the “Saints Hulk” wearing a gold and black mask. He looks forward to seeing the Saints after the Super Bowl win. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “You can’t describe what happened last night.”

Kenner police set up barricades in anticipation of the crowds greeting the Saints’ private plane, Chief Steve Caraway said.

The Saints hire Kenner officers to work the team’s arrival from away games, and police have 35 to 40 officers on the route today. That’s compared to the 18 that worked the past few games.

“We’re expecting bigger crowds,” Caraway said.

Dee Duhe-Robichaux of New Orleans said she plans to attend the Saints parade Tuesday in New Orleans but wanted to greet the players at the airport today as she does after regular-season games. She showed up outside the airport at 8 a.m., despite celebrating the Saints’ Super Bowl victory most of the night.

“Right now I’m running on pure energy,” she said.

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