Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/17/12
Willie Roaf was one of the new breed of offensive linemen: huge enough to open massive holes for running backs to slither through, yet agile and athletic enough to back-peddle against fast-twitch, aggressive defensive ends.

And then strong enough to hold ground allowing his quarterback the precious 3-5 seconds needed to release the football.
 
Big No. 77 was a gentle giant, quiet and soft-spoken, preferring to let his play speak volumes about his work ethic, tenacity, and talent.

In all the years I watched him play I never saw him once blow up at an opponent. He just took care of business at the highest level.

And you almost never heard the announcer call his name for a penalty or because he was beat on a play, which meant he was doing his job at an elite level.
 
Roaf was drafted No. 8 overall in the first round of the 1993 Draft by the New Orleans Saints.
As a tackle at Louisiana Tech he was a consensus first team All-American and a finalist of the Outland Trophy, which recognizes college football's best offensive lineman.
 
In his first year in the NFL he started at right tackle but was moved to the more important position of left tackle - thereby protecting a right-handed quarterback’s blind side - the following year. He played nine years as a Saint (1993-2001) and was selected to seven Pro Bowls.

After a serious knee injury sidelined him for the 2001 season he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs (2002-2005) where he battled back from his injury to garner four more Pro Bowl selections.
 
Roaf, 36 years old, decided to walk away from a game he was still dominant at in 2006, going out on top and with class, a trait that followed him throughout his career. He has been selected to the NFL’s 1990s and 2000s All-Decade Team, a feat accomplished by only Dallas guard Larry Allen and Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp. He was selected to the Hall of Fame class of 2012 in his second year of eligibility.
 
 
 
 

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