From the days when he used to buffalo his way over many who tried to derail this one man stampede from Baker, Louisiana...to becoming one of the hardest, most physical and flat out toughest Tigers from LSU...Hokie Gajan was hard as nails on the field of play and as kind, respectful and gentlemanly off it.
Hokie was number 46 in your program, but number one in our hearts. He was a son, who made his parents proud, a brother who gave his all, a friend like no other and Hok developed into a legendary Louisiana football player, a loyal loving husband, devoted and cherished father. From top to bottom from beginning to end, he was a damn fine man.
For five straight years Hokie and I lived together for a little over a month during Saints Training Camp. And, although we were covering the Black and Gold, it would be me who was in training. If you paid attention to what Hok said, who he worked with, scouted for and then told his team who to pick in the draft, you would have easily noticed that Hokie Gajan scouted and gave grades on at least six pro football Hall of Famers and ten times as many players who were great in the NFL.
But the ball, which was a part of his entire life, was just a small fraction of the man Hokie really was. I learned more about being a humble, loyal, dedicated and determined person, which also led to life lessons about how to be a great father and become a better man.
Oh, yes, although the masses knew Hokie Gajan for what he did as a player and the many signature one liners he produced without missing a beat, he was so much more than a great football mind. Hokie told you how he felt. He never lied on anyone. And, if you wanted a real honest...in your face opinion...you always got it from Hok.
For 56 years the world was a better place, because Hokie Gajan was in it. And, today, the world lost a one of a kind, unique and just flat out real good dude. Yes, today we all mourn in sadness that he’s gone, but when we think of his loyalty, love and memories...when he said things like “he’s so fast he can go rabbit hunting with a hammer,” we know his impression was lasting and his time with us will never really end.
From the 15 hour road trips Hokie, Jim (Henderson) and I made...to brim fishing on worms and crickets while using a good old cane pole in Mr. Jack Liuzza’s Pond...I do thank God I spent a lot of time with Hokie.
There’s no way one show, one day or even one week could tell what he meant to all of us. But I guess there never really is enough time to properly send off a man like Hokie Gajan - a man of faith, family, friends, food and football. A man like Hokie don’t come around often. A man like Hokie comes around just once in a lifetime.
I never told him to his face I loved him. But I hope that my actions, our time together and the things we did for each other helped him see that I did love him.
When it comes to 'durability,' his name is next to the term in the dictionary. He’s never missed a game in the NFL and he is considered one of the best team leaders in the very same league. New Saints linebacker James Laurinaitis is an all-business type player.
“I feel like you lead by example," he said on SportsTalk Tuesday afternoon. "You go out and work hard with your teammates and then you lead by earning their respect. If I’m not out there I feel like I’m letting the guys down. I couldn’t imagine missing a football game.”
James has never missed a game seven seasons with the St. Louis Rams. Drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of the Ohio State University where he was an All American Player for the Buckeyes.
So how did James land on his feet in New Orleans? “When I was released by the Rams, I had to call my wife to let her know. And then I called my agent and told him I’d like to go to a team that can make the playoffs and chase a trophy and a team with an established quarterback,” said Laurinaitis.
You can listen to Bobby and Deke’s entire conversation with Laurinaitis by clicking below.
New Orleans/LSU Hoops – I know down here people don’t care about basketball nearly as much as football, and I fully understand that. But maybe if basketball was held under the same light as football, our products might be better than they currently are.
For the first time ever in Louisiana, the great state is home to the best player in college hoops and the best young player in the NBA. LSU’s Ben Simmons will be the #1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. And Anthony Davis is the best young gun in the NBA, in only his fourth season in the association.
People, both the Tigers and Pelicans are MAJOR disappointments this season. New Orleans is hard pressed to make the NBA post season, likewise for LSU. When the two best players, one in college and the best up and coming player in the pros both won’t be in the post season, there’s something wrong.
Is it coaching? Well, hell yes, coaching has something to do with it. Again, I know what we care about down here and what casually pay attention to, and in the hoops area it’s a bad year. From a national standpoint it’s downright embarrassing!
