Happy homecoming for Saints RB

The Saints will inhabit the visitors sidelines for tonight's preseason contest vs. the Packers at Lambeau Field, but no one on either team will feel more at home than New Orleans running back Aaron Stecker.<P>

The phone has been ringing off the hook at the Stecker household, which is close enough to Lambeau to be seen from the press box.

"When Sundays came around we used to play football in my front yard. When the Packers did something good you could hear the crowd cheer from my house," Stecker told the New Orleans Times-Picayune about his hometown.

Stecker's family moved from his native La Crosse to Green Bay when he was 12 years old. He spent his teen years less than two miles from the stadium and was a prep football and baseball star for Ashwaubenon High School in suburban Green Bay.

As a kid, Stecker had big dreams of playing pro football at Lambeau; those dreams came true, except he's wearing black and gold instead of green and gold.

"I always wanted to play for the Packers, but it doesn't always work out that way," Strecker said.

Not playing for Green Bay doesn't diminish his respect for the town and its team.

"There's nothing else like it. It's crazy," Stecker said. "For their intrasquad scrimmage they get like 60,000 people. That's unheard of. It's a special franchise. It's owned by the fans, and they live and die for the Packers.

This visit won't be the first time this Green Bay fan has stepped onto Lambeau Field as a visitor. In his fifth pro season out of West Virginia, Stecker spent his first four campaigns in Tampa which bought him a few return trips home. The move to New Orleans this season gave him a bonus homecoming; while the Saints are tonight's preseason guest, the Bucs are absent from the Packers' schedule for the first time in Tampa Bay's 28-year history (the teams were scheduled to play in 1982 but did not due to the strike-shortened season).

"I've been there twice when I played for Tampa Bay, but I didn't play the first time," Stecker said. "Going there the first time was cool, but actually getting a chance to play was a childhood dream. Playing in Lambeau is a special feeling. There's nothing else like it. On Sundays, Green Bay is like a ghost town. Everybody's at the game."

Contributing to the empty streets of Green Bay tonight will be dozens of friends and family members will be at the game. They'll expect to see the 5-10, Stecker return kicks and see action with the first and second-team offense as a backup to Deuce McAllister.

Stecker, 28, has played in 55 games with two starts. He has 402 yards on 101 career carries and one touchdown. Last season was his most prolific as he gained 125 yards on 37 carries, playing in all 16 games with one start. As a returner Stecker brought back exactly 100 career kicks for 2376 yards, a 20.8-yard average. His best season was 2002 when he returned 37 kicks for 934 yards for the Buccaneers.


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