Now all these years later, they have another thing in common. The duo will go into the New Orleans Saints‘ Hall of Fame together during a ceremony Sept. 14, two days before a home game against the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns were the team that cut Moore three weeks into the 2005 preseason, before the Saints signed the wide receiver and made him a key part of their Super Bowl-winning team four seasons later.
He was like Thomas, another undrafted player out of college who found a home in New Orleans and played a key part in that Super Bowl win against the Indianapolis Colts.
“They didn’t start on third base,” Saints coach Sean Payton said Thursday (June 14) of the players who had to claw their way onto the roster. “They had to touch all the bases.”
Moore had already endured some of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath by working with the practice squad when the team based its operations in San Antonio and split home games between the Alamo Dome and Tiger Stadium.
He survived the roster shakeup that came after the team hired Payton in January 2006. And when Thomas packed all his belongings in 2007 and drove down from his hometown of Chicago with no plans of going back — “That’s how I knew I was going to make it,” he said — they had lockers next to each other.
Each acted as a source of inspiration. If one of them could make an impact, so could the other.
“It’s really cool to go in with somebody that isn’t just a former teammate,” Moore said in referencing Thomas as his best friend on the team. “Pierre is my brother. Pierre is my family. We talk regularly. So it’s a pretty cool thing.”
Moore said he received a phone call from the Saints with no idea the team had an interest in him. He spent the following spring playing in the now-defunct NFL Europe for more seasoning, and the experience primed him for a nine-year Saints run that included 346 receptions for 4,281 yards and 39 total touchdowns.
The Saints pursued Thomas as an undrafted free agent with with then-special teams assistant Greg McMahon lobbying for him as his special teams coach from when the two were at Illinois together.
Thomas joined the Saints in the same season they selected another running back in the fourth round. Thomas learned the playbook so quick that he ended up trying to help that drafted running back, Antonio Pittman, learn the system.
He could have decided not to help Pittman and let him flounder.
“That wasn’t me,” Thomas said. “That wasn’t the type of guy I am. I’m always willing to help out my teammate, to help anybody out as much as I can.”
Thomas unquestionably turned out to be the better running back.
“It wasn’t a difficult call,” Payton said.
Nobody knew at the time the role each player would have in the Saints’ Super Bowl win.
First was the overtime kickoff return by Thomas that put the Saints near midfield in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, followed by his fourth-and-1 conversion that preceded the pass interference penalty that put the Saints within range for Garrett Hartley to make the winning field goal from 40 yards.
Both players scored in the Super Bowl, with Thomas accounting for the touchdown that drew the Saints within 13-10 just after the team recovered an onside kick to start the second half. Moore scored a two-point conversion that put the Saints ahead 24-17 minutes before Tracy Porter’s game-sealing interception return.
Payton recalled each as players who seldom made mistakes.
“They were like identical players at different positions,” Payton said.
Moore played his final game for the Saints in 2013. Thomas lasted one more season, ending his time as an every-down back for the Saints after he amassed 6,353 yards from scrimmage and 40 total touchdowns, drawing most of his acclaim for his effectiveness in the screen game.
Both moved on to play for other teams. But both never truly left the Saints. They’ll now enter a Hall of Fame that includes former Super Bowl teammates Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma and Carl Nicks.
Smith, a 2016 inductee, died in a shooting earlier that year.
“I miss my friend Will so much,” Thomas said.
Joining them during induction weekend will be Saints director of photography Michael C. Hebert, the recipient of the Joe Gemelli “Fleur de Lis” award for his contributions to the organization.
The bond Thomas and Moore share is strong. Not only with each other, but with the community, they said. Thomas said fans told him that Super Bowl win coming less than five years after Katrina changed lives.
“Just to hear that, to be a part of that, it’s amazing,” Thomas said. “It’s amazing to say that I helped this person out just by playing, doing something I love doing. Doing something I enjoy doing. … That was truly an honor. It’s a blessing.”
Moore described his impending placement into the Saints’ Hall as “a little bit awkward.”
“It’s not always about us receiving certain accolades or awards or honors,” he said.
“It took a lot of selflessness for us to have the type of careers that we had,” he added. “There’s something to be said about having guys on the team that genuinely care about each other and care about the success of the whole than their own individual success.”
Those successes will soon be immortalized in Saints’ lore.
“They win football games for you,” Payton said. “You can’t begin to put a value on that.”
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