A Tiger Did The Gator Chomp! 4 Powerful Lessons From My Florida Graduation

You ever hear the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?”

One of my road assignments as chief sports writer for LSU’s Daily Reveille newspaper was the LSU-Florida game in 2010 – my first trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

I’ll never forget it. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow had been drafted by Denver the previous year. That night’s game was still a thriller to cover. The visiting Tigers won, 33-29, on a touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee to Terrence Toliver with six seconds left. I did my duties as a reporter, thinking for sure that was the professional path I’d take.

I did for a while.

Family Photo

But … fast forward 12 years to April 28-29, 2022. I was back in Gainesville again – this time with my parents and husband, attending Florida’s graduation in a master’s hood!

Master of Arts in Mass Communications. Concentration: Public Relations.

Lo and behold, Tim Tebow was commencement weekend speaker. A lot had changed for both of us.

Tebow’s NFL career is over, like my career in sports journalism. Tebow is now a New York Times best-selling author, speaker and expert on living a life of true significance.

Tebow gave a powerful message as I embark on a new chapter in Baton Rouge. I kid you not, my eyes filled with tears as I thought about living a mission-driven life in a new city.

Yes, I went back for my master’s in public relations to expand my knowledge on creating integrated communications campaigns, and I’ve achieved that. But what’s become even more abundantly clear in the past 20 months is how much I want to dig in, build relationships and serve God & others in my next job … and in my daily life.

With that, here are four lessons from from my nearly two years as a Florida Gator.


Family Photo

1. OWN YOUR VALUES

We live in a world where we’re constantly tempted to compare ourselves to other people. In my opinion, social media only adds fuel to that fire.

Look what they have that I don’t! She’s got a better job than me! Why can’t I have the money or house or clothes or kids that this person has?!

Cue the vicious cycle of impostor syndrome.

My devotional journal helps bring me back to center. Today’s reflection was on Romans 12. We read in verses 4-5, Just as each of us has various parts in one body, and the parts do not all have the same function: in the same way, all of us, though there are so many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all joined to one another.”

What is the message here? We shouldn’t try to be something we aren’t. God created each of us uniquely, and He’s given us permission to own our values.

Each one of us, from you and me to Tim Tebow, has a story – I’m a woman from Louisiana who’s married and has epilepsy. I dream of raising a faith-filled family and using my master’s in communication to serve a Catholic school or nonprofit organization. Most of all, I just want to get up every day & help others.

Remember, God won’t bless a pretend-version of ourselves. Write down your values if you need to. I did!

2. MEET NEW PEOPLE

Photo by Robert Smith (left)

One of my favorite parts of graduate school was my classes that met live online.

Connecting with students and professors enhanced the learning experience much more than just listening to recorded lectures. The education I gained at Florida was tremendous; I’m only emphasizing how much I enjoyed the classes that included additional live meetings.

For me, those were two electives: Branding Using Social & Mobile Media and Seminar in Mass Communication Teaching, taught by Brianne Fleming and Cheryl Oberlin, respectively.

I also talked regularly with students and my professor in Capstone in Public Relations. So close to the finish line, we were determined to dot every i and cross every t in our final projects! My Capstone professor, Rick Holberg, was an incredible resource and reference in the field.

You can see a group of us was even able to connect at graduation and celebrate our achievement!

We should always be looking to expand our networks, meet new people and share ideas.

Volunteer. Don’t be afraid to get in the room you want to be in. Thankfully, the world is opening up again post-COVID-19 isolation. I can’t wait to find my community in Baton Rouge.

While it’s important to be confident in your own core values (see #1), it’s also important to have conversations with others and consider differing perspectives. We never know what doors certain relationships (like graduate school alumni, for example) might open in the future.

3. PERSEVERE

These next two go hand in hand. We all face some downright terrible events in our lives – death, natural disasters, tough days at work, struggling to find work, whatever the case may be.

When I think back to my first day of graduate school August 31, 2020, I had to summon perseverance. Hurricane Laura had just wrecked Lake Charles, where we lived at the time, and knocked out power and water. I felt blessed when I saw our house suffered only minor damage compared to others.

Thank God for generators.

Schoolwork was a welcome distraction amid the destruction around us. Did I mention I took three classes my first semester? I had way too much to dive into!

Navigating Hurricane Laura in my first semester set the tone for the perseverance we’d need in the coming months. Lake Charles was about to face a multitude of weather events – Hurricane Delta, a February ice storm, the May 2021 flood, and even an EF-3 tornado about a mile from our house in October.

