Willie Roaf at Little Rock Touchdown Club Part 5

I got to hear Willie Roaf speak at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday Oct 1, 2012 and he did a great job.

Roaf: It’s good refs are back

By Jeff Halpern

Posted: October 2, 2012 at 3:32 a.m.

Stephen B. Thornton Pro Football Hall of Famer and Pine Bluff native Willie Roaf (left) is glad the NFL could work out a deal with the officials, saying Monday “the replacements were going to cost some teams some games.”

LITTLE ROCK — Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Roaf says he always appreciated the way NFL officials maintained control of the game.

“Year in and year out, you see the same crews over and over again and you have a lot of respect for them,” said Roaf, 42, who played 13 years as an offensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs before retiring after the 2005 season.

But things got out of control when league officials were locked out for the season’s first three weeks and replacement officials filled in, Roaf told members of the Little Rock Touchdown Club at the Embassy Suites hotel Monday,

“You don’t see guys bumping and shoving refs,” said Roaf, who grew up in Pine Bluff and played for Pine Bluff High School before attending Louisiana Tech. “That doesn’t happen.”

The low point occurred Sept. 24 when the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers 14-12 on a “Hail Mary” touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate and replays showed the Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings (Arkansas State) grabbed the ball first before Tate got his hands on it. After a mandatory replay review, officials did not have indisputable evidence to overturn the call.

Two night later, the NFL and its officials agreed on a new eight-year agreement.

“It’s good to have them back because the replacements were going to cost some teams some games,” Roaf said. “Look at Green Bay, there were in a tough spot after that game Monday night.

“The big thing was the refs got to keep their pension and the NFL can hire some younger guys to replace some of the older officials.”

Roaf said he was honored to go into the Hall of Fame two months ago as part of a “blue-collar class” that included a second Arkansas-born inductee, former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, who was born in Osceola, grew up in Wilson and played at Rivercrest before attending the University of Miami.

“It was great to go in with Cortez, and it was a class in which none of us were stars and I was very happy to go in with them,” Roaf said.

When asked about the plight of the 0-4 New Orleans Saints and the 1-4 Arkansas Razorbacks, Roaf, who played at Louisiana Tech, discussed the similarities of the Saints playing without Coach Sean Payton, who is suspended for the season for his role in the bounty scandal, while the Razorbacks are playing the season with John L. Smith, who is on a 10-month contract after he was hired in April after Bobby Petrino was fired.

“It’s a tough situation because you know Sean makes a difference and provides a lot of leadership and when you look at Arkansas, you saw how much Bobby Petrino made a difference, especially on offense,” Roaf said. “I predicted the Saints would win 10 games and they played hard in Green Bay, but they’re in a tough situation.”

Roaf, who lives in Newport, Calif., came back to Arkansas after stopping off in Kansas City, Mo., over the weekend where his former teammate Will Shields was inducted into the Chiefs Ring of Honor. He also plans on spending a couple of weeks in the state, visiting friends and family members.

Sports, Pages 15 on 10/02/2012

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