Top 10 Best free agents signed by the Saints:
10. Quinn Early
9. Wesley Walls
#8 – Jerry Fontenot
In 1997, the Saints introduced Mike Ditka as head coach and brought in former Saints offensive line coach (and interim head coach in 1980) Dick Stanfel.
Stanfel served as o-line coach under Dick Nolan, when Nolan was head coach of the 49ers. After Nolan was fired from San Francisco, he joined Hank Stram’s staff, and stayed on with his old friend Nolan through the rest of the decade.
After the 1980 season, Stanfel joined the Bears staff, and there he met Ditka. He stayed with Ditka until the 1992 season, when he retired from football.
Therefore, when Ditka got back into coaching, he wanted to put the band back together again, and brought back Stanfel to once again, coach the Saints offensive line. Stanfel’s charge: rebuild this line into a power football running based attack, so the best way to do that is to replace the pass blocking center Jeff Uhlenhake for the tough, hard-nosed blue collar center from Lafayette, Louisiana by way of the Chicago Bears, Jerry Fontenot.
The Lafayette High graduate was a road grader at Texas A&M. The Bears selected Jerry Fontenot in the 3rd round of the 1989 draft, so he had played under Ditka, and Ditka knew what they were getting with Jerry.
Stanfel and Ditka built a power offensive line, however, neither would there to see their work come to fruition. Ditka would be fired after the 1999 season. Stanfel returned to retirement life, and passed away in 2015. In 2016, he was elected to the pro football hall of fame for his playing career with the Lions in the 1950s.
With an offensive like with 3 first rounders (Roaf, Turley and Chris Naeole), and free agent pick up Wally Williams, Fontenot was the anchor. In 2000, this line would be the core that would help this team win its second division title and get to the playoffs for the first time in 8 years.
In his career, Fontenot blocked for three 1,000 yard backs: Neal Anderson of the Bears, Ricky Williams and Deuce McAllister of the Saints.
Fontenot was also a leader both in the locker room and on the field, and nowhere was that more evident than on a Sunday night against the New York Jets in the 2001 season. In a game that became known for Kyle Turley’s throw of a New York Jets player’s helmet, it was Fontenot who quickly got Turley out of there and to the sidelines.
In 2002, the Saints drafted LeCharles Bentley out of Ohio State as the eventual replacement for Fontenot. In 2004, Bentley was moved to center, while Fontenot played his final season with the Bengals.
When Mike McCarthy was named head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 2006, Fontenot joined his staff as an assistant. He won a super bowl with the Packers following the 2010 season.