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Willie Roaf

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Willie Roaf is a former professional football player who played for nine seasons with the New Orleans Saints and four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He has accumulated numerous awards including being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

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Willie Roaf was born on April 8, 1970, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Clifton Roaf, a dentist, and Andree Layton Roaf, the first black woman to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court. While attending Pine Bluff High School, he was a member of the football and basketball teams. By 1989, Roaf had attracted little interest from college recruiters on the football field, so he considered switching to basketball. Fortunately, Louisiana Tech University head coach Joe Raymond Peace was interested in recruiting Roaf, as assistant coach Jerry Baldwin had brought Peace footage from some of Roaf’s high school games. In an interview with Peace, he said, "Jerry said he was probably a better basketball player than a football player. I looked at about eight plays, and I could tell he had great feet and hips. At the time of my visit, I believe I was the only head coach to go into the home. Although Larry Lacewell would go in later." Although Roaf was small for a college offensive lineman at 6' 4" and 220 pounds, he received a scholarship to play football for the Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs.

By his sophomore year, Willie Roaf was 6'5'' and 300 pounds. By his senior year, professional scouts had seen Roaf play numerous competitive football games across the country. Louisiana Tech had played big games against Alabama, Baylor, South Carolina, Ole Miss, and West Virginia. Roaf became known for his blocking ability and his considerable speed for his size. He was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American. Roaf was a finalist in his senior year for the Outland Trophy for the best offensive lineman in college. Roaf also made appearances in the Hula Bowl and the East–West Shrine Game. He graduated from Louisiana Tech University in 1992.

In 1993, Roaf was the eighth overall selection in the first round of the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints and the first offensive lineman drafted that year. Roaf went on to have an extremely successful 13-year career in the NFL, nine years of which he spent with the New Orleans Saints. He started 131 games for the Saints and helped the franchise to its first playoff win in 2000 when the Saints defeated the defending Super Bowl champion, the St. Louis Rams. He also became the most awarded player in Saints history as he was named to seven Pro Bowls. Roaf won a spot on the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and the 2000s All-Decade Team. In 2001, a torn ligament in his right knee forced Roaf to miss the second half of the season. He was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he made the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons. Roaf was voted to the Pro Bowl 11 times in 13 seasons.

On July 28, 2006, Roaf told the Kansas City Star that he was retiring from football. The Chiefs' general manager, Carl Peterson, hoped that Roaf would reverse his decision, but Roaf retired that year. In 2009, Roaf took his first coaching job as the offensive line coach at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California.

Throughout his lifetime, Roaf has received many accolades and awards for his accomplishments as an NFL professional football player. He has been elected to Sports Halls of Fame for Louisiana Tech Athletics (in 2003), Arkansas (in 2007), Louisiana (in 2009), Greater New Orleans (in 2012), the New Orleans Saints (in 2008), and the East-West Shrine (in 2018). In 2011, Roaf was inducted into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Honor.

On February 4, 2012, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Roaf played a pivotal role in run blocking on the offense, with the most rushing touchdowns during back-to-back seasons in NFL history. In 2013, he became a member of the Saints Ring of Honor. That year he was also inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame along with his mother, making him a legacy inductee. In 2014, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2019, Roaf was an NFL 100th Anniversary Team finalist. In 2022, he was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2013, Roaf married Angela Hernandez. Together the couple has five children, including Hernandez Roaf’s daughter from a previous relationship.


Written by: Ninfa O. Barnard

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