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Saints History with the Number 4

In recognition of the Fourth of July, here's a look back at what players wore the number 4 for the New Orleans Saints.
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July 4th is recognized as Independence Day in America. On July 4, 1776, the 13 American colonies severed political ties with Great Britain by officially issuing the Declaration of Independence during the Revolutionary War. It was declared a national holiday in 1941, with banks and federal businesses closed for operations on that day since.

This date has nothing to do with the New Orleans Saints, football, or sports in general, in any historical or current significance. However, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the New Orleans Saints history with the Number 4 as you hopefully enjoy a day off with your family and friends. That is, unless you work in the retail or sales industry, but let’s save that soap box for another time, shall we?

Here are all the New Orleans Saints players who have ever worn the number 4.

  • Mike Cofer, K (1987)
  • Steve Walsh, QB (1990-1993)
  • Klaus Wilmsmeyer, P (1995-1996)
  • Toby Gowin, P (2000-2002)
  • Todd Bouman, QB (2003-2005)
  • Billy Cundiff, K (2006)
  • Glenn Pakulak, P (2008)
  • Ryan Griffin, QB (2013-2014)
  • Brandon Fields, P (2015)
  • Blake Gillikin, P (2021-present)

The First Four Worn

Jan 28, 1990; New Orleans, LA, FILE PHOTO; San Francisco 49ers kicker Mike Cofer (6) attempts a field goal against the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XXIV at the Superdome. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Jan 28, 1990; New Orleans, LA, FILE PHOTO; San Francisco 49ers kicker Mike Cofer (6) attempts a field goal against the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XXIV at the Superdome. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Oddly, no New Orleans Saints player wore the number 4 during a regular season game from the franchise's inception in 1967 until the strike-shortened season of 1987. Rookie K Mike Cofer was the first to don the jersey, after being added as a replacement player to replace future Hall of Fame K Morten Andersen while the regular players were out on strike.

Cofer kicked in two of the three games that the NFL used replacement players that season. He made his only field goal attempt (27 yards) and was successful on 5 of 7 extra point attempts. After missing two extra points during a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Cofer was released before the final game with replacement players.

Cofer caught on with the San Francisco 49ers in 1988. He’d be the 49ers kicker for the next six seasons, winning two Super Bowls and earning All-Pro honors in 1989. He is fourth in 49ers franchise history in total points and third in successful extra points.

A Failed Solution for Hebert

Nov 17, 1991; FILE PHOTO; New Orleans Saints quarterback Steve Walsh (4) throws the ball against the San Diego Chargers. Mandatory Credit: Peter Brouillet-USA TODAY NETWORK

Nov 17, 1991; FILE PHOTO; New Orleans Saints quarterback Steve Walsh (4) throws the ball against the San Diego Chargers. Mandatory Credit: Peter Brouillet-USA TODAY NETWORK

Quarterback Bobby Hebert had led the Saints to their first winning season and playoff berth in franchise history in 1987. After narrowly missing the postseason in 1988 and 1989, Hebert wanted a new contract with the team. Neither side blinked in their demands, resulting in Hebert holding out the entire 1990 campaign.

Instead of giving in to Hebert, New Orleans traded first, second, and third-round draft choices to the Dallas Cowboys to acquire QB Steve Walsh early in the 1990 season. A national championship quarterback at Miami, Walsh had backed up Troy Aikman as a rookie after being a first-round pick in the 1989 NFL Supplemental Draft.

Walsh started 11 games for the Saints in 1990, recording a 6-5 record for a New Orleans team that squeaked into the playoffs with an 8-8 record. He completed 53.5% of his throws for 1,970 yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was benched midway through the Saints 16-6 Wild-Card loss to the Bears after completing just 6 of 16 attempts for 74 yards and an interception.

Hebert returned in 1991, relegating Walsh to backup duties. An injury to Hebert put him back in the starting lineup for seven games, where he compiled a 3-4 record while throwing for 1,638 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions.

