New Orleans Bowl Central -- Time for lunch

by Dan McDonald

The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl's Friday luncheon honored the two competing teams, but an LSU product and a Hall of Fame quarterback drew the biggest responses.

A large crowd was on hand for the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl's official luncheon honoring the two football teams Friday at the Marriott, but even UL and East Carolina had to take a back seat to one of the banquet's honorees.

Former LSU standout Chad Jones, whose career looked to be over after ankle and leg injuries in a horrific auto accident over two years ago, was honored by the bowl for his comeback efforts. The former defensive back and baseball standout has been working with physical therapists and rehabilitation specialists since his June 2010 accident, and physical therapist John Moran said he is trying to schedule a private workout with the New Orleans Saints.

Jones has been cleared for unlimited workouts, even though the New York Giants - who drafted him in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft - released him earlier this year.

Also featured during the banquet was guest speaker and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, who said his two-decade professional football career doesn't measure up to the excitement of guiding Washington into the 1978 Rose Bowl.

"I've played in a lot of playoff games and had a lot of accolades," Moon said, "but nothing equals going out and getting that Rose Bowl win."

Washington beat heavily-favored Michigan 27-20 that year, with Moon being named the game's MVP, and he credited some of the things that bowl games create with helping forge that win.

"Bowl games help create team unity," he said. "It becomes a you versus the world mentality. We became much closer as a team because we played in a bowl game.

"This bowl game in particular has grown so much in 12 years, and you're going to have an attendance record again this year. That's wonderful here, because I know people here love their food, they love their partying and they love their football team ... especially the Saints. but that spills over to the college football teams here."

UL coach Mark Hudspeth and ECU coach Ruffin McNeill also spoke at the event, before both teams headed out for their final workouts before Saturday's 11 a.m. contest at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Cajuns had a walk-through at the 'Dome Friday morning and headed out to the New Orleans Saints practice facility for a final session mid-afternoon Friday.