It only seemed fitting local Louisiana hero Bobby Hebert led his hometown New Orleans Saints’ resurgence in the late 1980s.
Hebert, the popular “Cajun Cannon,” revitalized a faltering Saints franchise and led New Orleans to its first-ever postseason berth in 1987.
Hebert picked defenses apart during his three-year stint in the USFL with the Michigan Panthers and Oakland Invaders from 1983 to 1985.
He picked up where he left off and helped the Saints reach the postseason four times and win their first-ever division title during his tenure in the Big Easy from 1985 to 1992.
To make a long story short, Hebert finally helped turn the Saints into winners for the first time since their inaugural season in the National Football League in 1967.
It’s little wonder Bobby Hebert is a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame and one of the best quarterbacks in the franchise’s 56-year history.
Early Life and College Days with the Northwestern State Demons
Bobby Joseph Hebert, Jr. was born in Cut Off, LA—a city 50 miles southwest of New Orleans—on August 19, 1960.
Hebert (pronounced “AY-bear”) fondly referred to his hometown as “cut off from civilization,” per Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.
Hebert told The Los Angeles Times’ Bob Oates in January 1993 that his current and distant Cajun ancestors were outdoor types who had thrived on Louisiana’s soil and rivers since the 18th century.
According to Hebert, one of his great-great-grandfathers founded Galliano, a southern Louisiana city with a current population of approximately 7,000.
Hebert told Oates that that particular relative’s ancestors migrated to Louisiana in 1785. After their exile from Nova Scotia, Canada, they moved to Europe before finally settling in the Pelican State.
Herbert’s grandfather established a tugboat business in Lafourche Parish, LA in the 1930s. His four tugboats transported various commodities such as oil and grain along the Mississippi River.
Hebert’s dad, Bobby Sr., worked for his father’s tugboat business when he was just ten years old. His baptism by fire wasn’t ordinary. The crew tied him up and threw him overboard. It turned out Hebert’s grandfather had taught his son how to swim.
That stunt didn’t resonate well with Bobby Sr. He decided he would become the first member of his dad’s side of the family in 200 years to attend college.
He made good on his promise and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1960—the year Bobby Jr. was born.
THIS DAY IN DEMON HISTORY: Former NSU quarterback Bobby Hebert graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with this “Saints Alive” cover as New Orleans had their then-best ever start and won their first division title. pic.twitter.com/djxZaIuzdu
— NSU Demons (@NSUDemons) October 7, 2020
Bobby Hebert attended South Lafourche High School in Lafourche Parish, LA. He became a household name in the Pelican State after he led the South Lafourche Big Blue to the Class 4A state title in 1977.
Northwestern State University
After Hebert graduated from high school, he attended Northwestern State University in his home state of Louisiana.
Hebert set a new school record with 1,828 passing yards in his sophomore season in 1980. He led the Northwestern State Demons to an 8-3 win-loss record that year.
Hebert’s 3,798 career passing yards and 267 career completions both rank second all-time in Demons football program history.
He met his future wife, Teresa Peterson, in college. Peterson was a Northwest State cheerleader who was of Swedish descent.
Bobby Hebert flew under the radar during his college days at Northwestern State. He didn’t pique the interest of a solitary NFL scout, per Oates.
Hebert defied the odds, became a legendary USFL quarterback, and then led his hometown New Orleans Saints to their first postseason berth in 1987.
Pro Football Career
Bobby Hebert signed with the Michigan Panthers in the United States Football League’s (USFL) inaugural season in 1983.
Hebert, who didn’t garner much attention from scouts as Northwestern State Demons quarterback during his college days, proved he belonged in the upstart USFL.
Hebert became the USFL’s all-time passing leader. He had 13,137 yards and 81 touchdowns in a combined three seasons with the Panthers and Oakland Invaders from 1983 to 1985.
The pinnacle of Hebert’s USFL career occurred during his rookie season when he led the Panthers to the USFL title on July 17, 1983. Hebert’s clutch 48-yard touchdown pass to A. C. Carter secured Michigan’s 24-22 victory over the Philadelphia Stars at Mile High Stadium in Denver, CO.
To nobody’s surprise, Bobby Hebert, who had 319 passing yards and three touchdown passes, earned game MVP honors.
Hebert was also the USFL’s Most Outstanding Quarterback and Sporting News USFL Player of the Year in 1983.
