The Sportsmen of WWL
Some 30 years ago a football-crazed young lady wrote, “There are two seasons in our family — football season and waiting for football season.”
For the fellows who talk sports on WWL AM/FM Radio and during the New Orleans Saints games, all to a man agree that this describes their lives as well. For Mike Hoss, Bobby Hebert and Mike Detillier, talking sports is a passion and a profession. And while they share this same passion, their paths to the airwaves are remarkably dissimilar.
Mike Hoss is now the play-by-play announcer for New Orleans Saints games, sharing the radio booth with Deuce McAllister, the former Saints running back who provides color commentary. They both provide pre- and post-game coverage and appearances during the weeks of football season — and anytime the hometown football team is a hot topic of conversation.
Hoss, a native of Manassas, Virginia, graduated from James Madison University and began his career as a television journeyman, eventually landing at WWL-TV, and lovingly won the viewers’ affection when he dressed as a moose while covering Fat Tuesday festivities.
His first day on the New Orleans airwaves was Monday, February 27, 1989, when he joined the sports team. He eventually moved to the news desk and remained at WWL until 2017 when, citing a desire to spend more time with his family, he joined a start-up communications company.
Hoss says he was “busy and happy,” when, one Sunday during a Saints game, Doug Thornton, Executive Vice President, ASM Global, offered him an opportunity to join the Superdome/Smoothie King team, then managed by SMG, as a spokesperson for the upcoming renovation of the multipurpose stadium. He accepted the role and remains as Manager of Media Relations for Caesars Superdome and Smoothie King Center, Champions Square, and ASM Global/LSED.
But Hoss harbored a dream. He always wished he could be the play-by-play announcer for the New Orleans Saints. When the iconic Jim Henderson retired, Hoss threw his hat in the ring, but Saints defensive lineman Zach Strief announced his retirement from the game, and WWL radio management snagged the former, popular player for the job. Hoss, one of the finalists for the role, describes Strief as “the right hire at the right time.”
Then, as Hoss’s luck would have it, Strief accepted Coach Sean Payton’s offer to join the team as a defensive coach in 2021, and the opportunity once again presented itself. Hoss says it was the “unbelievable break of a lifetime.”
Already blessed with a deep knowledge of and interest in sports and the Saints, Hoss says that as he approaches his third season, he is always practicing and studying.
“I started July 6, 2021, and knew immediately how incredibly, massively behind I was. I was observing training camp, getting to know the team and learning how to prepare,” says Hoss. “First preseason game and there are 90 people on each roster.”
He describes the first year as “all difficult, like a salmon swimming upstream.” Then came Hurricane Ida. “Now, I was preparing for my first regular season game — a home game that had to be relocated to Jacksonville because of post-hurricane conditions in the city — while living with 26 people in a house in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. I had never not covered a hurricane for television, and now I was working on game prep and driving to the city to check on the Superdome, and the football team was in Dallas,” Hoss recalls. “We were not seeing the team on a daily basis and had to hit the airwaves to offer the best game experience Deuce and I could, and the team wins 38-3, beating Green Bay. What a way to start this new career.”
Now entering his third year, Hoss says, “The biggest change is that now it is truly fun. I know how to prepare, seeing some teams multiple times each season, and in the booth on gameday I am more relaxed.”
Hoss gives tremendous credit to his partner, McAllister.
“Deuce is so smart,” says Hoss. “It’s like we are watching two different games. He sees stuff before it happens. I’m living my dream and having a blast. It’s seven days a week, and hopefully more than five months, but the New Orleans Saints are a team and an organization that are so much fun to be around.”
Fob Bobby Hebert, affectionately described as “the Cajun Cannon,” playing football and talking sports are pretty much all he has ever known, and talking sports is now what he does every day on afternoon Sports Talk radio for WWL.
The so-called “Founding Father of the Who Dat Nation” grew up on the bayous of South Lafourche, specifically in Cut Off, playing high school football at South Lafourche, then attending Northwestern State. Hebert’s first pro gig was in the USFL…first the Michigan Panthers, then the Oakland Invaders, where he received many honors: the Invaders were runners-up in the USFL Championship (1985); in 1983 Hebert led the Panthers to the USFL championship, and he was the MVP in the game and the Most Outstanding Quarterback in the league that season.
Hebert joined the New Orleans Saints in 1985 as a rookie and, in 1991, after leading the Saints to the best start ever in franchise history, he was honored on the cover of Sports Illustrated on October 7 of that year. In 1993, Hebert signed with the Atlanta Falcons and played in the NFL Pro Bowl in 1993. Atlanta was where he landed his first job on the radio talking sports after he retired from play.
“For a while I thought about coaching, but the lifestyle of a coach is hard on a family,” says Hebert. “So, I thought, ‘How can I stay involved in sports?’ I’ve been doing radio for 26 years, starting in Atlanta,” says Hebert. “There, talking sports was more about the Atlanta Braves baseball team, not the Falcons. The Braves were the celebrities, the stars. Back then Buddy Diliberto was on the radio back here in New Orleans, and he called and asked if I would come on his show.”
That invitation eventually led to Hebert’s return to the local WWL airwaves and New Orleans. He says: “It was before Hurricane Katrina, and I was on talking about the draft, then pre- and post-game coverage, and then Buddy died. That’s when it became more of a full-time job.”
Today, Hebert is on the air every afternoon, talking about whatever the hot topic is for the local sports fan: the New Orleans Saints, the Pelicans, LSU, Tulane and more, and sometimes dipping into history and pop culture.
“I find to be successful and entertaining you have to be well-read and do your homework,” says Hebert. Coworkers say he’s the hardest-working guy in the radio sports talk game because he does things the old-fashioned way. Hebert agrees, because, as he says, “I am like an old newspaper guy. I like stuff in my hand. When you rapidly have to talk on the radio, you don’t always have time to look something up. But I think I have a knack for knowing what’s relevant, which helps.”
Hebert also is not shy to say what he thinks about the teams whose performance he discusses. “I speak the truth, and sometimes the truth as I see it hurts. But in the end, I believe the fans appreciate honesty.”
And the honest truth about the upcoming Saints season has Hebert singing a positive song.
Mike Detillier, Hebert’s afternoon cohost, is positive too and smarter than most when it comes to talking football talent. And his role at WWL is measured in hours and miles, literally. Known to many as “The Football Guy,” Detillier lives in Mathews, Louisiana, and, like Hebert, grew up on the bayou, but Central Lafourche, where he also played football, was home. The former fullback and linebacker studied aquatic engineering at Louisiana Tech and Sacramento State, and eventually took an engineering job for the State of Louisiana. For Detillier, sports — football — was a passion, whereas engineering was a profession.
It was the late Hap Glaudi who invited him to come on his radio show in the early 1980s, and Detillier’s exposure grew when he connected with the late Buddy Diliberto, making regular appearances to discuss his vast knowledge of football players and the NFL draft.
He retired from engineering, and interviews around the nation about football talent kept him so busy, Detillier thought he would never do anything full-time again.
“I finished covering the 2021 draft and I get a call from WWL radio’s management, asking if I would do sports talk full-time again. And working with Bobby Hebert? That was an easy transition,” says Detillier. “One thing Bobby and I have in common besides growing up on the bayous of Lafourche Parish: Neither of us knows when to shut up sometimes.”
For Detillier the drives are worth it and, as he says, if he’s going to do anything he is doing it with “both feet in,” adding: “A lot of people don’t really recognize me but as soon as I open my mouth, it is a dead giveaway. So many people listen, and the outreach is tremendous. Had it been another radio station I am not sure I would have said yes.”