Zach Strief should soon become the voice of the Saints.
The former right tackle has been offered the play-by-play job on WWL radio vacated by Jim Henderson earlier this year, according to multiple sources. When asked for comment, Entercom officials stressed Strief has not yet signed a contract. Barring any issues, the deal and announcement are expected to be executed early next week.
Strief retired from the Saints earlier this year after joining the team as part of the vaunted 2006 draft class. Within the media, he was considered to be one of the more valuable resources in the locker room because of the level of insight he provided during interviews. Since stepping away from football, he has appeared on WWL multiple times, including during NFL draft coverage.
If he joins the broadcast, Strief will join up with Deuce McAllister, who serves as the analyst and also previously played for the Saints. Together, the duo can boast that it has two decades of playing experience between them.
When speaking to the media earlier this week, Strief, who earned a communications degree from Northwestern, said he has been calling games on his own and then sending them out to people in the business to critique and offer feedback. Assuming he accepts the job, the former offensive lineman isn’t expecting to be a finished product early on. He knows there will be an adjustment period.
“What’s great about play-by-play is that it is different; it’s a challenge,” Strief said. “It’s seeing the game through a different mindset, and it’s bringing the game to an everyday fan.
“I won’t be a finished product in September or August, but it’s something I think that would be very special and unique to the Saints to have two players in the booth.”
Several other familiar voices were part of the proceedings. Former WWL-TV anchor Mike Hoss and Pelicans play-by-play men Sean Kelley (radio) and Joel Meyers (television) were among a group of finalists.
There will be other changes to the broadcast this season. Kristian Garic, who previously served as the sideline reporter, is expected to host the pregame and postgame shows.
Henderson retired from the booth in February after being part of Saints’ broadcasts for three decades. He got his first taste calling Saints games when he served as an analyst for preseason games during the 1982 season. In 1986, he took over as the play-by-play announcer on radio broadcasts, later teaming up with analyst Hokie Gajan, a former Saints star who died from cancer in 2016.
Henderson became as iconic as the players he spoke about on the radio, which makes replacing him a tall task. Strief said he understands that.
“Jim was very special to all of us in our careers,” Strief said. “I was on the field for so many (moments), but I don’t remember what it looked like to me on the field. I remember the replay and hearing Jim.”
If everything goes as expected, the next generation will remember hearing Strief.