Truth be told, Brandin Cooks didn’t want to be the latest Saints player to wear No. 10.
At Oregon State, the team’s first-round draft pick who makes his NFL debut Sunday at Atlanta was No. 7. But since the No Fun League doesn’t allow wide receivers to have single digits, he settled for the next closest thing.
But by doing so, Cooks has the chance to bring distinction to a number that hasn’t had much in team history.
There sure haven’t been any perfect 10s in Black & Gold. More like 1s and 2s.
There’s only been one other Saints player who wasn’t a quarterback or kicker to wear No. 10 — Higgins High and LSU product Skyler Green, who appeared in two games in 2008. Green’s statistical contribution was four kickoff returns.
Green’s only distinction is being the only “Skyler” in league history.
The best No. 10 Saint was punter Brian Hansen, who in 1984 as a rookie ninth-round draft pick out of Sioux Falls College made the Pro Bowl.
Hansen went on to have a 15-year career, but never made another Pro Bowl, and the Saints didn’t have another Pro Bowl punter until Thomas Morstead in 2012.
Among the other kicking No. 10s, there was Tommy Barnhardt, whose 515 career punts is the team record, original Saint Charlie Durkee, whose years with the team (1967-68 and 1971-72) bracketed Tom Dempsey’s two memorable seasons in New Orleans and Doug Brien, whose field goal was the difference in the 2000 victory against the St. Louis Rams that was the first for the Saints in the playoffs.
Less memorable is Tom Jurich, who missed all three of his field goal attempts (but did make two extra points) in his only NFL appearance, a 14-7 victory against San Francisco in 1978 and was cut the next day. Jurich, now the athletic director at Louisville, was one of two No. 10s for the Saints that year. Steve Mike-Meyer, followed Jurich in a season when the team had three kickers. That futility led to the ill-fated decision to draft Russell Erxleben in the first round in 1979.
Among the quarterbacks, there are two of Drew Brees’ backups, Jamie Martin (2006-07) and Chase Daniel (2009-12), the most recent No. 10 Saint before Cooks.
Also of note, there’s Bobby Douglass, best known as a backup to Archie Manning in 1976 and 1977.
Douglass, best known for rushing for 976 yards in 1972, a mark for quarterbacks that stood until 2006, when it was broken by Michael Vick, did beat Cooks for one distinction by a No. 10-wearing Saint — becoming the first to catch a pass, from himself no less.
In a 1976 game against San Francisco, a pass by Douglass was batted into the air by a 49ers lineman, and Douglass caught it for a 2-yard loss.
So, for Cooks, the bar for the being the Saints best-ever No. 10 is set pretty low.
“I didn’t know anything about all that,” Cooks said. “I believed in No. 7, but if I have to be No. 10, I’ll just roll with that.”
Starting with a big game against the Dirty Birds would be a great way to do just that.