As Drew Brees wakes up in the morning and faces the mirror, he is constantly reminded of life’s imperfections as he locates the birthmark on his face; the scar sitting under his right eye has become a trademark in a sense, dating back to childhood. Picked on for his appearance as a kid, Brees has grown to embrace his haters as he has proven them wrong time and time again. Now taking the field in 2016 as a 2009 Super Bowl champion and one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, he has not forgotten how he got here and what fuels his constant drive: a motivator given to him at birth.
The Saints enter this week’s matchup against Denver trying to climb above .500 for the first time since 2013 but adversity lives in the heart and soul of their team, Drew Brees.
Growing up in Austin, Texas, Drew Brees was regarded as too short for division one football, let alone the NFL. Drew has faced adversity throughout his whole life; whether it be his height, arm strength or injury, Drew Brees had heard it all. Attending Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, Drew Brees did not play tackle football until high school but was a star as soon as he stepped on the field. Unfortunately, Brees blew out his ACL his junior year of high school, ending his season. Headed into his senior year, Brees was only offered two division one scholarships (Kentucky and Purdue) despite being one of the best quarterbacks in the state of Texas. Despite minimal confidence in his ability at the college level, he led Westlake to an undefeated season (16-0) and a state championship, their only state championship to this date. He eventually signed with Purdue, continuing his underdog journey in the Big Ten.
During his freshman year of college he was handed the reigns of the Purdue program, where he continued to ignore doubts and excel at the college level. Arguably the best quarterback in Big Ten history, he set records for most passing yards (11,792), passing touchdowns (90) and total touchdowns (104) in his four-year tenure in gold and black. He skipped the 2000 draft to stay at Purdue in 2001 where he led Purdue to their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1967, completing all of his goals at the college level. Despite a 24-34 loss against Washington in 2001, Brees had once again proven that he was not only a talented quarterback but had the potential of being elite.
Headed into the 2001 NFL Draft, NFL scouts once again paraded around, discussing all of Brees’ weaknesses opposed to his sheer nature of being a winner. After sliding into the second round, Brees was drafted by the San Diego Chargers, the same year as future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson. In San Diego, he was regarded as an average quarterback at best, as the Chargers drafted Phillip Rivers in 2004 to be his eventual replacement. In 2004 and 2005, injuries plagued Brees once again, leading to his trip to New Orleans during free agency in 2006. There, Brees’ journey to greatness began.
The Start of a Legacy
The “too short” quarterback from Austin, Texas was named the starter for one of the worst teams in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints. What the NFL did not anticipate was the emergence of one of the best offensive teams in its history. Brees was paired with offensive genius Sean Payton, as they tried to resurrect a dying franchise in a city destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Drew Brees, embracing his role as the underdog, not only put the Saints back on the map but helped to rebuild a community going through heartache, destruction, and self-perseverance. Since his signing in 2005, Drew Brees has become one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, breaking nearly every record held by a quarterback in NFL history. To date, Brees holds the record for most 300 yard passing games, best passing completion ratio, best average yards per game, as well as third most in touchdown passes, passing yards, and completions (behind Hall of Famer Brett Favre and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning). Not to mention nine straight seasons throwing for over 4,000 yards (four seasons over 5,000 yards), another NFL record. As Drew Brees helped to rebuild a community, they rebuilt his legacy in the NFL.
Often overlooked, a pattern for Brees, he has played through one of the best generations of quarterback play in history and is still not found in conversations regarding Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, despite his achievement. As one of the most humble players in the NFL, he will be the first to tell you it is about the team, his family, and his city, not personal achievement.
As Denver travels to New Orleans this week, remember this is not the first season that Drew Brees will face adversity in “gold and black” and this will not be the last. He has given hope to a city once again and has willed wins with his arm as well as his constant leadership. As he takes the field in Mercedes-Benz Superdome wearing number nine on Sunday, he is bigger than a football player but an inspiration to a whole city. Standing at a generous six feet tall behind center, Saints fans applaud the doubting critics across the nation: the ones who said a short quarterback out of Austin, Texas would never make a difference at the college level, would never be an elite quarterback, and would never play bigger than his stature. Saints’ fans across the nation will be the first to tell you that critics were wrong. Nicknamed ‘Breesus’, New Orleans’ savior has finally come home.