Saints off to good start in Free Agency – After another sorry 7-9 season the New Orleans Saints have taken a line from the movie "Annie" - they know that tomorrow is only a day away. The Saints are looking ahead to 2016, and 2015 is in the rear, very rear view mirror.
In a matter of 24 hours the Saints lost one of their most productive offensive weapons in tight end Ben Watson and found his replacement in Colts TE Coby Fleener. Did the Saints do good? Well let’s look at it. The Saints had a smart, productive and solid veteran team leader in Watson. What do the Black and Gold get with Fleener, who will be entering his 5th season in the NFL in 2016?
Coby was drafted in the 2nd round (34th overall) by the Colts in the 2012 NFL Draft. In four seasons in Indianapolis, Fleener had 183 receptions for 2,154 yards with 17 touchdowns. And Fleener has caused match-up issues for those who have to cover his big 6'6" 250 pound frame. And coming from Stanford Fleener is smart upstairs if you feel me. I’d say good move for the Saints in all areas!
Here today gone tomorrow?
With all of the sad, underachieving and disappointing basketball this season, the question of job security has been raised in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. First let’s start with LSU coach Johnny Jones.
Jones recruited a great class that has been everything but great this season. LSU will be the first team since the University of Minnesota to have the #1 player in the NBA Draft and not make the NCAA Tournament since the 1978 Minnesota Golden Gophers and star Mychal Thompson.
LSU has been in the news for all the wrong reasons the entire second half this college hoops season. LSU knew going into the season that Simmons was one and done and on to the NBA. LSU had to get something out of Simmons aside from him being hyped up.
Instead, no NCAA tourney, possibly no NIT and all with the #1 NBA Draft pick. Wow! That’s bad. But again if we were talking football on the very same campus there would be an uproar. But in the hoops area one has to wonder if many people are that concerned with the job Jones has done this season even with a nice raise before the season began!
Way down yonder in New Orleans first year Pels coach Alvin Gentry has not had the splash in the water feel-good season that we all hoped, heard and had wanted the team to have. But people I’ve got to be honest with you on this one, this one falls on the GM, not the head coach.
Dell Demps has his fingerprints all over this entire team and organization, and he has done a poor job. You can take all that “well they’re hurt all the time” talk and trash it. Poor excuse. Demps has overpaid, brought in the wrong players, and he did so after he picked Gentry to coach his team.
So did Dell make the right hire? Are we supposed to assume that the Pelicans are just a few injured players away from being a playoff team? Will Dell ever talk to the media? Does Dell know what he wants to do with this team?
Hey call me a broke down, bootleg, bad woods broadcaster but all of those above questions are more than valid. And if changes are made this off season with the higher ups (Benson and Loomis) have a sit down with Dell? If not they should. Having the best young player in the game and four playoff games in four years is bad.
Regardless of what happens to Dell and Johnny, this has been a wasted season for both. Both wasted the best talent in the game today, and there’s not much worse in life than wasted talent. At least that’s what Robert De Niro said in "A Bronx Tale!"
The long history of Championship Sunday has many highlights, big plays, historic players and coaches and a little bit of everything in between. But tomorrow we may be witnessing the four best defensive teams to play on title game Sunday.
The high profiled storyline is around Peyton and Tom, and the other two QB’s could also very well be Hall of Fame bound one day in Carolina’s Cam Newton and Arizona’s Carson Palmer - but in a league that has been geared to have the offensive teams do their thing, it’s still the ole saying that defense wins championships.
All four of Sunday’s defensive teams are ranked among the top ten in scoring defense. And according to the current NFL playoff format, the fans are getting the four best teams in football to see which two clubs reach the Super Bowl.
Each of these games obviously has many historical moments, and some teams have been at these points far more times than their conference counterparts. The Pittsburgh Steelers hold the distinction of most appearances in AFC Championship Game history, with 15, while the San Francisco 49ers hold the distinction in the NFC, also with 15 appearances.
The Steelers and the New England Patriots have won the most AFC Championships, winning eight each, while the Dallas Cowboys have won the most NFC Championships, with eight wins, while the 49ers have only won six.
The Seattle Seahawks are the only team to reach the championship game in each conference, as they were a member of the AFC until 2002. The Houston Texans are currently the only team in NFL history that has not reached the championship game in either conference. The winner of the AFC Championship game receives the Lamar Hunt Trophy, while the NFC Championship winner receives the George Halas Trophy.