We tried to pull some good from these tragedies. My husband fixed fences in our neighborhood, and I found inspiration for my graduate school portfolio from Louisiana Catholic schools coming together in the hurricane aftermath.

As we read in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.”

That brings me to #4.

4. HAVE FAITH

Family Photo

Tim Tebow was a big reason why I couldn’t wait to attend graduation weekend in Gainesville.

Yes, the pomp & circumstance of wearing my master’s regalia, crossing the stage, and walking onto Ben Hill Griffin Stadium field Friday night was awesome, but Tebow’s message to us – the graduates – about having the courage to live for significance, not personal success, was exactly what I needed to hear.

I mean, exactly.

I felt tears well up in my eyes as he spoke about how each of us was created in the image of God for a purpose! Tebow had such courage and fearlessness. Nothing held him back.

I pride myself on having a strong faith, but I know it can always be stronger.

Tebow writes in his newest book, Mission Possible, “You may not win a popularity contest by being mission driven, but you’ll certainly gain the favor of your Father in heaven. And isn’t that what counts?”

I’ll be first in line to raise my hand yes.


YOUR TURN

Let me know in the comments below:

  • Which of the four lessons hit home for you?
  • Did you watch Tebow’s speech? Bill Heavener introduces him as “a fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves.” Inspiration at the highest level!

Time to Try a New Ministry? God is Calling, You Just Have to Listen

When was the last time you wanted to try something new?

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Maybe it was a new food or drink? Or you were planning a trip to a new destination? What about a new job?

But how often do we raise our hands and get out of our comfort zones to try a new ministry in the Catholic Church?

God calls us in ways we don’t expect.

Mary is a wonderful example. When she was about 14, God chose her to be the mother of His son, Jesus Christ.

Talk about a shock. Imagine how Mary must have felt receiving that news.

But Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation? “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). Then she embarked on her journey to visit Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, and she stayed there about three months.

In January I wrote about surrendering to God’s plan for our lives and how everything that happens is part of our journey. God doesn’t make mistakes. He knows your gifts, and it’s our purpose to use those gifts for His glory.

HEARING GOD’S CALL

I’m very open on my blog about how I was laid off from what I thought was my dream job as a sports journalist almost seven years ago. Clearly that did not align with God’s purpose for my life. If I would’ve still been a full-time journalist, there’s no way I would’ve heard God’s call to try a new ministry this year.

Here’s the story.

I’ve been a lector at Mass for nearly 20 years, but in August I decided to add something new. After our parish priest repeatedly asked for volunteers for Our Lady of Good Counsel’s religious education program, I took the hint and dove in.

The first step: Take the hint.

The more you feel ” a gentle tug” inside you, don’t ignore it. Consider it God’s call.

Looking back at summer 2021, I would’ve kicked myself if I would’ve passed up the opportunity to be a religious education teacher this year.

Wednesday afternoons from 4:30-5:45 (and the ample prep time) are some of the highlights of my week. It’s given me a chance to not only deepen my knowledge of the Catholic faith I’ve held since childhood, but also hold confident discussions with the Confirmation candidates I teach.

I express to the students why it’s critical to have a relationship with God because He will never abandon you. I quickly discovered most of the kids aren’t exposed to regular prayer at home. They don’t know the basics like mysteries of the Rosary or Order of the Mass. Therefore, my co-teacher and I mix in our own personal stories and group discussions along with required lessons to bring them closer to the Catholic faith we hold dear.

Last week before Ash Wednesday, a vibrant college student from Cowboy Catholics spoke to our class. It had been a goal of mine to get a guest speaker closer to the students’ age to address their struggles and talk to them directly.

I sat there, in awe, listening to this student talk about how he was growing a Bible study at his fraternity … praying that these Confirmation candidates would be as grateful as I was to hear his wisdom. It wouldn’t have happened if I wouldn’t have heard – and listened – to God’s call.


OUR TURN

Lent is a perfect time to reflect on how we can try a new ministry.

As we begin this season of renewal and repentance, let’s think about ways to invite God into our lives more fully.

Here are what I liked to call the big 3:

  1. Prayer
  2. Fasting
  3. Almsgiving

Think about almsgiving. Pray about how we can serve others and try a new ministry this Lent.

The key here comes from Matthew 6:2-4: “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the street to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Now might be the time when God is calling. Will we take the hint?

So You Didn’t Get The Job. Take a Deep Breath and Let These Bible Verses Be Your Guide

I’ve got the anticipation of Christmas morning as a child.

Photo by Davis Sanchez from Pexels

My graduation from Florida is less than three months away.

Almost every day for the past 18 months I’ve treated this master’s program as a full-time job, working to finish it in five semesters. Now I’m applying for new careers in the marketing & communications field.

