Familiar sound: WWL radio announces Deuce McAllister will take over as Saints’ color analyst _lowres

Deuce McAllister has been named the color analyst for Saints radio.

Back in the days when Deuce McAllister was the engine running the Saints offense, Hokie Gajan used to turn to Bobby Hebert on every third down with the same suggestion.

Didn’t matter how many yards the Saints needed. Didn’t matter what kind of game McAllister was having. Gajan always wanted the same play called.

“Just give it to Deuce.”

McAllister now finds himself taking a handoff from Gajan in the Saints’ radio booth. WWL announced Wednesday that the New Orleans legend will permanently join Jim Henderson in the broadcast booth this season, replacing Gajan as the Saints’ color analyst. Gajan died in April after a battle with cancer.

“I always looked at him as a mentor, just because I saw a lot of myself in him,” McAllister said. “He was a tough guy. Regardless of how bad he felt, he wasn’t going to show you. It would be you seeing something isn’t right. ... He wasn’t going to complain, he was just going to do whatever he had to do.”

By hiring McAllister, WWL has replaced one dearly loved member of the Saints family with another running back whose name carries an immense amount of weight with Saints fans.

“There was probably no player in recent history who was any more popular than Deuce,” Henderson said. “I can still hear the echoes of ‘Deuce! Deuce! in the Superdome, and I’m sure once he’s shown on the big board as we begin our season together, they’ll wake up the echoes pretty quickly.”

McAllister filled in for Gajan late last season when his predecessor was forced to leave the booth as he battled his cancer.

Henderson instantly felt a comfort level in the booth with McAllister, the same kind of comfort level the voice of the Saints remembers feeling almost immediately when he began working with his previous partners: Archie Manning, Stan Brock and Gajan.

He was also immediately impressed by McAllister’s depth of knowledge. Gajan was known for his ability to turn phrases that became iconic among Saints fans; McAllister possesses a wide-ranging knowledge of the game and an ability to communicate it effectively.

“I’d never spent too much time with Deuce away from the field until we did the game down in Tampa,” Henderson said. “In the course of traveling with him and hearing him talk to (sports director and sideline reporter) Kristian (Garic) and Robert Carroll, our engineer, the interplay with myself, one of the things that really struck me was how much he’s up on the current game. ... He’s got a great depth of knowledge that I probably didn’t give him enough credit for.”

McAllister plans to use that knowledge to help Saints fans understand what they’re seeing on Sundays.

“I’ll just be myself, and call it, really, how I see it,” McAllister said. “That’s the best way I know to go out and describe it.”

Unlike a lot of former NFL stars, McAllister never saw himself as a broadcaster during his playing days.

Or even after he retired in 2010. An obvious candidate for the role because of his popularity and charisma, McAllister kept any opportunities at an arm’s length for a long time.

“I probably have fought it, more so than anything,” McAllister said. “It would have had to be the right situation, the right fit, where I felt comfortable working with the right group of people and working with the right organization. It makes sense with WWL.”

McAllister embraces the role now. In addition to his duties as a color analyst, McAllister will be at minicamps and training camp, making appearances on SportsTalk with Hebert and Deke Bellavia as the Saints get ready for the upcoming season.

Gajan leaves a large legacy with Saints fans after 15 years in the booth. Now, McAllister is picking up his headset for good.

“It’s a tall task, but for me, I just want to be able to deliver the story, what I see,” McAllister said. “To be able to tell the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly.”