Recently, there have been some memorable moments in these games. In the 2015 AFC Championship, the New England Patriots won 45-7, followed by allegations by the Indianapolis Colts that the Patriots had used under-inflated footballs, now dubbed "Deflategate."
In the 2015 NFC Championship Game, the Seattle Seahawks overcame a 16-0 deficit to the Green Bay Packers, a game that was highlighted by an onside kick recovery late in the fourth quarter by the Seahawks, who would eventually force overtime and go on to win and advance to Super Bowl XLIX. It's fair to assume that we will see a great performance by one team this time around.
Denver is a three point underdog at home while the Carolina Panthers are a three point favorite at home in Charlotte. Both games can be heard right here on WWL Radio beginning with the AFC Title Game Sunday just after 2PM.
Arizona is trying to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in club history as is their foe Carolina. The White Horses of Denver can punch their ticket to Super Sunday for the eighth time while the Pats can get back to the Super Bowl for a ninth time!
If I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong. If Sean Payton did not want to remain in New Orleans as Head Coach, then you can't fault the Saints for that - after all, you can't force anyone to do something that they don't wish to do.
But if the Saints are to lose Sean Payton, and the higher ups (including the team president, general manager and owner) do not do absolutely everything they can by any means necessary to keep the coach here, then they are flat out wrong.
The Saints front office has missed far more than not on players and free agents in the past several seasons. But they can't afford to miss on this one! I mean am I the only one who thinks all of this noise about a #2 pick for Sean Payton is ignorant?
PROGRAMMING NOTE: We will carry Sean Payton's press conference live at 2pm Wednesday on AM/FM and streaming at WWL.com
A number #2 pick! Are you kidding me? Sean Payton should draw a #2 pick for just sitting down and talking to another team. But to think that the Saints would even look at the phone, much less pick it up to entertain the notion of trading Sean Payton for a #2 pick is just dumb!
Hey I don't know what I don't know. And again the Saints can't be faulted if Coach Payton does not want to be here anymore. But the Saints HAVE to do everything they possibly can to keep Payton here!
Deuce said it, so did Bobby, so am I. A #2 pick for a Super Bowl winning coach is crazy! We are talking about a coach who has not had the best of talent given to him lately. And a coach that is on the exact same page as his Hall of Fame QB commands far more than a #2 pick.
Look if the Saints do happen to lose Sean Payton, then they better damn sure make it known that they (Saints front office) asked for some crazy amount of stuff in return.
I mean even if it's over the top, like two Number #1 picks, two Number #2 picks, two Number #3 picks, a boat load of cash and a player or two - then let it be known. People I'm telling you if we are sitting here a week from now and Sean Payton is gone and only for a #2 pick then there has to be something more on the inside that we don't know.
Unless there is something among the teams and their front offices that we the public don't know about, then there is no way you can only get one #2 pick for a Super Bowl winning coach. That is a no brainer!
The next man could win another title. The next man might be great. But my people, in the world of business this was a risk, a gamble and one that is not a smart business move.
And I'll stand by what I say. You don't know what you don't know. You have to go on what you do know. And the Saints know what they have in Sean Payton. As this story continues to unfold, we may learn of things we know nothing about right now - all in the next coming weeks, depending on the outcome of the Sean Payton situation.
You all read, have radios and TV's, and you all see how Payton is the guy who's atop of everyone's list. New Orleans better make sure that Sean Payton is atop of their list.
Let me first of all say that ever since I have been able to make sense of sports, when it comes to college football, I’ve always had the mindset that the ultimate factor in determining which conference is the best, I first and foremost point towards bowl games.
Sure there are some big and very meaningful games during the season that feature some powerful schools in non-conference games. But to me, it has always been the bowl games and their outcomes that have given me the fuel needed to back-up who has the best overall conference.
Last season the mighty SEC had one of their worst bowl seasons ever as the big boys including Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State all took it on the chin, and they did so by allowing huge numbers to the opposing teams offense and each of those powerful SEC Western clubs were basically taken to the woodshed in games that had all of the above mentioned schools as favored to win.