I’ve also volunteered this year in religious education and Christian formation. (More on that in an upcoming blog post).

If you’re graduating soon, I’m sure you can relate. You’ve got feelings of excitement, overwhelm, maybe a little of both. We’ll miss some parts of school, but mostly we can’t wait to show the world and the workforce the skills we’ve been training for.

Recently I interviewed for a job at a school, and they chose someone “with a lot more years of experience.” I was sad – (who wouldn’t be?) – because I’m more ready than I’ve ever been to make an impact and serve my community. But the thing is, even when we think we have the timing figured out, only God knows.

I came back to Earth a little bit, reset, and made a commitment that I encourage you to make if you’re in any kind of transition — maybe your own job search or a move to a new city (if it’s the South, we welcome you to be fans of the New Orleans Saints!)

Surrender to God’s plan.

Yes, I wanted that job. But something even better for me and God’s design for my life will be revealed in the right time.

SAVE THESE VERSES

1. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 Verses 12-13 are equally as hopeful, as the Lord writes to His people who were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: “When you call me, come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me.”

How inspiring to reflect on God as a loving, merciful father who will always be here when we ask. In prayer, at Mass, in the sacraments. No matter what, no matter when. In good times, in bad times.

2. “I pray that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones.” Ephesians 1:18 In my devotional journal called 100 Days of Believing Bigger by Marshawn Evans Daniels, she wrote something powerful on the entry I read today: “God neither consults your past nor your resume when He maps out your future. And he isn’t confined to your passions either.”

Wow. This perfectly fits the feedback I received when I asked the director what I could do differently for future job openings I apply to. She said volunteering – service – is a great way to grow, and that excited me.

Ironically, a guest speaker in my seminar class a few days later said the same thing – volunteering – when I asked for advice on breaking through when I might lack experience. I think that’s a sign. Most importantly, don’t give up. God will open the right door.


If you’ve followed me on social media in the past, you may be wondering what inspired this faith-based blog post – especially the day after the Super Bowl?! (Like the rest of Louisiana, I was rooting for the Bengals, but Aaron Donald & Co. were just too fierce).

Well, more on that to come … a lot more!

I’ll sprinkle in the occasional sports musing, but this blog will focus much more on faith posts as I start my next chapter … how we can see God in our lives and serve Him more than just at Sunday Mass.

Any specific areas you’d like to see covered, feel free to drop me an email or a DM!

5 Takeaways from a Wild NFL Week 18

For the first time since 2016, the New Orleans Saints won’t be in the postseason. It’s a tough way to end a season where the Saints always seemed to have their backs against the wall.

From Hurricane Ida, to COVID adversity, to too many injuries to count, not many people expected the Saints to be in the hunt until the end. But the Saints-Falcons season finale turned into an unexpected storyline of Week 18. If the Saints won and 49ers lost at the Rams, the fighters from the Big Easy would earn a trip to sunny L.A. for Super Wild Card Weekend.

Only half that puzzle came true.

The Saints’ season ended on a high note with a 30-20 victory over the Dirty Birds – their sixth win on the road this season. But when Matthew Stafford’s overtime interception landed in the waiting arms of 49ers rookie Ambry Thomas, New Orleans’ locker room had “a hollow feeling,” QB Trevor Siemian said.

Even more annoying was the Rams won the NFC West anyway despite the loss, thanks to the Arizona Cardinals’ continuing freefall at home, where they’re just 3-5.

It’s onto the offseason for New Orleans, reflecting on tremendous progress in year 1 without Drew Brees.

Fans won’t forget their heroic efforts on defense either, especially in the season sweep of Tampa Bay. But home losses to the Giants (4-13) and Falcons (7-10) are ones that got away. And don’t forget the 23-21 Titans loss back on Nov. 14. If the Saints made their extra points, that could’ve been a win too.

New Orleans Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (22) celebrates his interception against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
  1. The Raiders and Chargers didn’t tie! I only caught the fourth quarter of this insane game – after the 49ers won, I confess I poured myself a large glass of wine, had dinner with my husband, and forgot about football while I let lingering sadness pass that the Saints’ season was over.

    Looking at Twitter, I think I’m in the minority, but I’m so glad the Raiders didn’t tie the Chargers. From the Raiders’ perspective, isn’t it more satisfying to prevent your division rival from going to the postseason AND be a higher seed in the playoffs? Chargers coach Brandon Staley is getting a lot of heat for taking a timeout, but if the Chargers would’ve stuffed the Raiders on 3rd down and made the winning field goal longer than 47 yards, or maybe Daniel Carlson misses it, then we’re having a different conversation. Bill Barnwell breaks down the wild ending nicely – the Raiders had ZERO intention of settling for a tie on purpose, and I’m glad it didn’t end that way. (As I know Pittsburgh Steelers fans are, too!) Wasn’t it famed coach Herm Edwards who once said, “You play to win the game?!”

