Donaldsonville, La - Patricia Hoyal, the mother of Saints super-fan Jarrius "JJ" Robertson, was always in the background.
She says her one-time boyfriend, JJ's father Jordy, had portrayed himself to the Saints and to the media as their son's sole parent, even though Hoyal has custody of JJ and he's lived with her since he was 3 years old.
Hoyal says she didn't want to do anything that might affect JJ's growing popularity with the Saints, and the glowing publicity that came with it.
A few of the Saints players had discovered JJ when he was a patient at Ochsner Hospital. It was Christmas Eve a couple of years ago, and JJ's cheerful personality won them over. He has a liver disease, but when he was able to leave the hospital, the Saints invited him to come to some of the games where he met more players and hung out with Coach Sean Payton.
JJ was a hit-- and when his father Jordy said he was setting up the "It Takes Lives to Save Lives" foundation to raise money for JJ's medical expenses, hundreds of people chipped in. Saints owner Tom Benson donated $25 thousand dollars, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did the same. There were also lots of small donations, and it all added up to about $100,000.
But Patricia Hoyal says she always suspected that Jordy Robertson was spending the money on himself, and last week the D-E-A accused him of using the foundation money to gamble and buy cocaine. The federal agents said the "foundation" was nothing more than Jordy Robertson's personal bank account, and that Medicaid had paid almost all of JJ's medical expenses-- not the foundation.
"So many times," says Hoyal, "I wanted to call the media and say (Jordy) is not who he says he is," but her friends persuaded her to keep quiet. They said Jarrius was becoming a star, and that if Hoyal revealed her suspicions about Jordy, she would be seen as "the bitter baby mama" who was "money hungry."
Now that Jordy Robertson is under arrest, Hoyal says she wants to make sure that people know that JJ was not involved with his father's alleged scheme.
Still, she says JJ is "crushed."
"You can't take his Daddy away," says Hoyal, "but I had to explain to him that (his) Daddy did wrong."
After two liver transplants, JJ is healthier than ever. He's 16 now, and wants to learn to drive.
But Hoyal worries that people will treat JJ badly-- letting the sins of a father fall on the son. She also has a message for all the people who donated to the discredited foundation.
"I'm sorry (the money) wasn't used the way it was supposed to," says Hoyal, "but don't worry. Just know that God is going to bless you, even if your donations went down the drain."