According to Oates, Hebert earned the dubious distinction as the only quarterback who received death threats during his time in the USFL and NFL. He received one when he played for the Michigan Panthers and another one with the New Orleans Saints several years later.
New Orleans Saints
Bobby Hebert signed a free-agent contract with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints in 1985.
When Hebert first donned Saints black and gold, his USFL legacy was very much alive in the state of Michigan.
Hebert told The Athletic‘s Bill Shea in November 2021 that Michigan Panthers fans wearing their team jerseys went down to the tunnel to give him a warm welcome whenever the Saints played the Detroit Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Overlooked and undrafted by the NFL, The Cajun Canon Bobby Hebert went on to become the USFL's all-time leading passer throwing for 11,137 career yards & tossing 2nd most career TD passes with 81…
— NSU Demons Fans (@NSUDemonsFans) August 19, 2020
At that point in his development as a pro quarterback, Hebert felt he wasn’t in the same stratosphere as the Miami Dolphins Dan Marino, the Philadelphia Eagles Randall Cunningham, and the San Francisco 49ers Steve Young.
However, Hebert felt he brought a little bit of everything to the Saints’ table.
“It’s the whole bit: the mental part, the toughness part, the winning part, everything,” Hebert told The Los Angeles Times in the winter of 1993. “No quarterback is tougher.”
Hebert played behind starter Dave Wilson in his first two years with the Saints from 1985 to 1986.
Hebert took over the starting reins in the 1987 NFL season and had 2,119 passing yards and 15 touchdown passes. Behind Hebert’s emergence, the Saints reach the postseason for the first time in their 21-year team history.
Alas, they lost to the Minnesota Vikings in the 1987 NFC Wild Card Game at home in embarrassing fashion, 44-10.
Hebert continued playing at a high level over the next two seasons. He had a combined 5,842 passing yards and 35 touchdown passes from 1988 to 1989. Despite averaging nearly ten games during that two-year stretch, the Saints missed the postseason yet again.
Business Is Business
Hebert missed the entire 1990 NFL campaign due to a contract disagreement. According to a club source who confided to The Los Angeles Times in early 1993, Hebert’s wife, Teresa, was the mastermind.
Although Saints fans thought Hebert was out of his mind to sit out the entire year, he had enough savings to support himself and his family after playing out his five-year deal with the Saints.
Hebert recalled someone telling him pressure is when a steelworker has no job and has eight kids to support. He claimed he never reached that point.
Herbert’s contract holdout apparently stemmed from his poor performance as the 1989 NFL season wound down.
The Los Angeles Rams sacked Hebert four times in a 20-17 overtime loss on November 26, 1989. The Saints’ defense imploded in that game. The secondary allowed Rams wide receiver Flipper Anderson to set a then-NFL record with 336 receiving yards.
Not only that, Hebert and Co. relinquished a commanding 17-3 lead in the fourth quarter and squander their flickering postseason hopes.
Hebert played below expectations for the second straight week in a 21-14 loss to the Detroit Lions. The Saints failed to score a single point in the second half.
Hebert’s sub-par performance made New Orleans head coach Jim Mora bench him in favor of his backup, John Fourcade.
Fourcade accounted for eight touchdowns as the Saints finished the 1989 NFL campaign strong with a three-game winning streak. Alas, it wasn’t enough for New Orleans to make the postseason for just the second time in franchise history.
Although the Saints had a respectable 9-7 win-loss record, they missed the postseason for the 22nd time in the franchise’s 23-year history.
A Difficult Period
Hebert wanted to earn a starting quarterback’s salary when he entered his sixth pro football season. However, Saints general manager Jim Finks wouldn’t budge. Consequently, Hebert thought the Saints will put him on the trading block.
NFL analyst Mike Detillier told WWLTV’s Ralph Malbrough the Los Angeles Raiders dangled a high-paying contract to Hebert during the offseason. Unfortunately, Finks didn’t want to trade Hebert just to spite him.
Hebert told The Times-Picayune’s Peter Finney in the spring of 2011 the Saints offered him a contract that paid him roughly $700,000 per season. On the other hand, the Raiders almost doubled that amount with a $1.2 million offer.
According to Hebert’s agent, Greg Campbell, Al Davis’s Raiders offered legendary running back Marcus Allen and a second-round draft selection in exchange for the disgruntled Saints signal caller.