So if you come at me with that “aw he’s just a local boy, another Southerner that’s bumping his gums and busting his lips about how good the SEC is,” the record shows that I am fair and I do call it like it is, and I let those so called powerful mighty SEC schools have more than their fare share of a good ole verbal beat down for not showing up when it mattered most.
Now I take a complete 360 and present to you the gospel for the 2015 bowl season. And this bowl season belongs to the SEC. Folks, the SEC sent 10 schools and eight of those ten shined like new money, leaving the rest of the nation in awe of how dominant the deep south’s NFL play-in league really was in 2015.
And during my note taking I was brought back to the national pundits claiming how the SEC was down this season, due to the fact that after the first full weekend of November the SEC had no undefeated teams. Ha! The games all have to be played, things have to play out and the teams that are left standing and the teams that end their season with an impressive win are the ones that validate their entire season and only then is the body of work judged once each team’s season is complete.
The SEC’s dominance in this bowl season can be even more impressive with a national title win by Alabama on January 11. With eight wins to just two losses the SEC can rightfully brag about their league’s performance over the last few weeks.
Coach Les Miles did not waste any time in naming his new Defensive Coordinator. "He’s everything that we were looking for in a defensive coordinator. He’s youthful with tremendous enthusiasm; our players are going to love him. He brings great defensive knowledge to our staff both as a technician and as a strategist. We are thrilled that he’s joining us,” he said. Dave Aranda has become one of the nation's rising young defensive minds and now the young coordinator has the job of making the LSU defense better in 2016.
If Aranda can do for the Tigers what he did for the Badgers last year then LSU's defense will be much improved. The Tigers have finished the season with the nation's 25th best defense.
LSU was 17th in rushing offense and 66th in passing offense. Now when you bounce the numbers that Aranda put up in Madison last season with the Badgers, then one would have to be quite impressed. The Badgers posted a 10-3 record in 15 and they did so behind the play of the nation's second best scoring defense. Second only to Alabama, Wisconsin allowed their opponents only 13.7 points per game on average in 2015.
The Badgers finished the season 4th in total defense, 4th in rushing defense and 7th in pass defense and allowed only 95.4 rushing yards per game in 2015 and 173.2 passing yards. The Badgers defense also finished the season on a very high note allowing a potent USC Trojan offense only three points in their bowl game. Wisconsin was also one of the nation's best units when it came to forcing turnovers.
The Badgers forced a total of 21 turnovers in 2015 with nine fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions to finish plus three in the turnover margin last season. Prior to his stop in Madison, Coach Aranda made a nice showing as the Aggies of Utah State Defensive Coordinator in 2012 and he was with the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii prior to that.
Coach Les Miles officially made the Tigers new defensive leader les than three days after the Tigers big bowl win over Texas Tech. Coach Miles continued to praise his new defensive coordinator in a released statement.
"Dave will bring different packages and an attacking style to the field. Watching his defense play, they are tough to move the ball on and they are sticky in every situation. His defenses do a great job of getting off the field.
“He’s going to be a great fit for our personnel. He’s a players’ coach, and we are really excited that he’s going to be a LSU Tiger.”
Aranda takes over for Kevin Steele who left to take over at Auburn.
OK let’s face it - we are all ranked on how we are paid in the real game of life. The more you money make, the more you have to produce. For both Saints Coach Sean Payton and LSU Coach Les Miles, the price tag is currently outweighing the production.
Miles and Payton are two of the highest paid in their profession, and right now the ends are not justifying the means. Miles is the overseer of the highest paid football staff in college football. And Sean Payton is one of the highest paid coaches in pro sports today. The end result is that the Saints have missed the post-season in three of the last four seasons and the Tigers have lost three of their last four bowl games, and LSU has not played for an SEC Title in four seasons.
To me, this means that the 2016 football season is one that has both of these coaches on the hot seat for their current coaching positions. What makes each of these situations similar and disappointing is that both teams are under-achieving. New Orleans is seemingly wasting great years from a Hall of Fame QB in Drew Brees. And LSU has one year left to cash in on one of the nation’s best recruiting classes led by the nation’s top player in RB Leonard Fournette.
