Former Saints coach, Oklahoma standout J.D. Roberts dies at 88

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A New Orleans Saints helmet
J.D. Roberts was the second head coach in New Orleans Saints history. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Former New Orleans Saints coach and Oklahoma standout J.D. Roberts died on Tuesday, the team announced.

He was 88.

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Roberts was an original member of the Saints staff when he was hired in 1967 as a linebackers coach and a scout. He was then hired as the team’s interim head coach midway through the 1970 season and hired full time the next two years.

Roberts went just 7-25-3 as the Saints head coach, though the team didn’t mount a winning record until the 1987 season.

"What I remember about J.D. is that we were in tough shape when J.D. came in and took the team," former Saints guard Jake Kupp said, via the team. "We hadn't had a lot of success, and he came into a difficult situation. I felt like having had a military background (Roberts served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps), he was brought in to establish discipline and bring a team together ... Personally, I felt like J.D. was a great guy. He was a no-nonsense guy, he knew what he wanted to do, and yet trying to establish hard work on top of hard work, was very hard.

"The players were kind of pushed to a place where, it was just hard. To me, J.D. was placed in a position that was very difficult. And then, we did not have a lot of success."

He is credited for drafting longtime Saints quarterback Archie Manning with the No. 2 overall pick in 1971 and for sending in Tom Dempsey to sink a then-NFL record 63-yard field goal to win his first ever game at the helm of the team.

"J.D. drafted me and was my first coach," Manning said, via the Saints. "He believed in me and always had my back. He was my good friend for 50 years."

Roberts also served as an assistant coach at Denver, Oklahoma, Navy, Auburn and Houston before making the jump to the NFL. He led the ACFL’s Richmond Roadrunners for a single season in 1969, too.

Roberts, a Dallas native, played at Oklahoma and won the Outland Trophy — which goes to the country’s top lineman each season — in 1953 while earning consensus All-American honors. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

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