Offensive tackle Zach Strief finally called it quits after 12 years with the New Orleans Saints.
And it was a testament to what kind of person he is when most of his teammates—Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Cameron Jordan, Thomas Mostead, Deuce McAllister, among them—where there at the team’s media room to be with the 34-year-old when he announced his retirement.
Of the 158 regular season games, he had 93 starts. He finished his career at third most games played among offensive tackles. He also played in 10 post-season games, which was good for second in the history of the team.
“My career here has exceeded my wildest imagination. I didn’t think this was going to last through my first August, let alone 12 years,” he said. “My admiration for the New Orleans Saints organization has grown daily throughout my career.”
Strief also thanked coach Sean Payton for believing in him despite not having any NFL pedigree (he was drafted 210th overall). He said the coach had the most opportunity to give him a chance or stifle his potential. He was grateful that Payton chose to give him a chance “when no one else would.” That kind of faith changed his life.
For his part, Payton said it was easy for him to give opportunity to Strief, who got the starting spot when Jon Stinchcomb retired in 2010, because the former Northwestern player was an overachiever.
“I would say what he’s been able to do with his strength, his size, his experience and all of those things, he became one of the best right tackles in our game in the last five years,” the coach added.
Payton said that what he appreciated more about Strief was how consistent he was. When he called his number, he knows that his offensive lineman was going to produce no matter what.