Is there a certain win number total that each of these coaches face in 2016? I would say NO! What I mean by that if the Saints make the playoffs regardless of their record then Payton is good and secure. And if LSU was to beat Alabama and win let’s say nine games in the regular season then I would think that Coach Miles is safe again too.
Truth be told, both LSU and the Saints are not supposed to be where they are. LSU should not have one of the nation’s worst passing games. And the New Orleans Saints should not have one of the league’s worst defensive units three of the last four years.
Both of these coaches came to Louisiana about the same time, with Miles taking over in Tiger Town in 2005 while Coach Payton became leader of the Saints in 2006. So is 2017 in their futures?
If both don’t get to the above-mentioned achievements in 2016, then I could very well be doing a farewell piece in 2016. I guess only time will tell. If only LSU could lend New Orleans some defense and if the Saints could send a little passing to Baton Rouge then things would be all good. But right now things are not all good in New Orleans and Baton Rouge!
A national stage was there, the greatest scorer in NFL history, some of the most hard nosed, honorable and loved former Black and Gold greats were in the house. And thousands sat in driving rain and terrible traffic to come watch the team they love try and bring them some holiday cheer before the fat man who wears a Red Suit comes to town.
The New Orleans Saints had nothing to play for as the Black and Gold had been mathematically eliminated from the NFC post season 24 hours prior. But the Saints and their coaches remained steadfast that the Black and Gold had everything to play for. Well it all sounded good anyway right?
Folks it's time now to let it all out. Every season there comes that time to rehash, release and recount the things that took place. With two games left, their fate sealed and the most recent performance, I say let's toss waiting two weeks for the season to officially end and let's go head and start unloading now.
I mean hell people, to those out there who are realistic and look at things for exactly how they are, the Saints 2015 season has long been over. And it had been over not because of what other teams were doing, but because of the play of the Saints themselves.
Now back to MNF. Had it not been for the halfway decent kind of play we saw in the second half of the Lions game, this article would be far more bashing, berating and belligerent. Yes my people, the first half of last night's game was even a low for a team that has had as many lows within one season in the 10 year stretch under Sean Payton.
2015 represents many things for a team that has gone from two years removed from an eight point loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champions to becoming one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Since 2012 (four NFL regular seasons) the New Orleans Saints have had three losing seasons and will not make the NFC playoffs for the second straight year and no post season for the Saints in three of the last four seasons to boot!
For the third time in four years, the Saints will have either the worst or second to worst defense in the NFL. I don't give a damn how good an offense you have. If you have the 31st or 32nd worst defense your team is one of the worst in the league!
I'm mean what the hell happened here? Is it just me? I'm watching the same team that had the ball late in the NFC Divisional Playoffs with a chance to tie the game against the best team in the league. And that game was played in one of the most difficult places to win a game. Did the Saints just fool us all? Did the Saints mask what was an average team that was soon to turn bad? WHY? WHAT? WHO?
And now, two years later, the Saints are out and yes they are down. And it must be noted that in one of the last four seasons the team that won the NFC South and hosted a playoff game did so by winning seven YES 7 regular season games.
So now there are two games left and other than to sit back hear all that stuff about how we are pros and there is a lot to play for, this season is over. And yes the Saints are pros. But right now, hell three of the last four seasons, the Saints have been one of the worst pro teams in the league. And that is the flat out truth.
The Wild Card Teams in the AFC could be the teams to beat this post season. Can you imagine a 16-0 Panthers team hosting Wild Card Seattle in the Divisional Playoffs? Things are really heating up and this week there are two huge ones (Denver @ Cincy and Green Bay @ Arizona) that could shape up the entire playoff picture in each conference. And I've given you my list of favorite Christmas songs!
1. Carolina Panthers (14-0) - The Cats battled back to beat the G-Men after allowing them to get back in the game last week. Now the Cats can lock up the #1 seed and home field with a win over the Falcons. I wonder if Julio Jones will show his ass like Odell Beckham did last week. Nah, Julio has CLASS! Last week beat NY Giants 38-35 Atlanta/ this week @ Atlanta.
2. Arizona Cardinals (11-2) – The Red Birds look like they are the #2 seed in the NFC and will only have to play one game out of the desert this post season. Many think this Arizona team has the best shot to knock off the Panthers! We shall see. A possible playoff match-up this week awaits with a visit from the Cheese Packers! Last week beat Philadelphia 40-17 / this week vs Green Bay.
