Brian Allee-Walsh

Who's on deck to replace Jim Henderson to call Saints games? Here are some options.

Jim Henderson, the legendary New Orleans Saints play-by-play announcer for the past 30 years, is hugged by Kristian Garic, left, a WWL sportscaster, and Deuce McAllister, a former Saints running back and a current WWL sportscaster, after Henderson announced his retirement at the WWL radio studios in New Orleans, La. Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018.
Jim Henderson, the legendary New Orleans Saints play-by-play announcer for the past 30 years, is hugged by Kristian Garic, left, a WWL sportscaster, and Deuce McAllister, a former Saints running back and a current WWL sportscaster, after Henderson announced his retirement at the WWL radio studios in New Orleans, La. Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. Advocate staff photo

Thirty-eight days and counting ...

As of Father's Day Sunday that's how many days remain until the New Orleans Saints are expected to report en masse to training camp in Metairie, Louisiana (Wednesday, July 25), although players are not allowed to don full pads until July 29, according to the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement.

As we saw this past week, Saints officials continue to tweak their roster with the signing of veteran running back Terrance West, who's viewed largely as a potential stand-in for PED-violator Mark Ingram during the month of September.

That said, a large void still remains in the Saints' radio flagship team on WWL-870 — specifically a play-by-play person to replace the venerable Jim Henderson alongside color commentator and Ole Miss legend Deuce McAllister.

Henderson announced his retirement Feb. 1 after a stellar 32-year career as the radio voice of the Black and Gold.

And here we are with the start of training camp just around the corner — a Super Bowl season perhaps — and still it's all silent on the radio front.

Honestly, the still-to-be-named voice that ultimately will be heard around Who Dat Nation intrigues me more than who replaces Ingram the first four games of the season. West reportedly beat out free agent running backs Tim Hightower, Shane Vereen and Jamaal Charles for a chance to earn a spot on the season-opening 51-man roster.

After canvassing the gaggle of reporters who'd gathered for Wednesday's minicamp practice, here's what I uncovered about Henderson's future replacement:

Look for an announcement the week of July 4, perhaps the last days of June.

Unofficially, it appears there are five viable candidates, though all might not be considered as finalists: They are, in no particular order:

  • Recently retired Saints tackle Zach Strief

  • Two members of the Pelicans' radio and TV broadcast team — Joel Meyers (TV) and Sean Kelley (radio)

  • Tulane radio play-by-play man Todd Graffagnin

  • Former longtime WWL-TV anchor and reporter Mike Hoss.

To the best of my knowledge, Strief and Hoss have no real play-by-play experience. Meyers, Kelly and Graffagnini are full-throated veterans and no strangers to the broadcast booth.

If I had to handicap this race, I'd list Strief as a solid sentimental favorite and would be a colorful complement to McAllister. Hoss and Graffagnini are both longshots with the winner being either Kelley or Meyers.

Take my educated guess with a grain of salt. The final call rests with WWL-radio but Saints officials will have a huge say in the selection process.

All I can say is stay tuned and don't touch that dial!

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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