When Pro Football Hall of Fame officials notify honorees of their extrapolation, the first thing they do is order personal artifacts to display in a cabinet exhibit at the museum in Canton, Ohio.
Sam Mills’ family went to work right away. They dug into boxes of Sam’s personal belongings from his playing days in New Orleans and Carolina to see what they could find. In one of the chests, they discovered a unique item: black military uniforms with gold lettering. Painting on the box: Mills. Unit: No Mass. The #51 mills are sewn into a single front pocket. On the other side, there was a golden patch of Louisiana.
“When we saw it, we immediately knew what it was,” said Marcus Mills, one of Sam’s three sons. “Who else has a big black jumpsuit sitting around?”
Marcus and his siblings, Andre Sam III, were there on that day in 1988 when his dad and fellow Saints Ricky Jackson, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swelling stood in apparel for the iconic “Dom Patrol” poster on the Super-Dome arena.
The poster instantly became one of the most popular in the line produced by Seattle-based Costacos Brothers, and is a must-have for Saints fans. It remains an enduring symbol of the iconic Dome Patrol teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and is a cherished memorial from the first great era of Saint Football.
“We immediately said, ‘Oh, this has to go[into the Hall of Fame]’,” Marcus Mills said.
Today, the outfit is prominently displayed in Mills’ closet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It hangs next to Mills’ All-Madden Team letter jacket, and below Saints’ helmet and game ball from his first game with the Philadelphia Stars, in their 13-7 victory over the Denver Gold in 1983.
Thousands of football fans have watched it since its premiere this spring. Thousands more will watch him this weekend as Mills and the rest of the 2022 class are immortalized during Saturday’s tribute gala at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame.
“This is the coolest thing ever,” said John Costakos, co-founder of Costacos Brothers. “We consider the Doom Patrol one of the best stickers we’ve ever made.”
The Costakos poster business was still in its infancy at the time. Begun in 1986 on Lark after Kostakos graduated from the University of Washington, the business took off after their successful “Mad Mac” poster of Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.
He dressed as Dom Patrol Sam Mills in the iconic 1988 poster hanging on screen at his Treasury Gallery in Tweet embed. It’s safe to say it’s the only black military fatigue to emerge from the eight players, coaches and contributors who will be honored today. #nola pic.twitter.com/T6IIMLc11S
– Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) August 6, 2022
The idea for the Dome Patrol poster emerged after Costacos met Mills at the 1987 Pro Bowl. Saints and mills were popular themes at the time. The Saints had gone 12-3 that year to score their first winning season in franchise history. Mills was one of six Saints enrolled at the time who received Pro Bowl invitations that winter.
“Obviously, if you were going to do something with the Saints at the time, it should have been something to do with the full-back,” Costakos said. “Everyone talked about their players. Their full-backs were very good.”
The Dom Patrol theme was designed by Costakos and his brother Toke and signed by Mills, Jackson, Johnson and Swelling. He hired Corky Trewin, a Seattle Seahawks staff photographer, to shoot the photos and assigned one of his last assignments, Tom Reese, to oversee the project in New Orleans.
Reese was eager to please. The New Orleans trip was his first out of town and he desperately wanted to make a good impression on his new superiors, so he went above and beyond.
He bought clothes from a local Army surplus store in Seattle. His mother sewed patches and nameplates onto the clothes. He purchased four pairs of fashionable Gargoyles sunglasses and persuaded Saints owner Tom Benson to donate a sand-colored jeep from his dealership to use as a backdrop.
The project took a few hours to complete. Reese said Mills was the only one of the quartet who wore the black berets he brought for clothing accessories. He remembers the presence of several children of the players in the group, which makes it fun and family affair.
“Everyone was very nice, and the players were very happy to be there,” said Reese. “Sam was just an ordinary guy. He was so humble and happy that I called him in to do poster work.”
The poster was very successful. Demand was very high, and the poster went through five prints, a rarity for players from a relatively small market like New Orleans.
“It turned out to be great,” Costakos said.
Reese, who works in mortgages today, said it remains the favorite poster he produced among the hundreds he’s worked on during his 12-year tenure at Costakos.
“Sam and these guys were very nice,” said Reese, “and the poster itself, in black and gold, really stood out.” “It’s a visually appealing poster.
“I remember the only advice we got from John, ‘Make them look like bad asses. “I think we made it happen.”
The Dome Patrol poster, like most of the Costacos Brothers line, is out of print. Undoubtedly, countless copies were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in the floods of 2005, making the originals even more difficult to find in New Orleans. But thanks to Mills’ famous onesie, the Dom Patrol legend has been preserved in the hallowed halls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I can’t wait to see Ricky and Pat’s face when they see the closet,” Marcus said with a laugh.