OCTOBER 7, 1991
Ten years before the Carolina Panthers' Jake Delhomme put Breaux Bridge, La., on the map, Bobby Hebert was pro football's most famous Cajun. As a native Louisianan playing for the Saints, Hebert (pronounced AY-bear) achieved favored-son status in 1991 when he led New Orleans to six straight victories and the first division tide in the franchise's 24-year history. Two years later, after signing as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons, he gained another level of distinction: the subject of one of George Costanza's off-the-wall musings on Seinfeld. In the episode "The Big Salad," Costanza inexplicably tries to explain to his date the pleasure of saying Hebert's mellifluous surname:
George: "You know what's interesting? The quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons is Bobby Hebert [AY-bear]. No r, which I find fascinating.... You know, it's Herbert h-e-r-b-e-r-t, Hebert, h-e-b-e-r-t. Hebert—it's a fun name to pronounce. Try and say it."
"I'll be on my death bed and they'll still be showing that episode on TV Land," Hebert says of his mention on one of the most popular sitcoms in television history.
Once a leader of men, Hebert, 43, is now a chauffeur of children—a stay-at-home dad in Atlanta, where he lives with his wife of 23 years, Teresa, and three of their four children (Cammy, 18, Bobby III, 15, and Bo, 12. The fourth, Ryann, 21, lives in California). While Teresa has the full-time job of running her boutique in the suburb of Duluth, Bobby cohosts a Falcons postgame radio show during the NFL season and gives motivational speeches at schools.
"I've always been ambitious but not to the point where I feel like I have to own my own company and control other men," says Hebert. Now I can help my youngest son with his homework, or I'll go grocery shopping. I joke with my kids how I've become their errand boy. It's funny, after being the quarterback, I'm the low man on the totem pole."
Hebert hails from Cut Off, La., a Cajun enclave about 50 miles southwest of New Orleans, or as he likes to joke, "You know, cut off from civilization." He first gained statewide acclaim in 1977 when he led South Lafourche High to the Class 4A title and then stayed home to play college ball at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, before leaving for a three-year stint in the USFL. Hebert led the Michigan Panthers to the league's inaugural championship and in '85 signed as a free agent with the Saints. His seven years in New Orleans featured the team's first winning season (12-3 in '87), a seasonlong holdout because he felt the team was lowballing him on a contract ('90) and the NFC West title ('91). He finished his career with four seasons in Atlanta, earning his only trip to the Pro Bowl in '94, before retiring in '96. Hebert remains the most successful quarterback in Saints history, with a 49-27 record as a starter, though he was 0-3 in the postseason. "People aren't nonchalant about football in Louisiana," he says. "When you were hurting, they were hurting. Maybe I was naive about it all, but I never felt like I was just playing for myself. I always felt like I was playing for the community."