Pelicans center Robert Sacre not shy about showing his love for Louisiana, Saints football

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

There is a car occasionally spotted in the streets of Spokane, Wash., that probably makes onlookers scratch their heads in utter confusion. The exterior of the vehicle has been painted all black, while the interior was refurbished in tribute to a region located over 2,000 miles away, including seats that feature fleur de lis-logoed headrests.

If there is ever any doubt about where New Orleans Pelicans training-camp invitee Robert Sacre considers home, all one needs to do is take a look at the diehard Saints fan’s black-and-gold car (which the Gonzaga University product is keeping in Washington, at least for now). Or you can check out his left bicep, which is covered by a fleur de lis tattoo. The tat rests on the center’s arm between the words “Sacre” and “LaFleur,” which are his parents’ last names, but also words that – in an almost hard-to-believe coincidence – together mean “sacred flower” in French.

His basketball career has resulted in him spending every winter since 2007 on the West Coast (five seasons at Gonzaga, four seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers), but you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who is more vocal about, or prouder of, his Louisiana roots. The Baton Rouge-born Sacre, a Saints supporter since childhood, describes his tattoo as a “no-brainer,” given how well it ties together so many aspects of his background.

“It was such a weird coincidence based on my parents’ names,” said the 7-footer, whose father Greg played football at LSU and was an NFL tight end from 1981-86. “It represents my heritage, my upbringing and Louisiana. It’s very funny how it just worked out that way. I thought it was perfect.”

As a result of signing with New Orleans, the 27-year-old has spent September at the Pelicans’ practice facility, mere feet from where his favorite NFL team works. He even shares the same cafeteria at lunchtime with Saints players, but Sacre points out that he’s been careful to respect the football team’s space.

“I know those guys are busy and I don’t want to bother them,” Sacre said, when asked if he’s gotten a chance to meet any Saints. “I already understand how that feels, especially during the season. But I’m a huge fan, wish them the best and will always be rooting for them. That’s my squad.”

Sacre’s earliest vivid Saints memory is from 2000, when New Orleans won its first playoff game, defeating the then-juggernaut St. Louis Rams.

“It was such a big deal,” said Sacre, an 11-year-old at the time. “It was huge. I remember players from that era like Aaron Brooks, Joe Horn, Ricky Williams, Jerome Pathon, Steve Gleason, Jeff Blake. Joe Horn was my favorite wide receiver.”

Despite his imposing 270-pound frame, Sacre did not play football – with a good-natured smile, he explains that his philosophy about his body was “don’t take a Ferrari off-roading” – but he’s always used his Saints fandom as a source of pride. That was particularly true in February 2010, when the team captured the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.

“I was in college at Gonzaga when they won,” Sacre said, grinning at the memory. “Everyone there knew the Saints were my team, so I just rubbed it in. It was salt in everyone’s wounds.

“They are my home team. First of all, they have the best uniforms in the league – the all-black with the gold helmets are the best. Their colors are great. They also have the best fans. The whole atmosphere, you’ve got to respect it.”

His hoops career has kept him away from Louisiana and the Superdome for much of the past decade, but Sacre got to attend a Saints home preseason game in August, as well as their regular season opener vs. Oakland. For a Saints aficionado, it’s one of the unexpected perks that came from signing with his home-state NBA franchise.

“Playing here has always been in the back of my mind,” said Sacre, who visited for a pre-draft workout with New Orleans in 2012, but was the 60th and final overall pick that year by the Lakers. “I’ve always wanted to play close to home and be a part of the organization. I wanted to be here because this is where my family is from. I wanted to be back in my hometown. This is where I belong.”

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