2. Colts squander golden opportunity – for second straight week. What’s happened in Indianapolis?? Jonathan Taylor was looking like an MVP candidate, and all the Colts had to do to punch their postseason ticket was beat 2-14 Jacksonville, after failing to beat the Raiders at home in Week 17. They were favored by 15.5 points – and the Jaguars wanted next year’s No. 1 overall pick. Cakewalk, right?

Wrong.

Talk about a clown show – the Colts lost at Jacksonville for the seventh straight time, fell to 0-7 when Taylor doesn’t reach 100 yards, and find themselves OUT of the playoffs. Oh, and the Jaguars clinched the No. 1 pick anyway when Detroit beat Green Bay Sunday. Ouch.

QB Carson Wentz was brought in to win big games, and he failed to deliver. The Jaguars sacked him six times and forced two turnovers, which they converted into 10 points. Big decisions to make in Indy, and plenty of blame to go around.

3. Black Monday off and running … Part of NFL Week 18 coming and going means Black Monday, when many NFL coaches and general managers are inevitably, or surprisingly, fired. One head-scratcher I woke up to today was Dolphins coach Brian Flores getting the boot.

It wouldn’t have seemed too difficult to imagine, say, midway through this season when Miami was 1-7. But the Dolphins closed the season winning eight of their final nine games and stayed in the playoff race until Week 17, swept the Patriots, and had winning seasons in two of Flores’ three seasons (including 10-6 in 2020 when they narrowly missed the playoffs).

Owner Stephen Ross made it clear he’s confident in QB Tua Tagovailoa, who finished 7th in the NFL in completion percentage this season while struggling to stay healthy. Ross harped on communication and collaboration in announcing the coaching change – remember the Dolphins were a team mentioned in Deshaun Watson rumors – so perhaps that influenced the decision. Either way, expect Flores to be a popular name in the hiring circles this offseason.

Who else has been fired? No real surprises – Broncos coach Vic Fangio, Bears coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. Meanwhile Giants coach Joe Judge is still employed (until Tuesday, when Judge was canned after just two seasons). ESPN’s Ryan Clark teed off on the Giants’ “despicable display of football.” As if I needed another reason to be angry about the Saints’ loss to them in October.

Anyway…

4. It’s playoff time. I’m all aboard the AFC train this postseason. I always like to see my fellow LSU Tigers Joe Burrow & Ja’Marr Chase do well … so I’m on the Bengals vs. the Raiders Saturday. I also like the No. 1-seed Titans, mostly because they’re playing the shadow of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, whom they waxed 27-3 in Week 7. How did defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons not get picked for the Pro Bowl? 8.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, and 39 quarterback pressures. If Simmons and the Titans have anything to say about it, they’ll have other plans that day.

Super Wild Card Weekend Schedule

Courtesy of NFL.com

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Christmas Comes Early with New Orleans Saints’ Sweep of Tom Brady, Bucs

New Orleans Saints fans will never forget last season’s 38-3 drubbing of Tampa Bay in their stadium on Sunday Night Football. Drew Brees and the defense helped the Saints make the ultimate statement on their way to winning the NFC South.

But that was then. The Saints couldn’t possibly sweep Tom Brady (in the regular season) two years in a row?

2021 is a different season, after all. Brees is retired, now sitting comfortably as an NBC studio analyst, the Bucs are on the verge of clinching the division, and the Saints are clinging to wild-card hopes with an injury-riddled roster.

Wait just a minute.

We should have known the second THIS happened pregame that we were in for a special night.

“I will not make the mistake that all of you are making right now. I’m taking the Saints,” Brees said with a smile in his pregame pick.

In Drew we trust. Or more accurately, in the Saints defense we trust.

DOMINATION FROM THE FIRST SNAP

The Bucs came into Sunday night averaging 31.5 points per game offensively, but when Marshon Lattimore almost intercepted Tom Brady’s first pass, we were off and running.

Tampa Bay didn’t reach the Saints’ red zone. Closest they got in 73 plays was the Saints’ 21. In fact, they ran just 3 plays all night inside the Saints’ 35-yard line. This was the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense & total offense — with their first opportunity to clinch the NFC South.

Did we mention Sean Payton was out with COVID-19? Yea, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen gave a pretty darn good head coaching audition. The Saints deliver some gritty performances when (almost) no one believes in them.

