Prattville – Mayor Jim Byard Jr. proclaimed Saturday as “Roman Harper Day” in the city as several hundred New Orleans Saints fans flocked to the Doster Center to catch a glimpse of the star tackler and to take home a photo or autograph.
The Prattville native was joined by his parents Ronald and Princess, sister Talia, and brother Ronnie for the event. His dad was thrilled to have him home for even for a short stay.
“He’ll be with us for a week,” he said. “The last time he visited was back in August.”
Joining in the fun of the day and teasing Harper a bit was his childhood babysitter, Joanie Evans.
“My boyfriend and I would take Roman and Ronnie to McDonalds when they were little … I got to know the family because Roman’s dad was the coach when I was at Prattville High School,” said Evans. “Roman was interested in football when he was four and would peek through the fence at the field to watch them play. He’d say, ‘I want to play,’ and I’d have to tell him that he was not old enough.”
“But, those two were just the sweetest boys,” continued Evans.
The Saints safety signed t-shirts, footballs, helmets, and posters for fans, posed for photographs, and spoke briefly at the podium around noon.
“Thank you all for coming out and supporting me and loving me, just wanted to say how happy I am to y’all … thank you Prattville,” he said.
The mayor then presented Harper with the proclamation and declared that it was his day in Prattville.
“That means you have only a few hours left to run red lights and not have to obey any traffic laws,” Byard said. “But, what makes today really special is that Roman Harper is a young man from Prattville, Alabama, and he has not forgotten that … and that deserves a round of applause.”
Other officials paid tribute to Harper including Senator Wendell Mitchell and State Representative Mac Gipson.
Melanie Chambliss, past President of the University of Alabama Alumni Association, also spoke during the ceremony.
“I’m here on behalf of Governor Bob Riley and the entire state of Alabama,” she said. “First, I want to say Roll Tide! And now I want to say that our whole state is proud of his performance on the field and his performance in his everyday life.”
Harper played a major role in the Saints victory (31-17) over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. He was the second-leading tackler on the team.
Before being drafted into the NFL, Harper doubled as quarterback and free safety when he played football at Prattville High School and was a three-year starter at the University of Alabama.
Harper spoke for a few minutes with Our Prattville after the autograph session.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): So, is your hand tired of signing autographs, Roman? You must have signed about 500 shirts and posters.
Roman Harper: No, not really my hand, I’m just tired. I’d just like to go lay down and rest for a while.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What are you doing on your off time?
Roman Harper: I’m going to try to go and get some me time and go relax a little bit … kick back. I’m going to go out to LA a little bit and kind of get into that whole thing out there.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Are you a free agent now?
Roman Harper: No, I’m a restricted free agent so I don’t hit the market or anything. I’ll be with New Orleans either way.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What do you think about Coach Nick Saban leading Alabama to the National Championship?
Roman Harper: I think he’s a winner. I don’t know him personally, but I respect him for what he does for my university. I really appreciate the things he has done in the short time he’s been there. I’m a fan of his because they are winning. I like what he does.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What advice would you give to a young player just starting out with a football career?
Roman Harper: Just to work hard. I mean, have fun with it, don’t take it too seriously, just go out there and play the game for what it is. It’s just a sport. At the end of the day you’ve got to keep working and if you want to make it into something you’ve got to strive for it and just go for it.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do the Saints have a good shot at the Super Bowl next year?
Roman Harper: I don’t know, man, it’s too early to be talking about all of that (laughs). I’m just going to enjoy this one right here.
Article by Melissa Parker
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