The Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee announced Saturday that New Orleans Saints offensive tackle William Roaf will be enshrined as part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012, along with defensive end Chris Doleman, cornerback Jack Butler, running back Curtis Martin, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, and center Dermontti Dawson. The class will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012.
“Willie Roaf had an outstanding career and definitely belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” said former Saints’ head coach Jim Mora, in a released statement. “He possessed exceptional physical talent and a great work ethic. He was blessed with high quality character and a team oriented attitude.
“He was a team leader, always positive, upbeat, and a fun guy to coach and have on the team,” he added. “Without question Willie was one of my best and favorite players ever.”
Roaf was elected to 11 Pro Bowls during his 13-year NFL career, tying Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz (Class of 1998) and former Baltimore Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden for the selections by an offensive tackle. As a member of the Saints from 1993-2001, Roaf was named to seven Pro Bowls (1994-2000), as he started each time. No Saint has been selected to the Pro Bowl as many times as Roaf.
“Willie deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” said former Saints’ guard/tackle and teammate Jim Dombrowski, via press release. “He played at an extremely high level for a long period of time. That’s hard to do at any position, but there are certain positions where it’s harder. Left tackle is one of those spots on the field where it’s really hard to excel for a long period of time. Willie was able to do that.”
Roaf received Associated Press first team All-Pro recognition four times during his NFL career, twice as a Saint in 1994 and 1995. In recognition of him being one of the most dominant players during his era, Roaf was named to the 1990s and 2000s All-Decade Teams, as selected by members of the Hall of Fame selection committee.
“We’re glad to congratulate William Roaf in his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” said Saints’ owner Tom Benson. “He meant a great deal to our team during his career with us. He was the best player on our team during his entire tenure with us, one of the top players in the history of our franchise and one of the NFL’s greatest at his position.”
Roaf entered the NFL out of Louisiana Tech as a first-round draft pick, eighth overall, in 1993. He immediately entered the starting lineup at right tackle. In 1994, Roaf – better known as “nasty” – moved to left tackle where he would play for the remainder of his career, earning his first of seven consecutive Pro Bowl starting berths as a Saint.
“Willie had both the natural gifts and the character of a Hall of Fame player,” said former Saints college scout, Hokie Gajan. “You sit there and watch him and see him come off the ball, pass protect and run block. He was a pretty easy evaluation both on and off the field. A lot of people will question taking an offensive lineman in the first ten picks of a draft. When you have a guy with the character and talent of William Roaf you can do that.”
In 1995, Roaf became the first Saints’ offensive lineman to be voted to the All-Star game more than once as the line gave up only 28 takedowns. In 1996, he anchored a line that gave up only 22 sacks, tied for third-fewest in the league. In 2000, Roaf was a member of a Saints squad that won the first playoff game in franchise history and was ranked tenth in the NFL in yards per game and points per game. He was a key to a resurgent rushing offense that ranked eighth in the league and featured the club’s first 1,000-yard runner since 1989.
Roaf would start 131 regular season games and two playoff contests in his career as a Saint. After spending the final four seasons of his career in Kansas City, he retired having started 189 regular season games and three postseason games.
“When Willie got here, the thing that is the most unique is that he came to us from Pine Bluff as a 220 pound kid that was a raw athlete,” said Louisiana Tech offensive line coach Petey Perot. “We weren’t sure where he would play on the line or at d end. We kept him on the line. He worked, was persistent, continued to do the things that great players have aspirations do and grew to a 315-pounder and an unbelievable player Congratulations to Willie for that road ending in Canton.”