A SHUTOUT FOR THE AGES

This has been an up-and-down season for the Saints, and by extension the Who Dat Nation. We’ve had Hurricane Ida, a 38-3 throttling of Aaron Rodgers & Green Bay in Week 1, Jameis Winston’s season-ending ACL tear Oct. 31, a five-game losing streak, and now an ultra-satisfying sweep of Tampa Bay.

The Bucs couldn’t even find the scoreboard in Sunday night’s 9-0 loss. The closest they got was a missed field goal and a Brady fumble, recovered by Lattimore. The Saints sacked Brady four times, and CJ Gardner-Johnson had a late interception.

Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, Demario Davis, Gardner-Johnson, Lattimore, everyone came to play on a night when the Saints had to win to keep any realistic playoff hopes alive.

Seeing Brady frustrated and downright flummoxed all night was a thing of beauty. Brady hadn’t been shut out in 15 years.

I was so proud of the defense’s energy and emotion. The Saints needed it, because we can’t ignore the fact that their offense mustered only three field goals (a victory for their kicking woes, but no one likes to see 0-for-2 in the red zone or 3-for-16 on third downs).

Now we have to ask ourselves how the Saints can build on this improbable win.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Last time the Saints beat the Bucs when Jameis Winston went down, they went on to lose five in a row. There’s no time for that now. With three regular season games left, the formula is pretty simple for what the Saints have to do.

Keep winning.

Beat the Dolphins (Dec. 27) and Panthers (Jan. 2) at home & the Falcons on the road (Jan. 9), and the Saints will have a chance to slide into the postseason. But it’s just a chance. The Dolphins have won six straight games after starting 1-7, and predicting division games is always difficult.

Ironically, it might serve the Saints better if they had more away games to play because defense travels well. They’re just 1-4 in the Caesars Superdome this season (one “home” win came in Jacksonville against the Packers), and 5-3 on the road.

However, the playoff race is wide open — in both conferences. Only the Packers have locked up a spot, clinching the NFC North this past weekend. If the Saints win out, they’ll finish 10-7 and be firmly in contention for two wild card spots with teams like L.A. Rams (9-4, hosts Seahawks Tuesday), San Francisco (8-6), Minnesota (7-7), Washington (6-7, plays at Eagles Tuesday), Philadelphia (6-7, hosts Washington Tuesday) and Atlanta (6-8).

It wouldn’t be a New Orleans Saints season without making us a little nervous, would it?

But what a time for the Saints’ 15th shutout in franchise history — 6 days before Christmas and with the season on the line.

Whether the Saints make the playoffs or not, we’ll remember this win for a while.

Merry Christmas, Who Dat Nation!


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Fight Like Luke Siegel During Football Season (And Every Day)

Every time Drew Brees fired up the New Orleans Saints’ pregame huddle with his words and his inspiration, it was something special to see.

Wow! That 2019 season opener against the Texans, a heart-stopping Monday night victory, brings back memories.

While we won’t see Brees in those huddles or orchestrating 2-minute drills anymore, he recently gave a powerful speech at the funeral of 15-year-old Luke Siegel, that I wanted to highlight as we usher in the 2021 NFL season.

Luke was a young boy I had the privilege of meeting for just a minute through my computer screen after I interviewed his father, Tim Siegel, for my 10th podcast episode earlier this year. Brees was Luke’s hero and the Saints his favorite team – a bond he shared with his father that I also share with my own dad.

As Tim recalled on our podcast for Brain Injury Awareness Month in March, Luke suffered a devastating injury in 2015 when a modified golf cart landed on him and his brain was deprived of oxygen for more than 7 minutes.

In the interview Tim explained how Luke motivates him to never give up. You can see that determination through the foundation he started, Team Luke Hope for Minds, to provide financial help, emotional support and education to families of children impacted by brain injuries.

Photo from Tim Siegel

Luke died Aug. 19, but his legacy will live forever. And not just in New Orleans, where Tim was born. He coached tennis at Texas Tech, so Patrick Mahomes, the Red Raiders football team & Kansas City Chiefs,

The Red Raiders attended Luke’s funeral, and Kingsbury is donating $5,000 to Team Luke Hope for Minds for every Cardinals win this season.

and former coach Kliff Kingsbury (now with the Arizona Cardinals) are prominent Team Luke ambassadors, along with many tennis players worldwide.  The Red Raiders attended Luke’s funeral, and Kingsbury is donating $5,000 to Team Luke Hope for Minds for every Cardinals win this season. -

I still remember how seeing Luke after our interview impacted me. His room was filled with New Orleans Saints paraphernalia, and I felt an instant connection to him. Tim told Luke how he’d just talked to me about Drew Brees, and I saw Luke’s tongue move, exactly the motion Tim described when he or a therapist would ask Luke, “Can you do this for Drew?” or “for the Saints?”

