My vote for the next Nobel Peace Prize award goes to the Lombardi Trophy.
Wide receiver Joe Horn, one of the most popular and productive athletes to play for the New Orleans Saints but whose stormy relationship with head coach Sean Payton contributed to his departure from the team, got his wish to end his professional career with the Black and Gold when the Saints signed him to a contract on Friday.
Though New Orleans was neither Horn’s first team (that was Kansas City)…nor his last as an active player, the talkative and talented wide out had his best years on the gridiron here, including four trips to the Pro Bowl.
Horn was a building block in the immediate post-Ditka era, contributing to the team’s remarkable rebound in 2000. And Horn was still around for the beginning of the Payton era, albeit not for long.
Horn’s first five seasons with the Saints were outstanding, though injury kept him out of all four playoff games the team competed in while he was on the roster. Being held out of the NFC Championship game by Payton was a sore spot that Horn did not take in stride.
After being released by the Saints, Horn signed with the Atlanta Falcons though he saw relatively limited action in the one regular season with the Dirty Birds.
Recently, number 87 was elected into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame, something that was more of a matter of when not if, as Horn either holds or trails Eric Martin for most of the club’s receiving records.
At the time the accolade was announced, Horn shared with the media that he and Payton had patched things up and no animosity remained between them.
One has to wonder how much the team’s successful 2009 season and a Super Bowl win contributed towards improved relations, as the head coach is certainly enjoying an all-time personal and professional high. It’s easy to look beyond past transgressions and bitter words when staring at your reflection in the Lombardi Trophy.
When considering how Horn left the team, the move was magnanimous and reflects well upon the ownership, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Payton.
Horn isn’t the only former Saint to receive love from the organization.
During the NFC Championship game, team owner Tom Benson hosted in his suite the man from whom he bought the franchise, John Mecom, Jr. That Mecom, who never had a winning season as team owner, is battling cancer shows both class and compassion.
If adversity builds character, then it could be said that success breeds charity.