Deke: '81 Draft class was foundation of success for Saints
by Deke Bellavia,posted Apr 22 2014 5:17PM
It was the draft class that laid the foundation for the Saints to become NFC West Champions... the class that took the Saints from pretenders to contenders. And most importantly, the class that began to help form the famed "Dome Patrol."
Bobby and I talked to Rickey Jackson today and he had this to say: “We had a lot of draft picks that year, and that was key. Bum did a great job drafting players. And we had a lot of players that were not really that known that came in and made our team better.”
Five players from the class of '81 (RB George Rogers, LB Rickey Jackson, DE Frank Warren, TE Hoby Brenner & DL Jim Wilks) are in the Saints Hall of Fame, four of them played for 13 seasons in Black and Gold, and Rickey Jackson is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
18 players were taken in the 1981 NFL Draft by the Saints. Other players of note included CB Johnnie Poe, RB Toussaint Tyler, OG Louis Oubre and successful back up QB Dave Wilson. “I think Bum Phillips did a great job with that draft class,” said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.
When it comes to all time fan favorites, our own Hokie Gajan is high on that list. Gajan finished second in Saints History an average of 5.4 yards per rushing attempt, and in 1984 Gajan led the league averaging 6 yards per carry with a minimum of 75 attempts. Hokie’s tenure with the New Orleans Saints organization is most unique. Since leaving LSU in 1981, Hokie has been with the Saints in one way or another for over 33 years. Hokie has been a player for the Saints, a team scout, and since the 2000 season, Gajan has served as the Saints Radio Network Color Analyst.
The Saints built their famed "Dome Patrol" defense around the 1981 NFL Draft. The Saints landed LB Rickey Jackson with a 2nd round pick, DE Frank Warren from Auburn was taken in the third round while the steal of the draft came way down in the 12th round when New Orleans selected San Diego State’s Jim Wilks.
“They had to take on people and keep us free. Frank Warren and Jim Wilks were two of the best. They would both occupy blockers and allow us to make plays. I can remember Sam (Mills) saying how important it was for us to have Jim (Wilks) and Frank (Warren) in front of us,” said Jackson.
All three (Jackson, Warren and Wilks) played for 13 years for the Saints defense.