By Kathleen Nelson
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
10/21/2005


Meet the Meatheads.

Four members of the New Orleans Saints who love to lift weights have formed a merry band that eats together, goes to movies together and terrorizes the halls of the Alamodome in San Antonio on motorized scooters.

Think circus clowns - super-sized circus clowns.

They are a source of companionship to one another and comic relief to their teammates, a necessity since Hurricane Katrina forced the Saints to leave their homes and families. Two of the Meatheads are former Rams: tight end Ernie Conwell and defensive tackle Brian Young.

Conwell spent seven seasons with the Rams after being drafted in 1996 and signed with the Saints in 2003. The Rams drafted Young in 2000; the Saints signed him as an unrestricted free agent in 2004.

Young connected almost immediately upon his arrival in New Orleans with Conwell, his former teammate and soul mate, who held the Rams' bench-press record. The other Meatheads are fullback Mike Carney, who grew up with Conwell's nieces and nephews in Conwell's hometown of Kent, Wash., and Rodney Leisle, one of Young's backups.

The group has served as a surrogate family for Conwell, whose wife, Andrea, and four children are staying in Nashville.

Conwell serves as a hero to the rest. While buying necessities to take to evacuees, Conwell met Ronald Tennessee, who had lost everything, including the engagement ring he planned to give his fiancee. Conwell took Tennessee to the jewelry counter and paid for a set of rings, as well as clothing for Tennessee's bride. He hasn't seen Tennessee since, though he heard that the couple were married at the shelter.

The Meatheads take a lot of ribbing for their maniacal devotion to lifting but brazenly flaunt their favored mode of transportation. Conwell bought four scooters on clearance for $200 each, which the quartet uses inside the Alamodome.

"They go seven, eight miles an hour," Young said. "Most of us are over the suggested weight limit. There's a warning about being over 275 (pounds). I think there's only one of us under the limit, and that's Ernie."

Far from being the object of ridicule, the Meatheads are at the cutting edge.

"It's starting to catch on," Young said. "I think everybody realizes how much easier it is on the body. Our meeting rooms, everything, are on the other side of the building. But we have to come down here to get dressed, walk all the way back down there for walk-throughs, come all the way back down here to get dressed and go upstairs to eat. It's a lot of walking, and it will take its toll, so it does save your legs quite a bit."

We're guessing that you have to be there not to laugh.

On the field, the former St. Louisans remain all business. Conwell has caught 13 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown.

Young has made 30 tackles. He said he wasn't pleased with his performance earlier in the season but is getting more comfortable.

The duo said they couldn't wait for Sunday's game at the Edward Jones Dome against their former team. Young's wife, Noel, is from St. Louis. Andrea will join Conwell here.

"She's rubbing it in that she's staying 'till Tuesday and going to Annie Gunn's, which was one of our favorite places," Conwell said. "And she's going to Ted Drewes - all the things that make St. Louis great. We love it. I can see us coming back there someday."