Sean Payton Sleeps with Lombardi Trophy: 'There's Nothing Like it'
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- With confetti and congratulations pouring down on him after Sunday's 31-17 Super Bowl XLIV ambush of the favored Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton – a guy who likes to celebrate -- said he wasn't sure he would make it to the traditional Monday morning winners' news conference.
He showed up, hair uncombed, bleary eyed, looking every bit like someone who had just spent a sleepless night. Except that Payton did get some shut-eye, with some interesting company at his side.
Holding the Lombardi Trophy in his hands as he faced the cameras one last time before heading back to the Crescent City for what promises to be an epic "Who Dat" victory parade, Payton doesn't sound like a guy who's eager to let it go anytime soon.
"This thing laid in my bed next to me last night," Payton said, holding the NFL's championship hardware like it was a much-loved teddy bear. "I rolled over a couple of times. I probably drooled on it. But man, there's nothing like it."
The sterling silver Lombardi Trophy has a special connection to the Saints' organization. It is named for Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers coach. And Lombardi's grandson, Joe, is the Saints quarterback coach.
Sunday night, the team had a special group photo taken with the NFL's most coveted prize.
"Joe Lombardi, his father Vince Jr. and his two brothers sat and posed with this trophy while pictures were taken," Payton said. "And I just thought to myself, 'You have to be kidding me.'
"If you believe in heaven, and you believe Vince Lombardi's there, looking down on his grandson ... this is the guy who coaches our quarterbacks, who coaches Drew Brees. And here's a trophy named after his grandfather. So you can't ... you can't get enough of this."
There's still a dream-like quality to this storybook Super Bowl championship for the resilient Saints, the longtime laughingstock of the NFL until Payton and Brees rolled into town, and their still-rebuilding city that continues to shake off the devastation of Hurricane Katrina 4 1/2 years ago.
Brees, the Super Bowl XLIV MVP for his 32-of-39, 288-yard, two-touchdown passing performance, woke up Monday and turned to his wife Brittany for affirmation.
"Did it really happen?" he asked her.
The Saints needed 43 years to win their first Super Bowl, and they relied on the support and strength they received from their irrepressible fans to get them past the AFC's top-seeded team on the NFL's biggest stage.
"We got our strength from the people," said a beaming Brees, a year-round New Orleans resident and advocate, "because we knew what they had been through, yet they continued to fight, continued to believe and continued to have faith. And they helped instill that in us."
"We're going to enjoy this for awhile. I think New Orleans is enjoying it right this second, still. And don't expect anybody to go to work today in New Orleans. Or maybe for the next two weeks, considering Mardi Gras is next week."
Let the partying continue. New Orleans and Louisiana's Super Bowl champion Saints are entitled to every minute of it.
"This is something that I think we all deserve to enjoy for awhile," Brees said, "and reflect on what it's taken to get to this point. All that we've been through, and all that we've fought so hard to get. This is the pinnacle.
"We know what it's like to build something from the ground up and just to feel like 'This is our time, this is going to be our year.' But I think what's going to be fun is using the term 'Repeat' all next year."