The biggest attraction on Bourbon Street this week hasn't been Al Hirt, the trumpet player, or Candy Barr, the stripper. It's been Tony Dorsett, the Heisman Trophy winner.
Dorsett merely has to set foot on the Crescent City's most famous avenue and it's instant chaos. Kids clamor for his autograph. Girls of all ages beg for his kisses. Adults reach for a handshake.
"Even Georgia fans want to talk to me," said Dorsett with a laugh. "It's been crazy."
There was a time when Dorset was bothered by such adulation. But after a season of living in the public eye, he now thoroughly enjoys it. He expects to attarct the spotlight when he ventures into the real world, and rarely is he disappointed.
But no week in a season of incredible weeks has been quite like the last one. Dorsett has come to a city known for its stars and bright lights and he has won the town.
"It's does get a little awkward," he admitted, "to try to walk through the French Quarter and have a crowd follow you down the street. It's impossible to hide."
So he doesn't try. Wearing a crazyworded T-shirt and a golf cap with the brim turned down so it is in the back, he strolls through the lobby of his hotel and into the quarter and his public follows. They stand over him while he tries to eat and they wait patiently while he tries to keep those famous legs loose on a dance floor.
"Sometimes," he said, "I wish the music wouldn't stop when I'm out there. I look around, and people already are lined up waiting for me to start signing autographs. That disrupts everyone else, but if you don't do it, people get mad."
So Tony Dorsett signs autographs and flashes that smile that makes young ladies swoon and plays his role as superstar to the fullest. And then he tries to get himself ready somehow for his final college game Saturday in the Sugar Bowl.
It hasn't been easy. At home in Pittsburgh, he can jump in his car and drive endlessly, listening to his radio and focusing his mind on the task ahead. But there have been few private moments this week, and that worries him because he desperately wants to play well against Georgia. He has captured all the individual awards a man could want, but now he wants the end team award - a national title - that an individual alone can't win.
"If we lose the national title Saturday, it would put a damper on everything," he said. "Everything I've gotten as an individual wouldn't mean as much. I really mean that."
A loss in the Sugar Bowl, however, won't put a damper on the memories he has given football fans everywhere this season. He has accomplished the unprecedented and he has gone about it in unique fashion. He has been open and outspoken and accessible - and he has shown he has human weaknesses just like the rest of us.
Dorsett perhaps is best described as a mod all-America boy. He believes in God, but he also believes in settling his stomach with a cold beer or two. He loves his mother, and he also is proud of his son, whom he freely admits fathered out of wedlock. He stands tall during the National Anthem, but he once failed to pay more than $1,000 worth of traffic tickets at school.
He'll admit he's partied too long before some games and he'll joke about his roving eye for pretty young ladies. "I'm a city person," he says, "and I cna't hold things back. City people aren't perfect, I'm certainly not. I'm just trying to enjoy life."
Yet the endless round of interviews and public appearances have grown tiresome. He is glad it will be all over Saturday "so maybe I can go home to Pittsburgh and get in the last syllable.
"I've been having a little fun with that," he said, "but I just thought it sounded nice. I don't really care how people say it. Just as long as they say it."
he does care about what the future will bring. He is anxious to play pro football and begin earning some money for his extraordinary skills. And what are those skills worth?
"I really haven't thought about it," he said, although he didn't blink when the figure $2 million" was mentioned. "I plan to get what I think I deserve, but I'm not going to be greedy.I just think I've paid my dues all these years, more than anyone else ever has."
Dorsett couldn't ask for a better time to entro pro fotball. In an open market without a draft, his final contract could be staggering. If some form of a draft does occur, his services will come high anyway.
"I'm not going to have an agent," he said. "I want a guy who can set me up for life and make sure I don't trip up along the way. I'm going to find one fast, probably in January, and then see how things fall."
But this week, that pro career seemed so far away from New Orleans and the glamor of the moment. He was very much the college star, that rare bowl personality who has been able to outshine anyone else, including head coaches, associated with the game.
Even Dorsett realized his was something different. He was asked how it felt, and he paused and smiled.
"You know, this is a long way for someone from a small Pennsylvania steel town to come," he said. "You can't envision something like this season happening. You want it to, but how can you really think it will take place?
"I remember my first college game, against Georgia four years ago. I was 18 years old and I started to play in Athens. As soon as we took the field, they started yelling, 'dogfood, dogfood.' It was pretty frightening, I had never heard anything like it before.
"I really wasn't ready then for college and what it meant to be a good football player. I was shy and it was hard for me to talk to people and get a lot of publicity. I've changed a lot since then, haven't I?"
Dorsett gained 101 yards in that first game and Saturday he ends his career against the same opponent.
And what is he most looking forward to in the pros?
"For people to call me Anthony," he said. "I hate Tony. From now on, it's going to be Anthony again."