NEW ORLEANS — Some say you either get New Orleans or you don’t.
Monday, three days before checking in for his fifth training camp with the Saints, Jabari Greer showed he unequivocally gets the Crescent City.
Greer, New Orleans’ starting left cornerback since 2009, spent time co-hosting Jazz from the French Market with Sondra Bibb on WWOZ, a three-hour show dedicated to America’s original form of music.
And if you think he wasn’t nervous, think again.
“Now that it’s about to happen, I feel like I’m about to walk out to the Super Bowl,” Greer said minutes before hitting the air.
As the show was ending, his gratitude and comfort were easily detectible.
“This opportunity has been everything I hoped it would be,” Greer said. “We played the music, talked about the state of the industry and had a blast. I thank WWOZ for this opportunity. Next time, I’m moving to mixing on the board.”
Greer said music was a part of his childhood growing up in small-town Tennessee, with music “symbolizing a mood. Like you knew when it was time to clean up.”
The NFL player has an expansive taste, ranging from jazz to hip hop to rhythm and blues to top 40 and on.
But jazz is his passion. There may be no other player in a better city than Greer matching with New Orleans. Subsequent years since he signed in free agency in 2009 only solidified him becoming a full-fledged New Orleanian.
Music, you see, was the great-tasting elixir that sealed it.
“I remember the first night that I signed, I went to Frenchman Street,” Greer recalled. “It was a Wednesday. Fans were in the street. The energy was incredible and I looked at my friend and I just couldn’t believe this is a Wednesday. In Buffalo, this is something I had to search weeks ahead of time to understand what the jazz scene was.
“Now that I’m in New Orleans, I didn’t realize exactly what I had become a part of until that moment. Ever since then, I’ve fallen more and more in love with the music of the city and more in love with the city itself.”
Still, it took nearly five years for Greer to find his way onto the most New Orleans of radio stations. It was an idea born in the head of friend L. Kasimu Harris, a New Orleans native who met Greer on a plane after he signed with the Saints when he gave up his seat for his the player’s wife.
“I thought it was a low-risk, high-reward type deal,” Harris said. “I thought the station would be receptive for it. I knew that it was something that (Greer) had a passion and love for so it wouldn’t be a reach for him to do it. It wouldn’t be much trouble. I told him the idea and he loved it.”
Harris met Dwayne Breashears at an art opening earlier in the summer and broached the topic with WWOZ’s program director. He was on board and the ball was rolling.
Breashears, who has been with the station for 15 years, said Greer is the first professional athlete, at least during his time, to participate in an on-air gig.
But one thing had to happen first before it was fully approved – Greer’s set list had to be vetted.
“I didn’t have any real expectations,” Greer said. “I try to keep a blank slate. That’s kind of the way OZ is. Let people tell me what they want to do and if I need to push it and guide it along, I will. But for the most part they have a really good idea and it works. With Jabari, it worked.”
Bibb, Greer’s co-pilot for the afternoon, agreed, especially after she found out he liked Bill Evans, a jazz pianist who died in 1980.
“For someone to really dig into Bill Evans really put me on point that he’d know a little bit more about jazz than I expected,” Bibb said.
And she was more than happy to share the three-hour show.
“It’s really different,” Bibb said. “It’s very exciting to have a professional athlete, a New Orleans Saint who is a New Orleanian really having such an interest in jazz, which is really refreshing. It’s really exciting to have him here with us.”
On the other hand, Greer was more than happy to be involved with Bibb and the show. He holds WWOZ in high regard.
“A lot of the DJs and people who work here are highly educated on the music,” Greer said. “To be true and transparent, it’s kind of intimidating being out here. Because no matter what I think I know, I realize that there are people who are highly educated on this subject.”
Thursday, however, it’s back to football as the Saints’ veterans report to training camp. Friday begins the march to the Saints’ Sept. 8 home opener against Atlanta.
Monday’s gig was his last hurrah before then.
“I’ve been training non-stop for a couple of months now,” Greer said. “This is definitely a way to invest myself in something else besides the game. Even though I understand that the cycle is about to being in a couple of days, this is a great way to put my soul out there before we get started.”