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Billy Joe Tolliver: Former New Orleans Saint Looks Back on NFL

by Courtney Maciasz

November 11, 2009 – LFM: Where are you originally from?
BJT: I’m from Boyd, Texas. It’s about 70 miles northwest of Dallas.

LFM: Tell me about that 63-7 win over TCU when you were at Texas Tech. You threw for 422 yards and 5 touchdowns. What did that game do for your football career?
BJT: It was my first start in college, and I had gotten some action the week before against the University of Texas. I guess what it did was cemented me as the starter as a redshirt freshman.

LFM: What is the NFL draft process like?
BJT: The process itself is pretty grueling, and it’s nerve wracking. You spend your whole life working for one goal, and then, all of a sudden it comes down to the Combine and everything else. You know, you’re poked and prodded. That’s just the start of it. Say you do get picked; now you’ve got to make it because nothing’s guaranteed.

LFM: What would you say was your greatest moment in the NFL?
BJT: You know, I was such a team guy that it would be hard for me to individualize something. Your first pass and your last pass are always good. You know, I can’t remember my last pass, and I can’t remember my first pass. Now, I remember my first touchdown. When I was with the San Diego Chargers, I threw a dodge route to Anthony Miller, and we were getting beat by the Jets. He tried to give me the football for my first touchdown pass, and we were getting beat by 14 points at the time, but I didn’t care for that football. We didn’t win, so I didn’t want the football. That’s how I remember my first touchdown.

LFM: What was your most disappointing moment in the NFL?
BJT: You can always remember your most disappointing moments. The most disappointing moment was ’99 in New Orleans when we went 3-13. I thought we had enough talent to make a push for a playoff spot. We didn’t start playing well until late in the season. Then, as we’re going, I blow my knee out and break a couple of ribs and keep playing, but I felt we were so much better. I thought we failed Mike Ditka.

LFM: Do you have a team you enjoyed playing for the most?
BJT: The whole experience playing in the NFL was good, but I really enjoyed New Orleans with Mike Ditka and with Jim Haslett. I thought Tom Benson was doing the right thing to get his franchise in the right situation. Look at where they are today at 7-0. I thought he [Tom Benson] was making some quality moves and spending some money, doing the right thing. They appreciated what you did for them.

LFM: What was it like playing for Mike Ditka and Jim Haslett?
BJT: They were two different guys. Haslett was intense, and of course, everyone knows how Mike Ditka is…certainly intense. Ditka coached the game a lot on just guts, like we’re just physically tougher than you are, and we’re going to go prove it. It was very refreshing. I bought everything that Coach Ditka was selling. I loved it. It was my brand of football. It was very enjoyable. Then again, I really liked what Haslett was doing. He brought in an offense with Mike McCarthy as offensive coordinator that could get some things done. Every coach you play for, there’s great things you can say about them. I can go back to Jerry Glanville, but I really enjoyed playing for Coach Ditka.

LFM: How important is it to not only be physically strong in the game of football, but also mentally tough?
BJT: I think it may be of greater importance on the mental side. When you say 16 games, it doesn’t sound like it’s that long of a season when you compare it to baseball or basketball. It’s very physically and mentally demanding throughout those 16 games. Plus, you have the offseason, preseason and everything else rolling into it. It’s different for a quarterback than say for a defensive lineman, because that defensive lineman is not walking in there on Monday morning with the whole franchise on his shoulders. There’s just a lot of other peripheral stuff you have to deal with. As they say, the quarterback gets too much credit and too much blame. It’s a grind. It’s the same for the quarterback as it is for the coaches. The only difference is the coach isn’t getting pounded.

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