Hours later, as he walked down the street packed with adoring crowds on either side, talking selfies with whomever ran out to him and throwing beads into the masses, it was clear he had figured it out in his own way.
It’s common for celebrity guests to be invited to ride in Endymion, one of the biggest parades of the Carnival season that rolls on the Saturday before Mardi Gras. It was practically a no-brainer to invite Kamara and Marshon Lattimore, who just capped off wildly successful seasons with rookie of the year honors for both.
The two rookies had a float to themselves, complete with a band that quickly struck up “Stand Up and Get Crunk” as soon as the parade started rolling.
“This is crazy,” one of them murmured as they saw the crowd of people, thousands of them, lined up along several miles of a route that would conclude at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Celebrity sightings in a parade aren’t rare, and Drew Brees was even named King of Bacchus in 2010. But most years their interactions with the crowd don’t go beyond smiling and waving from the safety of their float. Security is even provided, just in case.
Kamara and Lattimore, both participating in their first Mardi Gras, clearly didn’t care about what anyone did in the past. They enticed someone from the crowd to give them burgers and chicken in exchange for some premium beads. Kamara, who had been provided Airheads on the float, threw them off like they were normal throws. They hung their game day jerseys and Pro Bowl jerseys off the float, teasing people with the idea that they might actually throw them.
But what they did as the parade crossed into downtown broke all the normal rules.
“Let’s get off the float,” one of them suggested. And before anyone could really think it over, the group was jumping off and running down the street. While some stretches of the parade have barriers to prevent anyone from crossing, this part did not. Anyone who wanted to run up to them could, and did.
This was probably the worst nightmare of the security detail provided for the float. They were shorthanded that day and had one man assigned to the players and their friends. This didn’t seem to bother either rookie.
Kamara was swallowed into a crowd of fans that held up their phones, pleading for a picture. They hugged him. Lattimore walked alongside him, taking it all in. This stretched on for several minutes. The parade creeped behind them and then stopped.
Security tried to entice them to get back on the float, but the two didn’t notice or didn’t care.
It was clear they were loving it almost as much as the fans who held up signs for them or screamed their names. They were persuaded to get back on the float, but jumped off again only a few minutes later. Kamara took off by himself, grinning as he threw beads into the crowd from the ground level. At one point, the two spotted Saints general manager Mickey Loomis at the parade with his family and jogged over to take a picture. They gathered for a picture with former Saints safety Steve Gleason in the middle of the street.
A policeman eventually yelled for them to wrap it up. They obligingly climbed back up on the float. The band struck up again, and the parade continued rolling along toward the Superdome.
When asked how he felt about Mardi Gras now that he’d seen it for himself, Kamara grinned.
“I’d f— with it,” he said.
If they weren’t some of the most popular people in New Orleans before Saturday, four hours on a float may have sealed the deal for Kamara and Lattimore. They made it clear they march to the beat of their own drum, and in a city like New Orleans, there’s no better way to fit in.