He stopped in front of Will Smith’s casket, pulled his trumpet to his lips and brought the room to silence with the first few notes of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
When he had finished, Frank V. Moran segued into “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” packed up his instrument and walked quietly past Smith’s widow, Racquel, and Smith’s three children, who all wore their late father’s No. 91 Saints jersey.
“They are all going to need God through this tragedy, and a closer walk with him will make everything better,” Moran said of his tribute to Smith, who was honored with a public visitation at Saints headquarters on Friday, six days after he was killed in the Lower Garden District.
“I just hope this team and this community rally around this family … spiritually, for all he gave this city and the game of football.”
For the next several hours, some of the Saints’ most recognizable personalities, family members, friends and fans paid their respects to the fallen player.
Inside of the Saints’ cavernous training facility, on the artificial turf where the team holds most practices, Smith’s casket sat flanked by huge screens flashing highlights from his career as a defensive lineman and his time as a community philanthropist.
The Super Bowl trophy that he helped the team earn sat nearby. Floral arrangements sent by other NFL teams were arranged along the edge of the room. Easels displayed photos of Smith in his Saints uniform or with his wife and children.
Racquel, shot in both legs during the incident that took Smith’s life, attended in a wheelchair, joined by his two sons, William and Wynter, and daughter Lisa.
Also there were team owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle, Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, and a host of current and former players, including Jonathan Vilma, Steve Gleason, Marques Colston, Deuce McAllister and Jahri Evans.
Pierre Thomas, the former Saints running back who described witnessing the shooting on social media, was in tears.
Retired New Orleans Police Department Capt. Billy Ceravolo, who had been out to dinner with Thomas and Smith the night of the shooting, attended as well.
Subpoenas have been filed for both men to testify at a preliminary court hearing scheduled for April 28 in the case of Smith’s accused killer.
Floral arrangements for Smith came from the Miami Dolphins, the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys, Mississippi State University, and former pro football receiver Santana Moss.
People from across the country signed a virtual guest book, which flashed their messages: “You will be missed and forever remembered. Rest in peace, Will.”
Smith’s triumphs on the field lit up two enormous screens: the time he intercepted a pass from Kurt Warner in a 2009 divisional playoff game on the way to the Super Bowl; punishing sacks on Matt Ryan, of the Falcons, and Tom Brady, of the Patriots.
Numerous photographs captured Smith hugging Racquel and his children and speaking at events hosted by his “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way” foundation, dedicated to aiding needy children.
There were lockers set up with the playing gear he wore at Proctor High School in Utica, New York, where he was an All-American; Ohio State University, where he won a national championship; and the Saints, to whom he belonged for 10 seasons beginning in 2004.
Smith’s name was the sole one illuminated on a banner listing all of the members of the Super Bowl team.
For many, it was an impossible display to take in without sobbing, even for fans who had never met Smith but had rooted for him from afar.
An emotional Gleason, paralyzed by ALS, had tears wiped away by his wife Michel.
Ahmed and Tami Salem, two fans from Slidell, arrived at Smith’s visitation shortly after attending a similar event for Hokie Gajan, the ex-Saint and radio sports broadcaster who died of cancer Monday.
“To lose them two days apart … was very hard,” Ahmed Salem said. Tami Salem added, “I never thought … they wouldn’t be here. It’s unbelievable.”
Jennifer and Virginia Delatte, of New Orleans, said it was the violence involved in Smith’s death that made it particularly difficult to bear.
“It’s unbelievable that somebody would shoot a Saints player — they’re sacred territory here, the heroes of our city,” Virginia Delatte said.
Jennifer Delatte added, “It makes you feel like no one’s safe from the crime here.”