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franklin county times

Saints send four to Hawaii

By By Richard Dark/EMG staff writer
December 21, 2002
NEW ORLEANS It wasn't a surprise that the New Orleans Saints landed wide receiver Joe Horn, running back Deuce McAllister and stellar special teams returner Michael Lewis to the 2002 Pro Bowl roster, which was announced Thursday.
What was a surprise, however, was the fourth honoree, Philadelphia's Fred McAfee.
McAfee, 34, in his 12th season was finally selected after a myriad of brilliant seasons playing special teams, which yielded him five alternate selections, but never translated to being in Honolulu as a game participant. That is, until this year.
Saints coach Jim Haslett, who was also with McAfee during their stint in Pittsburgh, made the announcement Thursday morning in a team meeting, but at first, in a kidding gesture, left Fast Freddy as he is known affectionately by his teammates, out of the mix.
After announcing Horn, McAllister and Lewis names and getting the customary locker room ovation between names from the rest of the team, Haslett then proceeded to spin off into what the team schedule would be for that day, before pausing and quickly adding, "Oh, and uh, Fast Freddy." The good natured teasing-type notification took McAfee by surprise.
He's been dancing for quite a while as a career special teams demon and after many snubs in years when he thought he should have gone, the wait is over. "I feel like Susan Lucci," said McAfee, in a reference to the All My Children' actress who has been nominated for an Emmy Award 21 times and won just once, which sent the room into an uproar of laughter. "There was a lot of years that I just knew I was going to go to the Pro Bowl and nothing, nothing," he added. "I remember one year in Pittsburgh I had 20-something tackles, a couple big returns, fake punts, reverses nothing. Im thrilled." He has collected 11 special teams tackles and one blocked punt in 2002.
It is the first selection for everyone except Horn. For the outspoken and talented wideout out of Itawamba, it will mark his third straight Pro Bowl. But his intense fear of flying, coupled with mechanical problems with the plane, kept him home last year. He did make the trip in 2000, but wasn't absolutely certain he would do so again this year.
McAllister leads the team in rushing with 282 carries for 1,245 yards and ranks first among all NFC rushers, the type of numbers that almost always get rewarded to the annual football luau.
From Heineken to Hawaii
It's not known whether Lewis delivered that brand of brew back during his driving days, but Lewis did know his hard work would come to fruition. "I made it a goal," Lewis said of the Pro Bowl. "I had it in my mind that I'm going to work hard and try and make it. I wanted to be on top of the NFC and NFL in punt returns and kickoff returns."
He, along with McAllister finished first in fan balloting. Lewis is second in the conference in punt returns (12.7 yards per return) and is fourth in kickoff returns (26.0). He is the only NFC player with two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, and also has returned a punt for a touchdown. Lewis is only 54 yards away from surpassing the NFL's single season record for combined punt and kickoff return yardage, a mark certain to fall against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Riley misses out
Saints secondary coach Mike Riley, may have overplayed his hand. Just last week, he was in the catbird seat for job openings with Alabama and UCLA. After he turned down the Tide because he said he needed more time to look at UCLA, he wound up missing out on that opportunity, as the Pac 10 school filled its vacancy Wednesday night with Denver Broncos wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell.
Snow, schmoe
Earlier this week, Haslett brushed off any notion that the elements will be a factor in this week's game at Paul Brown Stadium. With preliminary forecasts of 33 degrees and snow, the Saints, a dome team, will face conditions they haven't seen in quite a while.
But the coach said no one is giving it a second thought. "We don't talk much about the elements. We went up to Baltimore two weeks ago and it was cold, but I dont remember one person even discussing it. I'm sure we will go up there and it will be cold. The field won't be very good. But we'll deal with it."
Holiday helping hands
Tuesday, on the team's regular off day, many of the Saints were out and about in the metro area, lending their time and effort to make sure the community has a memorable holiday season.
McAllister and Horn did their part by volunteering to take approximately 40 underprivileged children to an area Wal-Mart, to buy them Christmas gifts.

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