New Orleans memories

Eric Allen reminisces about his time spent in New Orleans.

Updated: September 26, 2006, 12:35 AM ET
By Eric Allen | ESPN Insider
It's amazing to think that little more than a year ago we were watching a tragedy of epic portions unfurl in one of our greatest cities. It was extremely emotional for everyone who witnessed the hopelessness that the residents of this great city faced as they tried to survive one of the greatest natural disasters in U.S. history.

For me this tragedy touched even closer to home because I had the pleasure of living in the city and playing for the New Orleans Saints from 1995-97. This is a city that embraced me as one of its own even though I hailed from California and had previously played for the Philadelphia Eagles. It didn't matter to them because I played for the Saints and that meant I was family. I will always look back with great fondness on my time in New Orleans due in very large part to the people and their wonderful attitudes.

There are many things I will always miss about the time I spent playing cornerback for the Saints. I miss my teammates who were great guys who played hard and tried their hardest to help reverse an organization that was mired in a losing tradition. We weren't able to get the Saints over the hump like the great fans of this team truly deserved, but boy did we try.

I'll never forget one of the first home games we played was against the San Francisco 49ers when they had Jerry Rice and Steve Young winging the ball around and making big plays. There was still a bit of awe surrounding the 49ers in New Orleans as the fans were accustomed to Rice making big plays and winning games against the Saints. It was my responsibility to cover Rice everywhere and it was a responsibility that I took quite seriously because Rice was the guy who every cornerback tested themselves against to see if they had made it as one of the best in the league. If you got the assignment to cover Rice and did a good job then you'd arrived as a player.

So it was third and 16 or something like that and I was in isolation coverage with Rice and you could tell the crowd expected him to make the catch and get the first down because of his presence and his past history against the team. Young stepped back and threw the ball downfield to Rice and you could hear the wind go out of the crowd's sails until I came in at the last second and knocked the ball down. That was a great moment because it was my introduction to the city as a football player and it was a way to show the fans that the Saints could be good again.

I miss the great culture that permeated throughout the city like fog around the Mississippi River. I miss the food… God I miss the food. I miss going out to Delmonico's, Court of Two Sisters and my personal favorite Hurst's restaurant which was an amazing soul food restaurant that after a while became a staple of the rest of the defense as we always would go there and get some baked chicken, lemon pound cake and macaroni and cheese before we'd get on our flights to wherever we were scheduled to play.

Those were fun days because the city was filled with not just great fans, but great people who were always eager to help. I wish the best for the city of New Orleans and the people who inhabit the city then, now and forever and look forward to the day that people talk about just the parties, food and fun instead of the tragedy.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders. He's a regular contributor to Insider.

Eric Allen

NFL studio analyst
Eric Allen, a 14-year NFL veteran and was one of the NFL's premier defensive backs, joined ESPN in August 2002 as an NFL studio analyst. His primary role is providing analysis for ESPNEWS' Monday Quarterback.

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