METAIRIE – Reggie Bush and Marques Colston both joined the New Orleans Saints as part of the 2006 draft class.

Both were key contributors to the team’s Super Bowl championship after the 2009 season as part of their careers as two of the most productive offensive players in franchise history.

And both were introduced Wednesday as the newest members of the Saints Hall of Fame and will be inducted in October.

But despite all that they have in common, they have nearly opposite personalities and took nearly opposite roads to their places in Saints history.

“It’s ironic,” coach Sean Payton said, “to have the first pick and the last pick of the 2006 draft. They arrived in a little bit different ways.”

Not only was Bush the second overall pick in the draft, he was a Heisman Trophy-winning running back from USC, a celebrity Payton likened to “Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson” on Wednesday.

Colston was a quiet, unassuming receiver from little-known Hofstra University, someone whose rookie mini-camp performance left the head coach wondering if even the late seventh-round draft pick had been wasted.

But they were bookends in one of the most prolific drafts in franchise history.

Payton was the Saints rookie head coach after accepting the job shortly after the franchise returned in early 2006 after being displaced for the 2005 season because of damage from Hurricane Katrina.

On the eve of the draft, Payton and other front office officials briefed owner Tom Benson on a handful of candidates for New Orleans to select with the second pick in the first round.

They didn’t mention Bush because they assumed the Houston Texans would use the No. 1 pick to select one of the most celebrated college players in recent memory. 

When word leaked that Houston would instead select N.C. State defensive lineman Mario Williams, Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis were ready to pounce on Bush.

“We weren’t trading the pick,” Payton said. “When we picked him, on a Richter scale of 10, the reaction was a 9.9.”

Payton said he broke nearly every rule about draft choices that his former boss, Bill Parcells, taught him when he rolled out the red carpet for Bush, who said he realized part of his job “was to help restore hope” to the area after he toured some of the areas hardest hit by Katrina.

It was a day and a half and 250 picks after Bush’s selection when New Orleans used a compensatory pick to grab Colston, who said he too could sense “instantly that this was bigger than football.”

Colston said he went about his everyday business “in survival mode” because of where he was drafted. But the Saints emphasized to him that it didn’t matter how he arrived, that everyone had an equal chance of making the team.

Bush played with the Saints from 2006-10, accumulating 4,982 all-purpose yards and scoring 33 touchdowns.

In a 2009 Divisional Playoff victory against Arizona that launched New Orleans’ Super Bowl run, Bush returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown.

“There will always be a spot in my heart for the city of New Orleans,” Bush said.

After Colston’s dismal rookie mini-camp performance, he looked like a different player once training camp began just a couple of months later.

“Each day,” Payton said, “he kept making pars and birdies.”

Colston, who celebrated his 36th birthday Wednesday, earned a starting position as a rookie and went on to play 10 seasons while becoming the Saints’ all-time leading receiver — 711 receptions, 9,759 yards and 72 touchdowns.

The Hall of Fame also presented the Joe Gemelli Fleur-de-Lis award to New Iberia native and former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. 

The award, which goes to those other than primary front office and football operations members that have made significant contributions to the organization, would normally be presented during the induction ceremony, which is scheduled for Oct. 25.

But the presentation was moved up as Blanco, 78, battles inoperable melanoma.


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