Trying to contact Jake Delhomme on Tuesday didn’t happen as smoothly as usual.
In fact, it took five attempts to actually talk to him. His cellphone, it seems, wasn’t working properly.
It was no big deal. I just chalked it up to overuse since the weekend.
One can only imagine how many texts and phone calls the former Teurlings Catholic and UL quarterback has received since early Saturday evening.
For one, Delhomme attended the wackiest Kentucky Derby finish ever. As a horseman, he obviously had many friends and associates in the industry eager to discuss the controversial reversal of Country House over Maximum Security.
Then on Monday, the news broke that Delhomme will be part of a four-player Carolina Panthers’ Hall of Honor induction ceremony in October, forever joining a small list of the most impactful players in the franchise’s history.
“Yes, it’s been crazy,” Delhomme said.
While his fans learned about his high honor Monday, Delhomme was informed via a surprise FaceTime phone visit with new Panthers owner David Tepper on March 30.
In fact, the personal announcements may soon be available online. At the time, Delhomme was spraying poison on a fence, his top target Steve Smith was in a grocery store, offensive lineman Jordan Gross was planting tomatoes on his farm in Idaho, and tight end Wesley Walls was visiting his mother in the hospital.
“For me and my family, it’s an incredible honor, one we hold very close to our hearts,” said Delhomme, who hit the ground running in Carolina by signing as a free agent before the 2003 season and leading the Panthers to their first Super Bowl that season.
Being honored for his football-playing abilities is nothing new to Delhomme. He’s in the UL Athletic Hall of Fame, but didn’t get to attend the ceremony. It was during his 13-year NFL career, and his parents accepted that honor for him.
He’s also part of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches.
“The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame was tops before this,” Delhomme said, “and it’s definitely still up there. But our time in Carolina was so special to (my wife) Keri and our whole family.”
It’s great to have a home. Delhomme and his family are fortunate enough to have two.
In many ways, Delhomme is as south Louisiana as you can get, but his family feels just as comfortable in Charlotte, North Carolina, as they do in Lafayette or St. Martin Parish.
“Every time we go back to visit, Keri and I say the same thing when we’re leaving,” Delhomme said. “We just feel our hearts getting pulled.
“And it’s not really about football. We just made so many special friends there. In our neighborhood, our house was the one that all the kids just came to.”
In addition to all of his Panthers’ teammates, Delhomme was even friends with a former NBA player named Dell Curry. In fact, Delhomme remembers playing a game of horse with his 15-year-old son one day at a friendly gathering.
Yes, his name was Stephen.
“Charlotte is just one of those places, where they like you not so much as a football player or a basketball player, but as a person,” said Delhomme, who threw for 20,764 yards with 125 touchdowns and 101 interceptions in his NFL career that included eight years in Carolina as well as short stints in New Orleans, Cleveland and Houston.
So fittingly, making the honor even more special for Delhomme is the trio of friends he’ll be inducted with. Smith was his big-play receiver during his time in Carolina, and Gross was a first-round draft pick Delhomme’s first season in Charlotte in 2003.
Walls actually left the Panthers the year before Delhomme arrived, but “he lived in my neighborhood. I could see his house from mine. We were good friends with him and his wife Christy.”
Shortly after learning of his new elevated status with the franchise, he flew back to his second home to get the bronze bust made and be sized for his jacket.
“I’m just so humbled by this,” Delhomme said. “It means so much to me and my family.”
As for the Derby, yes, Delhomme enjoyed his first experience. And yes, he fully agrees with the ruling after the race, but he said he wished the stewards would have made an inquiry.
“I was watching from the sixth floor, so I had a pretty good view,” Delhomme said. “I said it right when it happened that there was going to be an inquiry. It was 100% the right call.”
As for why it took so long for Delhomme to make it to a Kentucky Derby, it actually makes more sense than you think.
During his playing days, he was always at a post-draft minicamp during Derby weekend. Since his retirement, his two daughters, Lauren and Lindsey, both made their First Communion that weekend.
Family, football and horse racing.
That about sums up Carolina Panthers new Hall of Honor inductee Jake Delhomme.