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Pine Bluff’s Roaf a bright star in football

by Ninfa Barnard Special to The Commercial | February 20, 2023 at 3:34 a.m.
Former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin (left) laughs with Willie Roaf, former NFL lineman at the Little Rock Touchdown Club season-ending banquet at the Embassy Suites at Little Rock in 2015. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Rick McFarland)

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's accumulated numerous awards during his career, including being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He was born April 8, 1970, in Pine Bluff 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 1988, Roaf had attracted little interest from college recruiters on the football field, so he considered switching to basketball. Roaf finished high school in 1988.

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, Peace 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 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds, he received a football scholarship to Louisiana Tech.

By his sophomore year, Roaf was 6 feet 5 inches and 300 pounds, and by his senior year, professional scouts had seen him play in numerous football across the country. Louisiana Tech had played games against Alabama, Baylor, South Carolina, Ole Miss and West Virginia that season.

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.

He also made appearances in the Hula Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game. He graduated from Louisiana Tech 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 Saints.

He started in 131 games for the Saints and helped the team to its first playoff win in 2000, when the Saints defeated the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. He also became the most awarded player in Saints history after he was named to seven Pro Bowls.

Roaf was also named to the NFL's 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 and he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he made the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons. Roaf was elected 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 offensive line coach at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, Calif.

Roaf has received many accolades and awards for his accomplishments as a professional football player. He was named to the 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, and on Feb. 4, 2012, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 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, he was an NFL 100th Anniversary Team finalist. And in 2022, Roaf 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.

This article is among features at, a program of the Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotion Commission. Sources: - Willie Roaf; - The Remarkable Roaf Family.

Ninfa O. Barnard wrote this article for

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