3. New England Patriots (12-2) - The Patriots can now lock down the #1 seed in the playoffs and stay home until February. But even with everything sewed up, you know that deep down inside the Pats want to be the team that kicks the NY Planes out of the AFC playoffs. Last week beat Tennessee 33-16/ this week @ NY Jets.
4. Seattle Seahawks (9-5) – You know, if the seeds play out, the Seabirds would play at Carolina in the second round of the NFC playoffs. When is the last time a 16-0 team was an underdog at home? I don't know what the line will be but the feeling is that the home team will be the dog that day! Ah snap, I can't wait til the playoffs. Last week Cleveland 30-13/ this week vs Cleveland.
5. Green Bay (10-4) - The Packers went out West and built an early lead in their 30-20 win over the Raiders. Now the Packers will show us all if they are in the elite class in the NFC power club with a visit to the desert. Last week beat Dallas / this week @ Oakland.
6. Kansas City (9-5) - The only team in league history to have a five game losing streak and an eight game win streak. Kansas City is rolling - don't look now but KC is right back in the mix for the #2 seed. Man, Andy Reid can just flat out coach. Last week beat Baltimore 34-14 / this week vs Cleveland.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) - The team that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon for! I don't dare question greatness but these Steelers WR's are in the class of Stallworth and Swan and if they lead the Berg to a title then they will join those Steelers and help win the club's 7th title! Last week beat Denver 34-27/ this week @ Baltimore.
8. NY Jets – (9-5) – The NY Jets are a legit playoff team that might not even make the playoffs. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing well and WR Brandon Marshall is having one of his better seasons in the NFL. Last week beat Dallas 19-16/ this week vs NE England Patriots.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (11-3) - The Bengals got a much needed win and now can secure the #2 seed this post season with a win over the Broncos. If they lose then the Bengals will have to win their final game to hold off the surging Steelers. Last week beat San Francisco 20-33 / this week vs Denver.
10. Minnesota Vikings (9-5) - Credit Minnesota - this team is still in great shape to be a home playoff team this January. If QB Teddy Bridgewater plays well, this team has a good shot to win. The Vikings have the Giants at home this week and then close out at Green Bay. Don't count out this Purple Eating Team just yet my people! Last week beat Chicago 38-17 / this week vs NY Giants.
Deke's top 3 Christmas Songs
We all have our favorite everything about everything. Favorite Christmas songs is right atop of my list. I'm sure that I'd like at least one song if not more on everyone's and anyone's list of fav's. But these have special meanings to me for many reasons.
These songs began to be my favorites when I was in high school. I can remember riding a charter bus to Wossman, Louisiana back in 1987 when the Mighty Amite Warriors hit the road to take on the Wossman Wildcats.
On that bus ride I was able to sneak my JVC Cassette to the bus driver and he gladly let it play. On that tape was the greatest Christmas song of All Time and some of my other favorites.
Others are my special tunes I listen to with my little girls, dancing and yes, even singing some of these songs to Richelle. And of course I feel like these songs are simply put - Deke Bellavia.
#3 - "This Christmas" by Donnie Hathaway and the "Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole. Folks you just can't go wrong with these two soulful legendary voices of Hathaway and Cole. Man this is the one song I always play first. And the Christmas Song is one that makes you slip into that get by the fire, clean up real good, get your buzz on and love the one you're with kind of mood. And in the words of Forrest Gump - that's all I've got to say about that!
#2 - "What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas" by the Emotions & "Holly Jolly Christmas" by Burl Ives. Man this one is also one that you can get your slow groove on to. The lyrics and soothing melody makes this tune off the chain. And Holly Jolly is a no brainer as there is no Christmas song list that can be complete without a Burl Ives tune. This Ives tune is the one tune that I would say officially kicks off the Christmas season for me.
#1 - "Silent Night" by the Temptations - This is one of my favorite songs period. The Temptations make this classic just that much more special. I laugh, cry, smile and sing to this great one. The one Christmas song that I made sure my girls knew about and listen to everyday during Christmas.