Ten years before the Carolina Panthers' Jake Delhomme put Breaux
Bridge, La., on the map, Bobby Hebert was pro football's most
famous Cajun. As a native Louisianan playing for the Saints,
Hebert (pronounced AY-bear) achieved favored-son status in 1991
when he led New Orleans to six straight victories and the first
division title in the franchise's 24-year history. Two years
later, after signing as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons, he
gained another level of distinction: the subject of one of George
Costanza's off-the-wall musings on Seinfeld. In the episode "The
Big Salad," Costanza inexplicably tries to explain to his date
the pleasure of saying Hebert's mellifluous surname:
George: "You know what's interesting? The quarterback for the
Atlanta Falcons is Bobby Hebert [AY-bear]. No r, which I find
fascinating.... You know, it's Herbert h-e-r-b-e-r-t, Hebert,
h-e-b-e-r-t. Hebert--it's a fun name to pronounce. Try and say
"I'll be on my death bed and they'll still be showing that
episode on TV Land," Hebert says of his mention on one of the
most popular sitcoms in television history.
Once a leader of men, Hebert, 43, is now a chauffeur of
children--a stay-at-home dad in Atlanta, where he lives with his
wife of 23 years, Teresa, and three of their four children
(Cammy, 18, Bobby III, 15, and Bo, 12. The fourth, Ryann, 21,
lives in California). While Teresa has the full-time job of
running her boutique in the suburb of Duluth, Bobby cohosts a
Falcons postgame radio show during the NFL season and gives
motivational speeches at schools.
"I've always been ambitious but not to the point where I feel
like I have to own my own company and control other men," says
Hebert. Now I can help my youngest son with his homework, or I'll
go grocery shopping. I joke with my kids how I've become their
errand boy. It's funny, after being the quarterback, I'm the low
man on the totem pole."
Hebert hails from Cut Off, La., a Cajun enclave about 50 miles
southwest of New Orleans, or as he likes to joke, "You know, cut
off from civilization." He first gained statewide acclaim in 1977
when he led South Lafourche High to the Class 4A title and then
stayed home to play college ball at Northwestern State in
Natchitoches, before leaving for a three-year stint in the USFL.
Hebert led the Michigan Panthers to the league's inaugural
championship and in '85 signed as a free agent with the Saints.
His seven years in New Orleans featured the team's first winning
season (12-3 in '87), a seasonlong holdout because he felt the
team was lowballing him on a contract ('90) and the NFC West
title ('91). He finished his career with four seasons in Atlanta,
earning his only trip to the Pro Bowl in '94, before retiring in
'96. Hebert remains the most successful quarterback in Saints
history, with a 49-27 record as a starter, though he was 0-3 in
the postseason. "People aren't nonchalant about football in
Louisiana," he says. "When you were hurting, they were hurting.
Maybe I was naive about it all, but I never felt like I was just
playing for myself. I always felt like I was playing for the
community." --Richard Deitsch
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER (COVER) CAJUN STYLE Hebert put Cut Off, La., on the map.
COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER [See caption above]
An 11-year NFL veteran who led the Saints to the franchise's
first successful seasons, Hebert is primarily a stay-at-home dad.