Nick Piazza’s job on Sundays when the Saints are at home is to stand on the sideline and put the orange first down marker in place. That means that when a ball carrier is running full-speed to get the first down before stepping out of bounds, and a tackler is running full-speed to stop him, they’re running directly at Piazza, who has a split-second to get out of the way.
For nine years he’s been on the job, Piazza has been able to get out of the way unscathed. Until, on Sunday, he didn’t.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara collided with Piazza on the sideline during Sunday’s game against the Lions, and the result was ugly: The TV audience saw Piazza’s leg contorted gruesomely, causing two torn ligaments, a fractured fibula and cartilage damage.
Piazza will need surgery and a long recovery, but he told Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune he’s been touched by the outpouring of support from the Saints, as well as from viewers across the country who saw the injury and reached out.
“I really appreciate the messages, care packages and medical treatment,” Piazza said. “And if you see Alvin, please tell him thanks. He signed a football and jersey for me. Very nice.”
Piazza, who works as a teacher, only makes $50 a game, not a lot of money to risk an injury like that. But he loves football, and what football fan wouldn’t want a sideline pass to see every one of his favorite team’s home games from a vantage point that few get to experience?
“I’ve always loved the Saints,” Piazza told Duncan. “There’s nothing better than being right there.”
Piazza said the Saints sent a care package to his house, and owner Gayle Benson personally had food sent to his family. Others around the league have reached out as well.
“I was embarrassed at first,” he said. “I’m not used to being in the spotlight. But after a while, I realized, ‘Ain’t no hiding it now.’ It is what it is.”
Piazza said in the instant before Kamara came tumbling toward his legs, he thought he might hurdle him the way an NFL player could leap over a tackler. Unfortunately, he says, “I mistimed my jump.”