His fight took my breath away. Since then, I’ve been inspired to hug my loved ones tighter and not take a single day for granted. When life gets overwhelming, I also remember these 5 inspirations from Luke that Tim shared on the podcast:

  1. Find your passion.

  2. Don’t ever quit.

  3. Lean on friends, family, coaches, siblings and counselors.

  4. Make good choices.

  5. Have faith.

And you know what?  If the Saints fight like Luke this season, they might shock the experts and string together some unexpected wins. - I’ll end with some of Drew Brees’ words at Luke’s funeral, where he called him the Saints’ good luck charm.  You can see the whole video on Tim Siegel’s Twitter account:

And you know what? If the Saints fight like Luke this season, they might shock the experts and string together some unexpected wins.

I’ll end with some of Drew Brees’ words at Luke’s funeral, where he called him the Saints’ good luck charm. You can see the whole video on Tim Siegel’s Twitter account:

“Your strength and courage and your fight motivated us more than you ever could imagine. To watch the extraordinary love of your family, your father Tim, and your community as they rallied around you was truly awe-inspiring. I’m a better person for having had a chance to know you. The best of you will live in all of us for the rest of our lives.”

I agree with Drew. I’m a better person for knowing people like Luke and Tim Siegel. I’ll carry Luke close to my heart this Saints football season. May he rest in peace, and may we all fight like Luke every single day.

NFL COVID-19 Vaccine Policies Should Aim to Unite, Not Divide

I’ll never forget being in the Superdome on September 25, 2006. About 13 months after Hurricane Katrina, never was I so happy to see a Saints game with my dad.

We sat together on the 50-yard line on the visitor’s side as the Saints dominated Atlanta 23-3, in awe of the power of sports to unite us. Not just the people in our row, or the 70,000 people in the Superdome that day, but everyone in New Orleans recovering from Katrina.

But what about now? More than a year after COVID-19 upended the world as we know it, the NFL is trying to divide locker rooms rather than unite. In the league’s latest effort to force players and personnel with even a slight question about the COVID-19 vaccines, the NFL is using every tool in its toolbox to blackmail them with lost wages and potential game forfeitures this season.

The NFL recently released a memo stating if any game has to be canceled “due to an outbreak of unvaccinated players,” that club will forfeit the game. Then on top of that, players on BOTH TEAMS will lose their weekly salary. So tell me, Roger, how exactly is that fair to those that choose to get vaccinated?

This terrifies me because the NFL is essentially creating fear and division in the locker room when it should be trying to unite in 2021 after the year Americans have had. We’re seeing the unvaccinated as “second-class citizens” plot line play out already on cruise ships – I saw this Bloomberg story a few weeks ago.

Hopefully we won’t see any COVID-19 outbreaks like the Ravens or Titans had in 2020 as teams report to training camp. But remember, even with all the postponements and games played on every day of the week last season, no games were ultimately canceled in the heart of the pandemic. Most importantly, all the players emerged healthy.

Now with three safe and effective vaccines widely available, NFL Network numbers report 14 teams have 85% of players vaccinated, and it’s likely that figure will grow. So maybe this nightmarish policy won’t even be a factor. Not only do I wish that for the teams, but also because press conferences shouldn’t be dominated by questions about COVID cases or vaccination rates.

However, I’m glad some players are speaking out about it, like Deandre Hopkins, who posted this on Twitter, before deleting it:


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Then he followed it up with these two, including a quote tweet of Gary Sheffield, Jr.:

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I’m not here to argue about being pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination. This is America after all, so everyone is free to state their opinions loud and clear and exercise their medical freedom. It’s about the NFL’s refusal to follow the science and care for the people it serves. Instead they make a blanket statement in July that they’re unwilling to add an extra week to the season, so cancellations = forfeits. That’s not just draconian, it’s unnecessary.

  • Look what everyone in America and the world has endured since March 2020 when the pandemic began, especially front-line healthcare workers. Flexibility has been the name of the game for the past 17 months, adjusting to masking, social distancing, business restrictions, you name it. I’ve tried to see sports as an escape from the grind of working and studying from home, and it’s disappointing how the NFL thinks it’s so high and mighty that it can’t give its players freedom to choose whether an experimental vaccine is best for them or not. After all, these are among the healthiest people in the country, and the vaccines aren’t fully FDA-approved yet. Players like Jalen Ramsey aren’t fans of the coercion:


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  • What about players and staff who may have recovered from COVID-19? Is the NFL considering natural immunity or conducting COVID-19 antibody tests? A Cleveland Clinic study published in June revealed that vaccines do not provide additional protection to those who have already been infected – “the strongest argument for restricting vaccine administration to those who have not had the infection.”

