Quarterback Aaron Brooks and kicker John Carney played five seasons together with the New Orleans Saints.
Now they forever will be linked as members of the Saints Hall of Fame.
Al Nastasi and Tony Piazza have worked on the Saints’ sideline chain crew together since 1970. They, too, will remain a pair — as 2014 recipients of the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis Award for outstanding service to the organization.
Brooks, who came to the Saints in 2000, and Carney played together from 2001-05.
“When I played with the Saints, we were always introduced together (at functions),” Carney said during the 26th annual induction luncheon Friday. “He was No. 2 and I was No. 3, and (alphabetically) he’s Brooks and I’m Carney. So here we are together again.”
Brooks, a sometimes-maligned signal-caller with the Saints, took over the starting job nine games into the 2000 season when starter Jeff Blake was sidelined for the rest of the season with a foot injury. Brooks then led the team to its first playoff victory in franchise history, a memorable 31-28 win against the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams in the Superdome.
Brooks, who had been obtained in an offseason trade with the Green Bay Packers, remembers being frightened at becoming an NFL starting quarterback for the first time.
“I felt like I wasn’t prepared to start an NFL football game,” he said. “My first pass was an interception. But I followed it with my second pass as a touchdown.”
That was the first time the Saints beat the Rams that season, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to get a win in his first start against the defending Super Bowl champions.
Five seasons later, he ended his stay with New Orleans with 120 touchdown passes, which is second in franchise history, and 19,156 yards, which ranks third. In 2003, he completed a career-high 59.1 percent of his passes and had an interception rate of 1.5 percent, a league low.
Brooks said his experience at times was “absolutely scary” for someone who came to the Saints as a 22-year-old trying to gain experience.
“It was because of the expectations that’s put on you,” he said. “The people you looked up to were now looking up to you. But being on the field made me feel at ease … within myself and with my teammates. And what I did wasn’t for me; it was for my teammates … and to change the mindset and the history of New Orleans Saints football.”
Carney ended his 23-year career as one of three players to play in four decades and one of seven to score 2,000 points. He made a franchise-record 82.8 percent of his field-goal attempts with the Saints, and his 168 field goals, 203 attempts and 768 points are second to Morten Andersen’s team marks. He had two stints with the team — 2001-06 and 2009-10.
His first experience with the Saints had its lighter moments.
“I arrived two weeks into training camp at a moist, steamy practice field in Thibodaux,” he said. “They pulled an alligator off the field before one practice. Another time, they used a swamp boat to dry the field after a rain. I called my friends in San Diego and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’ ”
Nastasi, who like Piazza was a local high school coach after having played college ball in Louisiana, said he still remembers being on the sideline of the Detroit Lions and seeing their coaches snickering before Tom Dempsey attempted a record 63-yard field goal in 1970.
“When he made it,” Nastasi said, “their faces were of disbelief.”