by Brian Cullen
Nobody expected the 2012 Saints to start the season in such a ramshackle manner. But they’ll be fine in the end. I’m not basing this off of stats of science or anything – just the fact that they’ve got Drew Brees at the helm.
Now, it’d be very easy to give the same compliment to, say, the Patriots or the Packers or any other team with a great quarterback that’s suffered a few early season losses. But Drew Brees is something different. See, Drew Brees isn’t just a quarterback. Leading scientists* believe he’s an alien descended from the cosmos who survives not on protein and carbohydrates like you or I. Rather, like a young, handsome, slightly more mobile John Locke, he derives all of his nourishment from other people telling him what he can’t do.
*Writers named Brian
Don’t believe me? Good. That’s very good. That’s exactly what he wants. Just know that you’re about to turn him into a football-flinging, touchdown-scoring Akira monster.
* * *
Drew Brees grew up in Austin, TX and was the quarterback of Westlake High School. Now, the import of this will make sense to our Central Texas readers, but for those not familiar, the high school football scene in Texas is, well, very Friday Night Lights. And Westlake is one of the premier football schools in the state. They had their only undefeated season under Drew Brees, not to mention a state championship. His high school record was a flawed yet respectable 28-0-1.
Now, as far as the usual script goes for quality high school quarterbacks in Texas, this is the part where UT, A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and others would line up around the block. But they didn’t. Brees was undersized (he’s listed at 6’0”, but many speculate that this is generous). Only Purdue and one other school offered him a scholarship. He chose Purdue.
Proving his critics correct, Brees left college without an NCAA championship. In fact, all he was able to accomplish was a 4th place finish in Heisman voting, a 2nd place finish for the Davey O’Brien award, the Maxwell Award for the nation’s outstanding player in 2000, an embarrassment of Big 10 conference records, and the uhhh let’s see here…”The Leonard Wilson Award for Unselfishness and Dedication.” Ah. So that’s all.
Brees was slated to be a mid-first round pick in the 2001 draft, but due to his size, perceived lack of arm strength, and the belief that he was a product of his collegiate system, he fell further than projected, which he probably loved, because Drew Brees loves it when people doubt him.
Brees was finally drafted in the second round by the San Diego Chargers. After a few mediocre years, and an eventual benching to an aging Doug Flutie (who–salt in the wound, here–was even shorter than Brees, not to mention 16 years older), the Chargers figured that 3 seasons were enough, and they drafted quarterback Philip Rivers with the 4th pick in 2004. But Rivers held out of training camp for a higher salary, meaning that Brees has one more chance to salvage his career. So, you know, a quick Pro Bowl-caliber 12-4 season later, and there you go.
But, at this point, the Chargers had already promised a hefty chunk of money to Rivers. Also, Brees has just torn his labrum, leaving his future in doubt. So the Chargers released Brees, leaving just two teams–The Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints–to vie for him. Hesitant over his recent injury, the Dolphins decided to sign Daunte “Screw Your Fantasy Season and Everything you Hold Dear” Culpepper, who deuced up South Beach something fierce.
Meanwhile, an undersized Drew Brees, with a battered shoulder, who had just been supplanted by a hotheaded kid in San Diego, was the new quarterback in a luckless football town that had just suffered irreparable damage at the hand of a stage 5 Hurricane.
And that’s precisely where Drew Brees reached full power.
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In the six years Drew Brees has been in New Orleans, he’s basically slayed unconquerable goal after unconquerable goal, like the hero from Shadow of the Colossus, except without the horrifically sad, utterly heartbreaking (SPOILER ALERT!) ending. He essentially came into a devastated city, rolled up his sleeves – and started pushing. His charitable organization, the Brees Dream Foundation has committed or donated over $11,000,000 to the city of New Orleans (side note: DrewBrees.com doesn’t go to his personal website – it’s the URL of his foundation’s website. That’s saying something).
He and his wife have partnered with Operation Kids to help rebuild academic, athletic and recreational facilities and mentoring programs for the youth of New Orleans. There is even a rumor – this is not a joke – that Brees has set up a hush-hush charity organization where members must a) pledge a minimum of $1 million of support to the city of New Orleans and b) never reveal who they are. If they’re helping, it’s not for PR. It’s to save the city.
All the while, minor setbacks on the field made him stronger. The Saints missed the playoffs in 2007 and 2008. In the latter year, Brees was 15 yards shy of breaking Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season. “YYYYYYYYYYYYYES!” he probably screamed, as he now had the fuel to defeat God himself.
Then came 2009. That’s the year he hung up 5 touchdowns on the Patriots (which had never happened to a Bill Belichick-coached team). That’s the year he won the Super Bowl over Peyton Manning. And remember this was pre-awful-neck surgery Manning, who was like a laser-shooting robot of quarterbacks.
And while the Saints haven’t won the Super Bowl since 2009, he did beat that Marino record in 2011 (with Marino’s hearty congratulations). And this year? He broke the record for Most Consecutive Games with a Touchdown Pass, which was previously held by Johnny Unitas.
Look at whose records he’s breaking. Marino. Unitas. In fact, let’s talk about Brees’ records for a second. The following is a partial – partial! – list of the records that Drew Brees owns. Somehow, this is not a joke:
Meanwhile, Brees’ work isn’t contained in just New Orleans. He’s also involved in the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport and Nutrition. And he filmed a video for It Gets Better in which he actually, truly said:
“I want my fans to know that if you’re making fun of someone because they’re different, then you are no friend of mine. And if you are being bullied and you feel like no one supports you, I want you to know that there is support. I support you.”
I’m getting the tingles.
Cripes, he’s so cool.
So anyway, the Saints will be fine this year. Because Drew Brees will do what he always does and he’ll turn all this nastiness into a ball of awesome, and then he’ll score all the touchdowns in existence. Know how I know? Because he wrote the book on overcoming adversity.
No, seriously, he literally wrote a book called Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity.
(By the way, that book debuted at #3 on The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list because of course he’s a New York Times bestselling author.)
Look. I’m a Patriots fan, but I hope Drew Brees wins a bunch more. We don’t have many good guys like him. And I hope whenever he retires, he doesn’t fully go away somewhere. Because we all need to hear stories like his from time to time. And in the meantime, I’m going to cheer him on, and enjoy the rest of his career. Then all there is to do is eagerly await a Brees/Booker ticket in 2028.
Drew Brees? You the man.
Brian Cullen really, really enjoys robots but doesn’t understand how they work. He also enjoys drinking beers, and has a pretty solid understanding of how that works. You can read about his musings about both on Twitter @BucketCullen.