An extremely intelligent quarterback, Walsh just didn't have the necessary arm strength for the NFL level. New Orleans released him after the 1993 season and he’d go on to play for four different teams over the last six years of his career. His longest stint was with the Saints, where he was 10-10 as a starter while completing 54.2% of his throws for 3,879 yards with 25 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

Who Was the Last Quarterback to Start a Game for the Saints before Drew Brees?

October 9, 2005; Todd Bouman #4 of the New Orleans Saints passes the ball against the Green Bay Packers. Mandatory Credit: Photo By Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2005 Jeff Hanisch

October 9, 2005; Todd Bouman #4 of the New Orleans Saints passes the ball against the Green Bay Packers. Mandatory Credit: Photo By Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2005 Jeff Hanisch

The answer to that trivia question is NOT Aaron Brooks, who had a solid career for the franchise from 2000 to 2005. An undrafted quarterback named Todd Bouman, in his second year with the team, is the last player to start a game for New Orleans before they signed the iconic Brees in 2006.

Bouman would replace a benched Aaron Brooks for the last three games of the 2005 season. It was a year that crumbled quickly for the Saints, who were displaced for the entire season after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast region.

Bouman completed 57.8% of his attempts in his three starts, all losses, for 691 yards with 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He was released during the 2006 preseason and was a backup for four different teams throughout the remaining five years of his career.

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Local Ties 

Aug 13, 2015; New Orleans Saints quarterback Ryan Griffin (4) prepares to throw against the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY 

Aug 13, 2015; New Orleans Saints quarterback Ryan Griffin (4) prepares to throw against the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY 

The Saints often preferred experience to back up Brees during his time with the team. Ryan Griffin, an undrafted rookie from nearby Tulane in 2013, nearly bucked that trend. Griffin stuck around as a third-stringer behind Brees and Luke McCown in 2013 and 2014 because of strong training camp performances.

Griffin never saw a down of regular season action for New Orleans, despite playing even with the more experienced McCown during the 2014 preseason. He was among the final cuts in 2015, released in favor of third-round rookie QB Garrett Grayson, who he had outplayed in camp.

Griffin signed with Tampa Bay, where he has remained for the last seven seasons. He has just four career pass attempts as a second or third-string quarterback, but was part of a Buccaneers squad that won Super Bowl LV.

Kicking Around

Oct 25, 2021; New Orleans Saints punter Blake Gillikin (4) punts against the Seattle Seahawks. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 25, 2021; New Orleans Saints punter Blake Gillikin (4) punts against the Seattle Seahawks. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seven of the ten players who have worn the number 4 have been kickers or punters. Among those specialists, only Toby Gowin has stuck with the team for longer than two seasons up to this point. That trend is likely about to change with the player currently wearing jersey number 4.

Fan favorite and franchise legend Thomas Morstead held off all challenges for his job for 12 seasons with the Saints from 2006 to 2020. Blake Gillikin was an undrafted rookie from Penn State in 2020. He was impressive enough in camp that the team ‘‘stashed’’ him on injured reserve in his first year with an unspecified injury. He’d be tabbed to replace Morstead for 2021.

Gillikin had big shoes to fill in his first year, but had an impressive response. He was second in the NFL in punting yards last season. His average of 47.7 yards per punt was higher than Morstead averaged during nine of his decorated 12-year career with the team. Gillikin also displayed pinpoint accuracy, consistently pinning opponents deep in their own territory.

The 24-year-old Gillikin proved to be a valuable weapon for the New Orleans defense, constantly giving the team a field position advantage. He enters his second year as one of the best young punters in the league.

Now that the NFL has relaxed their uniform number stipulations, players from other positions can wear single-digit jersey numbers. If Gillikin keeps up his high caliber of play, it may be awhile before the number 4 is available to anyone else for the New Orleans Saints. 

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