|Randall Gay, who also won the big game with the Patriots, collars the Colts’ Austin Collie in the second half of the Saints’ Super Bowl win. (J. Pat Carter/Associated Press)|
Gay rings up another
Former Patriot’s wisdom helps teammates prevail
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Leading up to the NFC Championship game, Saints cornerback Randall Gay thought about his team’s roster and realized something. Almost none of his teammates had played in the Super Bowl before. Among those who had, only he had played in the game and won.
On the day of the NFC title game, Gay wanted to make a point about the importance of the team’s task. He brought the ring he won in Super Bowl XXXIX to the locker room. He showed it off and told his teammates, “Look, in order to get one of these, we have to win this game today.’’
“Once they saw it, it was like everybody was amazed,’’ Gay said last week. “A lot of the guys really took it in, and said, ‘Hey, we are really close to getting one of these, we gotta win this game so we have the opportunity to win one.’ ’’
As they made their run to last night’s Super Bowl XLIV, Gay served as a steadying, experienced influence on the Saints. A Louisiana native, Gay played for the Patriots from 2004-07, after which he signed with New Orleans.
Last night, Gay helped the franchise he grew up cheering for win its first Super Bowl, 31-17, over the Indianapolis Colts.
Gay grew up in Baton Rouge cheering for Dalton Hilliard and Craig “Ironhead’’ Heyward. Last night, he got to do something they never did for the Saints.
“When I left New England, it was one of those things where I didn’t really want to leave,’’ Gay said. “There were two teams I wanted to play for, New England or the Saints, because I’m a low-key guy who doesn’t like much change. So I either wanted to go home or stay where I was.
“When I told people I was going to visit the Saints, people at home were like, ‘You know you’re leaving a great team to go to the Saints? You’re not going to the playoffs no more.’ I was like, ‘We’ll see.’ ’’
Gay showed them this season. Typically a nickel cornerback, he played in 14 games and started seven. He intercepted one pass, deflected four others, and made 32 tackles.
He also provided a veteran voice and lessons from his time with the Patriots.
Gay, who also played for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, told the Saints what he had learned about preparing for the ultimate game. Gay has ample championship experience, having also won a national title with Louisiana State his senior season. The Patriots signed him as an undrafted free agent, he made the team, and then won the Super Bowl.
“You get there your rookie year and you win a Super Bowl the year after you won a national championship,’’ Gay said. “You’re like, ‘Man, this football thing is easy. I’m gonna win all the time.’ Then we hit a little drought, then we make it there and lose, so it’s like, ‘Man, I don’t ever want this feeling again.’ That losing feeling was terrible, makes you sick to your stomach.’’
Gay noticed a difference in the mentality surrounding his new team and the Patriots. The Patriots had won two Super Bowls in a row after his first season, while the Saints had two playoff wins in their existence before this season. He could sense the expectations of each fan base.
“When I was in New England, they were used to winning,’’ Gay said. “It was a little more of a ‘spoiled’ type of thing. My last year there we got booed at halftime a couple times because we didn’t score enough points. In New Orleans, if we didn’t play well in the first half, it was more walking off the field getting cheered, because they were proud and we were still trying.’’
When he left New England, Gay wondered if he would continue playing for a winning organization. This season, he used his time with the Patriots to help show the Saints how to arrive at the Super Bowl, and they finished it off last night, with Gay contributing two tackles.
“I miss my guys [in New England],’’ he said. “But it seems like I made a good choice.’’
Adam Kilgore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org