METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, three people who played roles in the resurgence of the New Orleans Saints — and the city itself — after Hurricane Katrina, sat together at a small table Wednesday to mark the announcement of their entrance into the Saints Hall of Fame.
Bush and Colston are the player inductees for 2019. Blanco, who was instrumental in fast-tracking extensive Superdome renovations completed less than a year after the 2005 storm, is being honored with the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis Award for her off-field contributions to the club.
"When you come into the league as a seventh-round pick, something like this isn't really on your radar," Colston said. "You're kind of in survival mode, day in and day out, and the mindset is really you're hoping you did enough that day to keep your job.
"I'm just truly humbled to be on this stage and just humbled to be a part of this great Hall of Fame with so many other great players," he added.
Coach Sean Payton sat with the trio at Saints headquarters and introduced Bush and Colston. Saints owner Gayle Benson attended along with general manager Mickey Loomis, several members of the coaching staff and current and past players.
Payton said he thought it was fitting that Bush, the Saints' top pick in the coach's maiden season of 2006, and Colston, the Saints' last pick in that draft, are entering the hall together.
"That draft class became so necessary to achieve what we wanted," Payton said. "They were the pillars essentially to what we were going to build."
Both players were part of the Saints' only Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.
The induction ceremony is Oct. 25-27, when the Saints host Arizona.
Blanco, 78, attended the announcement despite struggling with cancer that was initially discovered in her eye in 2011 and recently was found in her liver.
"I do have a lot of challenges ahead of me, but I'm going to plan to be here in October," she said.
Bush was a college sensation at Southern Cal and was drafted amid enormous fanfare that helped sell out the rebuilt, 70,000-seat Superdome in 2006 — the club's first season back in the city after being displaced to San Antonio by Katrina for all of the 2005 regular season. He was always a big-play threat with a slew of long touchdowns on runs, passes or punt returns.
He piled up 4,982 all-purpose yards and scored 33 touchdowns in five seasons in New Orleans. He rushed for 2,090 yards and 17 touchdowns and caught 294 passes for 2,142 yards and 12 touchdowns. His five punt returns for scores included an 83 yarder against Arizona during the 2009-10 playoffs.
"That Super Bowl season was just an amazing run and an amazing time for the city," Bush said. "New Orleans is home away from home for me. ... I couldn't be happier to go into the Saints Hall of Fame with Colston."
Colston, who played 10 seasons, set club records with 711 career receptions, 9,759 yards receiving and 72 touchdowns.
Colston recalled that he was not "super excited," initially, to be drafted late by a 3-13 team. But seeing the state of his new home for the first time altered his perspective profoundly.
"Coming down here as a 22-year old — I'd never been to New Orleans — and just seeing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina ... you instantly feel like this is bigger than football," Colston said.
Blanco is the only woman to serve as Louisiana's governor, holding office from 2004 to 2008. She placed Superdome repairs among her top recovery priorities after Katrina, and took a lot of heat for it at the time from people who said that money should have been spent on residents' devastated homes. But Blanco said the Superdome was an economic engine that would spur recovery. She also contended that leaving it in ruin would have a demoralizing effect on residents struggling to rebuild.
In January, the lobby of the stadium was renamed in her honor.
"We could not have had the same type of recovery that we actually have experienced" without rebuilding the Superdome, said Blanco, recalling how the dome's damaged roof was a symbol of despair in the immediate aftermath of the storm. "The Saints created enthusiasm. The building did become a symbol of victory.
"This is a highlight of my life," Blanco added. "This is quite a memory marker for us, for me and my family. ... This is extraordinary and I'm just so proud to be with these guys."
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