September 25, 2006 is a day that most New Orleanians will never forget. On that fateful Monday night, Saints fans piled into what was then the Louisiana Superdome for the first time in 20 months; for the first time since thousands sought refuge inside while Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city the year before.
Saints offensive lineman and Edna Karr alum Jason Weaver is one of those New Orleanians who will never forget that day. However, Weaver remembers it for far more than the Saints lopsided victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
For Weaver, it was a day that began with promise, but ended in tragedy. That was the day he received the news that his 21-year-old brother, Dunstan Weaver -- who, according to court records, was already facing charges of heroin possession with intent to distribute -- had been gunned down, reportedly caught in the middle of a drug deal on an embattled street corner in the 7th Ward.
'It was just a good day overall, but when I got the news it just saddened me,' he said. 'Being that was the first day the Saints came back in the Superdome, it's just kind of ironic things just happen like that.'
That day set Weaver on a path that took he and his family out of New Orleans. However, it was also a path that would lead him back, and now has him closer than ever to fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing for the Saints.
'It's like a dream come true that I'm having an opportunity to come out here every day to make this team,' he said. 'So I'm just trying to make the most of it.'
With the Saints' two starting offensive guards out with unspecified injuries, Weaver has done just that.
At 6-foot-5, 305-pounds, the big-bodied lineman was the Saints' workhorse in Friday's win over St. Louis, playing 51 snaps, the most by any Saints player, according to Pro Football Focus.
Still, Weaver said he's only just beginning to 'dig deep' and learning how to play guard. He was a tackle in high school, in junior college at Arizona Western and in college at Southern Mississippi. He feels like he's making the transition well, but ever the competitor, thinks he can always improve.
Tackle, he said, requires a much different skillset than guard.
'Things are happening faster and you know you got to be a lot more alert,' he said about playing tackle. 'You got to get your hands ready. ...You attack and you're kicking back and you're waiting on guys and you trying to see what they are going to setup to do.
'But at guard, you have to be the aggressor.'
Weaver's high school coach, Jabbar Juluke, now the running backs coach at Louisiana Tech, believes Weaver has the perfect disposition to play guard.
'Jason is a gentle giant and when you got a guy that big of that stature who's very quiet, he's not going to cause any issues and he's a guy you want to be a football player,' Juluke said. 'He's a gentleman off the field, and when he gets on the field he's a nasty football player.'
Weaver was without a doubt the aggressor against the Rams on Friday, throwing the key block that sprang Mark Ingram for a 22-yard touchdown run. Weaver also cleared a massive hole that allowed Khiry Robinson to hop into the end zone from the 1-yard line.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was measured with his critique of Weaver's performance, though, saying it was a 'solid.'
'I think he's made some progress,' he said. 'It wasn't perfect the other night but he's competing and wanting to make an impression. I think he moves his feet pretty well. He can sit on a bull rush, but he still has a ways to go.'
Weaver said it's already a 'blessing from God' to play for the Saints, but 'it would mean everything' to suit up against Atlanta in the season opener.
First, though, 'I'm just trying to come out here everyday and show these coaches what I can do,' he said. 'I think I got a good chance, but you never know around this point. I'm just trying to stay focused, just trying to work on my craft every day and give it everything I got.'