  • Say, God forbid, a team has an outbreak this season. How will the league determine if it originated from an unvaccinated or a vaccinated player if cases involve both unvaccinated and vaccinated people? Will the NFL just pick a narrative? (Saints fans, cue the conspiracies now…) Breakthrough infections can, and do happen. And you want to talk about unfairness and resentment? Making the team that didn’t even cause an outbreak lose its game check – where’s the logic there? I’m sorry, but that’s pure fear-mongering, and players like Seattle’s DJ Reed are succumbing to the NFL’s pressure despite being wary of “long-term effects.”

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We also just saw Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison almost lose his job, reportedly after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. New Orleans Saints fans can rest assured that shouldn’t be a threat to the Saints in 2021 – back in June Sean Payton said 100% of Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff were vaccinated.

Nonetheless, the NFL is wading into extremely dangerous waters here. This issue could divide locker rooms and lead to competitive disadvantages for athletes who simply choose to exercise their rights in a different way. If a roster battle comes down to two equally talented players, but one is vaccinated and one isn’t? I can see the media drooling….

The NFL has some of the toughest athletes you’ll ever find on the planet. They fight tooth and nail, now for 17 games a season, all for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. Some sadly suffer injuries that carry life-altering consequences – just ask Alex Smith, Ryan Shazier, or even Drew Brees, who reportedly played his final season with broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a torn rotator cuff and a torn fascia in his foot, his wife Brittany emotionally revealed on Instagram in January.

So what is the league trying to achieve here?

Legendary NFL QB Joe Theismann, who suffered a pretty gruesome leg injury in his day, just talked to Brian Kilmeade about all this (scroll down to the full interview and swipe to the 3:00 mark). When you start talking about forfeiting games and salaries, the penalty is no longer limited to just unvaccinated players. These players put themselves in real danger on the field week every week, and it’s time for the NFL to respect their freedoms once and for all – seeking unity over division.

I hope that happens, and I’ll be back in the Caesars Superdome supporting my Saints regardless. But I’m not holding my breath.

A Trip Down Memory Lane with Mike Hoss: Lessons from Jim Henderson, Mike’s Goals as the Voice of the Saints

 

It’s a New Orleans Saints tradition: Turn down the sound on your TV, pause your DVR and turn up the Saints radio network. Can you hear color analyst Deuce McAllister reciting the promotion between plays? Football season is almost here, and Deuce will have a new play-by-play announcer in the 2021 season – broadcasting icon Mike Hoss – since Zach Strief became the Saints’ assistant offensive line coach.

Hoss arrived in New Orleans in 1989 with no attachment to the city at all. But that changed during his 30+ years in local television – New Orleans is more than a workplace. He met and married his wife here, had children, and saw the Crescent City was different than his previous jobs in Charlottesville, Virginia, Lawton, Oklahoma, or Lubbock, Texas. Hoss moved up the ranks from #3 sports reporter at WWL-TV under former Voice of the Saints Jim Henderson, transitioned to the news side, and became an avid Saints fan and season ticket holder himself (Section 317, anyone?)

So Mike Hoss has worn many hats in the media era, from broadcaster to communications strategist and more. Tune in to Episode 28 of Black and Gold Rush, as host Rachel Jones takes Saints fans behind the scenes of his journey from aspiring pro golfer at James Madison University to being named the newest Voice of the Saints.

  • Mike Hoss grew up in Manassas, Virginia, and went to college on a golf scholarship (8:28)
  • No plan B until his junior year
  • Golf stories on his resume helped him get a job at WWL-TV in New Orleans, a “national powerhouse” (15:35)
  • Lessons from Jim Henderson: “He is a brilliant writer and orator” (22:42)
  • What sparked Mike’s deep connection to the Saints – this time as a fan (29:00)
  • “I became like a crazy person … beyond fanatic” (30:00)
  • What are the final stages of preparation like for his new role (32:39)
  • “Zach and Jim are polar opposites” (37:35)
  • Nerves for his first call? (44:13)
  • Random Round (48:55)

Plus, you might have heard the Saints now have the highest paid right tackle in the NFL! Ryan Ramczyk just signed a five year $96 million contract extension, including $60 million guaranteed.

