Protector of the blind side

Protector of the blind side

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Class of 2012 enshrinee Willie Roaf was a highly touted tackle coming out of Louisiana Tech in the early 1990s. The New Orleans Saints desperately wanted him, so much so that they orchestrated a draft day deal that included parting ways with popular linebacker Pat Swilling.

In hindsight, the move turned out better than the Saints could possibly have imagined. New Orleans selected Roaf as the first offensive lineman taking in the 1993 NFL Draft. He made an immediate impact as he took every offensive snap at right tackle during a great rookie season. The following year, he was moved to the left side and anchored that spot through the 2001 season before he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

His level of play never tailed off. The 6’5”, 300-pound Roaf was a steadying force for both the Saints and the Chiefs during a 13-season career. He was named first-team All-Pro four times while with New Orleans and three times in four seasons in Kansas City. He helped lead the way for a long list of running backs and protected the blind side of several thankful quarterbacks.

Not surprisingly, some of the single greatest offensive performances in the Saints and Chiefs history occurred with Roaf firmly entrenched at left side of the front line.

Two specific quarterbacks stand out as players who should be among the most appreciative of having Willie as their left tackle. Late in the 2000 season, en route to the team’s first division title in nearly a decade, quarterback Aaron Brooks made team and league history. In a game on Dec. 3 against the Denver Broncos, Roaf gave his quarterback enough time to air it out to the tune of 441 yards. Brooks became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for 400 yards in a game.

The following week, Brooks took to the ground and gained 108 yards rushing against the San Francisco 49ers. In doing so, he became the first quarterback ever to record a 400-yard passing game and 100-yard rushing effort in the same season.

Roaf said goodbye to New Orleans when he was traded to the Chiefs in 2002. That was great news for Kansas City’s Trent Green. Willie stepped right in and helped the team post some of the finest offensive numbers in the franchise’s long and storied history. The Chiefs led the NFL in points scored in 2002 and 2003 and their yardage total was tops in the AFC in ’03 and the entire NFL in 2004 and 2005.

One particular game stands out as the type of firepower the Chiefs had during this span. With Roaf protecting his blind side, Green rallied Kansas City in amazing comeback on Oct. 12, 2003. The Chiefs trailed the Green Bay Packers by 17 points in the fourth quarter but came back and won the game in overtime. It was Green’s 51-yard strike to wide receiver Eddie Kennison in OT that gave the Chiefs the 40-34 victory.  Green threw for 400 yards and 3 TDs as he became just the third quarterback in team history to reach the 400-yard plateau.

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