FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Saints coach Sean Payton arrived at the convention center here at 8:30 this morning, shirt wrinkled, eyes bleary, hair mussed, beads around his neck, and the Vince Lombardi trophy in his hand. Payton looked like a man who’d had a long night but was feeling too good to feel bad.
Payton, quarterback Drew Brees, and Roger Goodell had come to share some final thoughts about last night’s 31-17 Saints victory over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and the Saints incredible season. The stories keep spilling out:
- About 151 million people watched the Super Bowl, which “was clearly more than a game,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I keep thinking about the word magical.”
- When Drew Brees woke up today, he rolled over and saw his wife. “Did yesterday really happen?” he asked. “Yes,” she replied. “It did.”
- Brees had 500 messages waiting this morning on his Blackberry. Some of them came from high school teammates, with whom he won a state championship at Westlake High in Austin, Texas.
- Joe Lombardi is the Saints quarterbacks coach – his grandfather is Vince, the coach for whom the trophy is named. Around midnight last night, Payton noticed Lombardi posing with his father, Vince Jr. and his two brothers. “I just thought to myself, ‘You got to be kidding me,’ ” Payton said.
- At halftime, Payton told the Saints they were going to kick onside to start the second half. He also told them that when they recovered, he had already scripted the first eight plays of the half, starting at the left hash on the 40-yard line.
- Payton instructed players to bring their sons to Sun Life Stadium during Saturday’s walkthrough. They started a touch football game while the Saints practiced.
- Joe Vitt is the Saints linebackers coach. He had been in NFL coaching 31 years and had never coached in the Super Bowl before last night. Brees recalled that in 2006, Vitt told them team, “At some point, we’re going to win a championship together. And when we do, we will walk together forever.” Brees then added: “As long as we live, and even beyond our lifetime, ours kids’ lifetime, our grandkids’ lifetime, this is something that will always be with us and be part of our legacy.”
- At 3 a.m., Payton rode an elevator to his hotel room clutching the Lombardi Trophy. He placed the trophy on his desk, said a prayer, and felt thankful for the moment. “They don’t come around too often,” he said.
- Payton slept beside the Lombardi Trophy. “Rolled over a couple times,” Payton said. “I probably drooled on it.”
- “I think what’s going to be fun is using the term ‘repeat’ all next year,” Brees said.
- At about 9:30, Payton hopped into a white SUV, still holding the trophy. He passed it out of the passenger’s side door to an equipment manager, who wrapped the trophy in a lime green cloth. The car rode away.