“He wanted Bobby crawling back at his price to play football with the Saints,” Detiller explained Finks’s stance to WWLTV. “He knew Bobby grew up in Louisiana, had a home here, his family was here and thought he could break him down. It didn’t happen.”
What made matters worse for Hebert was Saints fans sided with Finks in the quarterback’s contentious contract dispute.
An unusual crime scene reflected Saints fans’ sentiments about Hebert as they ushered in the new 1990s decade.
Robbers stole all high-priced items from a New Orleans clothing store in 1990. To local law enforcement’s astonishment, the perpetrators left behind a set of Hebert’s Saints jerseys.
Week 1, 1991#Seahawks #Saints
Bobby Hebert (18-29-226-2-2) is back after a year long holdout.
Fenerty 5-14 3-66-1
Williams 6-22 8-80
27-24 #Saints pic.twitter.com/6VCJzxyjaF
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) November 10, 2021
The days leading up to Christmas 1990 were arguably among the most difficult of Bobby Hebert’s life.
During that trying period, one of Hebert’s grandmothers passed away. Physicians diagnosed his dad, Bobby Sr., with colon cancer the very next day. His manic depressive sister, Jill, who was younger than him by less than a year, took her own life four days later, on December 22, 1990.
“That was the hardest day of my life,” Hebert told The Los Angeles Times‘ Greg Logan on September 22, 1991.
Bobby Jr. broke the devastating news to his parents inside Bobby Sr.’s hospital room. Bobby Sr. was in disbelief. The Saints quarterback told The Los Angeles Times his dad felt like the biblical character Job after he heard the news.
Bobby Jr. went through a plethora of emotions in the aftermath of his sister’s tragic death. He couldn’t understand why his sister committed suicide. She accompanied Bobby Jr. and his family on their Caribbean vacation just eight months before she passed away. Her older brother also purchased a new car and ski vacation for her at the time.
Jill was a beautiful woman with two college degrees from LSU. Bobby just couldn’t fathom why such an accomplished individual would end her life in such a tragic fashion.
Hebert admitted to Logan it would have been hard for him to play for the Saints in the latter part of the 1990 NFL season because of the turmoil in his personal life.
A New Contract at Last
Bobby received some valuable consolation in the summer of 1991. He signed a two-year, $1.3 million deal with the New Orleans Saints in June of that year. In contrast, his base salary was $650,000 two years earlier.
It got better for Hebert. His wife Teresa informed him they were expecting their fourth child, Beaux, one month later.
Hebert expected Saints fans to welcome him back with open arms after the lengthy contract holdout. He envisioned fans hoisting signs at the Superdome saying, “Welcome back, Bobby.”
When Hebert reported for Saints practice prior to the 1991 NFL season, the only sign he saw at the Superdome read, “Apologize, Bobby,” per Oates.
The sign saddened Hebert. He told The Los Angeles Times the thought of ordinary people who watch Saints games siding with team ownership deeply troubled him.
The 8-8 Saints had ended their postseason drought while Hebert sat out the 1990 NFL campaign. Regrettably, they lost to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Wild Card Game, 16-6.
With Hebert back in harness, the Saints extended their postseason run to three years. He started all 25 games since his return from his contract holdout and had a combined 4,963 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions from 1991 to 1992.
Before DREW BREES the RAGING CAJUN BOBBY HEBERT was the New Orleans Saints most prolific Quarterback! He got his start in the USFL 🏈 pic.twitter.com/JH8bRoVCHT
— Dan Jackson (@DanJack45260569) February 23, 2022
Thanks in large part to Hebert’s cannon of an arm, the Saints won their first division title in team history in 1991.
Hebert’s 3,287 passing yards and 19 touchdown passes helped New Orleans tie a franchise-record twelve wins in the 1992 NFL season.
The Saints reached the AFC Wild Card Game for the third straight year but lost to Randall Cunningham’s Philadelphia Eagles, 36-20.
Sadly, it would be Bobby Hebert’s final game for his home team, the New Orleans Saints.
Suing the NFL
Hebert received his out-of-court settlement from the league amounting to $3.2 million after taxes in the spring of 1993, per The Associated Press.
After Hebert’s five-year deal with the Saints expired at the end of the 1989 NFL season, his lawsuit alleged that Plan B unfairly limited his opportunity to sign with another team.
The 32-year-old Hebert asserted he suffered more damage than the other plaintiffs because he sat out the entire 1990 NFL campaign. The total settlement amounted to $195 million.
