Saints Broadcaster and Former Player, Hokie Gajan Dead at 56
Who Dat Nation Remembers Yet Another Fallen Saint
By: Stefan Muro
The New Orleans Saints and the City of New Orleans lost yet another family member on Monday, April 11. Former Saints’ fullback, talent scout, and broadcaster Hokie Gajan passed away at the age of 56. He had been battling a rare form of cancer called Liposarcoma since last fall.
Howard Lee “Hokie” Gajan was born on Sept. 6, 1959 and raised in Baker, Louisiana. When he was 2 years old, as the middle child of nine, his siblings gave him his nickname after an accident dancing to the “Hokie Pokie.”
Hokie took great pride in fact that his entire football life resided in his home state. He played runningback for Baker High School and LSU. He was then drafted in the 10th round of the 1981 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints as a fullback. Quarterback at the time, Ken Stabler, gave him the moniker of “The Bayou Bowling Ball” for his ability to bowl over defenders with ease.
The Bayou Bowling Ball always joked at himself for his lack of speed and yet, he led the NFL in yards-per-carry (6.0) in 1984 which overshadowed Hall of Famer Earl Campbell. Gajan ran for 1,358 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the black and gold. In 1987, his playing career was abruptly halted by injuries but he changed his career to talent scout. After 13 years of scouting, former Saints teammate, Stan Brock, recommended that Gajan should apply for the job to replace him in the broadcasting booth. The rest was history.
In 2000, Hokie stepped into the booth with a deep love for his Saints and a deep knowledge of the game he loved. His colorful, yet frank delivery was what made him unique to the broadcasting panel. Fellow broadcaster Jim Henderson once told the Times Picayune, “The last thing you want in a broadcast is two guys that sound the same. Hopefully, we’re a ying and yang.” Hokie replied by saying, “He’s the lead singer, I’m just the doo-wop guy.” The next 15 years will be remembered forever by this generation of Saints fans.
Jim Henderson brought colorful vocabulary and pinpoint statistics to the WWL team while Hokie Gajan brought hands-on knowledge of the game with a sharp wit. One of the most iconic moments the two had together came right after the famous “River City Relay” against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003. After John Carney missed the game-tying extra point, Gajan yelled, “NO!!” Henderson followed with, “How could he do that?!” Hokie once said, “If the Saints ever made the Super Bowl, it would make Mardi Gras seem like a church social.” After that 2009 season, he was able to see his comment come to life.
“I loved him dearly,” Jim Henderson, told WWL. “So true and genuine; he’s one of the most original people I’ve ever met. There were no acts, or anything false about Hokie. Everything you see is very true with him.” Saints owner Tom Benson said, “Hokie Gajan was a true New Orleans Saint as a player, a valued member of our scouting staff and later as a broadcaster,” the statement said. “Overall, he impacted our whole organization and had a special relationship with our fans for 36 years. We will miss Hokie dearly and our thoughts and prayers go out to Judy, their four daughters and the entire Gajan family.”