When I think of Ryan Ramczyk, I think of Mr. Dependable and Mr. Reliable on the Saints offensive line. He’s part of the Saints’ banner 2017 draft class, only missing one game in four seasons. In 70 career games, Ramczyk has been on the field for every single snap 64 times. Now that’s dependable! In 2020, he gave up just two sacks and committed only five penalties.

CONNECT WITH US / LINKS MENTIONED:

Mike Hoss Twitter

Mike Hoss Facebook

Mike Hoss Instagram

Mike Hoss named play-by-play announcer for New Orleans Saints game day broadcasts on WWL

Rachel Jones Twitter

Rachel Jones Instagram

SUBSCRIBE, RATE AND REVIEW:

“Black and Gold Rush is awesome and authentic, and I can’t wait for more.”<— If that sounds like you, please rate and review the show! —> It’s easy – scroll to the bottom on Apple Podcasts, tap to rate out of 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then let me know what you loved most about the episode!

He Trains Saints’ Dogs and Helps Thousands Uncover Purpose Through Pain: Meet Saints Fan Joseph James

 

The Who Dat Nation is full of incredible people.

On a new episode of Black and Gold Rush, you’ll meet Joseph James, whose first client at his dog training business, Professional K9 Solutions, was someone New Orleans Saints know well – Zach Strief.

You’ll hear how Joseph became the “unofficial dog trainer of the New Orleans Saints” thanks largely to Zach Strief and Senio Kelemete.  A major theme throughout the episode is the power of relationships.  The Saints welcomed Joseph and his family, and when Joseph’s wife died of cancer in 2019, several players attended her funeral and others sent well-wishes, including Mrs. Gayle Benson.

But Joseph’s story doesn’t end in tragedy.  He and host Rachel Jones discuss how he’s coaching others to understand their purpose in life even if they’re experiencing crushing pain.  This is a wide-ranging episode that touches on grief, loss, love, relationships, and yes, also a lighthearted look at some of your favorite Saints dogs from Sean Payton to Drew Brees and much more.

CONNECT WITH US / LINKS MENTIONED:

Professional K9 Solutions

Joseph James Instagram

Purpose Through Pain Podcast

Episode 19 – Eroding vs. Growing with Michael James (on Apple Podcasts)

Rachel Jones Twitter

Rachel Jones Instagram

SUBSCRIBE, RATE AND REVIEW:

“Black and Gold Rush is awesome and authentic, and I can’t wait for more.”<— If that sounds like you, please rate and review the show! —> It’s easy – scroll to the bottom on Apple Podcasts, tap to rate out of 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Kawaan Baker the Touchdown Maker | Saints Draft Series Part 6

Kawaan Baker, an explosive WR from fledgling football program South Alabama, concludes our New Orleans Saints draft series.

Rachel Jones sits down with JT Crabtree, the voice of the Jaguars, on a new episode of Black and Gold Rush to discuss Baker (or “KB”) the person and the player whom the Saints chose in the seventh round, just three spots behind where they selected legendary WR Marques Colston 15 years ago.

Baker stole the show at South Alabama’s Pro Day with a 4.41 second 40-time and impressive vertical leap and broad jumps, and he became the first Jaguar ever drafted by the Saints in South Alabama’s 13-year football history.

Known as Kawaan Baker the Touchdown Maker, Rachel and JT explore the Atlanta native’s route to the final roster, his quiet demeanor off the field, and much more.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: New episodes of Black and Gold Rush return June 21, 2021!

TOP 3 TWEETABLE QUOTES:

  • (7:54) “He really opened some eyes late in the game, and I think that’s what got him the 255 spot with the Saints. I know he’s thrilled to have just an opportunity to show what he can do.”
  • (9:54) “I cannot think of a better spot for Kawaan to land, not just being local, but also I really think he fits into that Saints offense that uses so many different weapons and utilizes them in so many different ways.”
  • (11:21) “I don’t really remember him posting anything or saying anything pro-Falcons, so I think it’s a pretty easy change for him … you will never see him wearing black, white and red at the same time ever.”
  • (23:10) Random Round

CONNECT WITH US / LINKS MENTIONED:

JT Crabtree Twitter

Rachel Jones Twitter

Rachel Jones Instagram

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 1 – Payton Turner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 2 – Pete Werner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 3 – Paulson Adebo

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 4 – Ian Book

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 5 – Landon Young

SUBSCRIBE, RATE AND REVIEW:

“Black and Gold Rush is awesome and authentic, and I can’t wait for more.”<— If that sounds like you, please rate and review the show! —> It’s easy – scroll to the bottom on Apple Podcasts, tap to rate out of 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then let me know what you loved most about the episode!