Hebert and his family resided in a $1.5 million brick mansion along the Tchefuncte River during the pinnacle of his pro football career with the New Orleans Saints.
Their house sat on an eight-acre parcel of land and had seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, and three floors, per Oates.
During Hebert’s playing career in the Big Easy, he was the lone big-name quarterback who supported the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). Other signal-callers such as Dan Marino and Jim Everett severed ties with the NFLPA and organized their own Quarterbacks Club. Hebert declined an invitation from Marino and company.
When Hebert played for the Saints for eight seasons from 1985 to 1982, he felt he represented his home state every time he took the field.
“People aren’t nonchalant about football in Louisiana,” Hebert told Deitsch in the summer of 2004. “When you were hurting, they were hurting… I never felt I was just playing for myself. I always felt like I was playing for the community.”
Hebert spent his last four seasons in the National Football League with the Saints’ division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.
— Saints 4 life ⚜️ (@Saints4lyfe73) February 18, 2022
Hebert promptly picked up where he left off in the Big Easy. He had 2,978 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes, and 17 interceptions in his first season with the Falcons in 1993. Consequently, he earned his first and only Pro Bowl selection in his 12-year NFL career.
Hebert took a backseat to new Falcons starting quarterback Jeff George in 1994. Hebert remained in that role for more than two seasons.
After the Falcons suspended George for the entire season following a heated sideline argument with head coach June Jones in September 1996, Hebert promptly reclaimed his starting position.
Although Hebert had 3,152 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, he had a career-high 25 interceptions in 1996. Worse, he had a 3-10 win-loss record as the Falcons’ starting quarterback that year.
Bobby Hebert, “The Cajun Cannon,” retired from the National Football League following the 1996 NFL season.
Hebert had 21,683 passing yards, 135 touchdown passes, and 124 interceptions in 118 career games with the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.
Bobby Hebert and his first wife Teresa had three sons: Ryann, Bobby III, and Beaux, and a daughter, Cammy. They also have two grandchildren: Alice and Magnolia.
Bobby and Teresa divorced in 2006, and he married his second wife Joan (nicknamed “Jojo”) several months later.
According to Sports Illustrated, Hebert worked as an Atlanta Falcons postgame radio show host after he retired from the National Football League. He also worked as a motivational speaker at various schools in the Atlanta, GA area.
Hebert spent more time with his younger kids several years after he retired. He did various chores such as shopping for groceries and tutoring his kids at home.
“I joke with my kids how I’ve become their errand boy,” Hebert told Deitsch in June 2004. “It’s funny, after being the quarterback, I’m the low man on the totem pole.”
Hebert became a member of the Northwestern State Demons Hall of Fame in 1998. He entered the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in the next two years.
Hebert’s son Bobby III (nicknamed “T-Bob”) was an LSU Tigers offensive lineman from 2008 to 2011.
The United States Football League’s (USFL) second coming kicked off in the spring of 2022. When The Athletic’s Bill Shea asked Bobby Hebert in November 2021 if he would support the Panthers and promote the new league, he didn’t hesitate.
“That would be my team. I’d be Panthers fan,” Hebert told Shea. “I definitely would support it.”
— WWL Radio (@WWLAMFM) September 14, 2014
Hebert owns a Metairie, LA sports bar that bears his name, Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon. The restaurant’s various Louisiana-inspired specialties include pasta, seafood, po’boys, and steaks. Hebert’s personal favorite is the crab cakes with crawfish sauce.
He told Where Y’At’s Andrew Alexander in the spring of 2017 that his all-time favorite dish is speckled trout with green peppers and white beans.
Hebert also frequents other restaurants aside from his own. His three favorites are Cafe Giovanni, Baru, and Cava, per Alexander.
Tragedy Strikes Again
Sadly, Hebert’s father Bobby Sr. passed away due to COVID-19 on March 29, 2020. He was 81 years old.
Bobby Hebert, Sr. overcame colon cancer, open-heart surgery, and several strokes prior to his death.
“I’m kinda numb and shocked,” Bobby Jr. told WWL Radio (via ESPN). “You get numb and then sometimes you don’t want to accept reality and what you’re dealing with.”
Bobby Hebert, Jr. currently co-hosts the Sports Talk with Bobby Hebert & Kristian Garic show on the New Orleans Saints flagship station, WWL Radio.