By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Drew Brees, one of the NFL’s greatest QBs, officially announced his retirement yesterday after 20 seasons in the league. Looking back on his record-setting career, it’s almost hard to fathom that Brees was not a highly recruited athlete in high school or a top-grade prospect in the eyes of NFL scouts. Thankfully, Brees won’t be leaving the game of football entirely, as he will serve as a football analyst for NBC Sports.
Here are a dozen cool facts about the life and career of Drew Brees:
♦ Drew Brees was born on Jan. 15, 1979 in Dallas. His first experience playing organized sports was flag football. One of his teammates was actor Ben McKenzie (“The O.C.,” “Southland,” “Gotham”).
♦ At Westlake H.S. in Austin, Texas, Brees lettered in football, basketball and baseball. At one point, he considered making baseball his full-time sport. “I always thought baseball was going to be my path,” he once told MLB.com. “I always hoped it would be. [Boston Red Sox legend] Ted Williams was always my guy. Purest hitter of all time, the ‘Splendid Splinter.’ That’s why I wear the No. 9, actually, is because of Ted Williams.”
♦ After tearing his ACL in his junior season, Brees bounced back in a big way during his senior year. He led Westlake football team to a perfect 16-0 record and the 1996 state championship, earning Texas High School 5A Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Year honor along the way.
♦ Despite his credentials, Brees was not highly recruited. He hoped to play for Texas A&M, where his father Chip had played basketball, but an offer never came. He was also spurned by the University of Texas, which was just 15 minutes away from the Westlake campus. The only two schools that made scholarship offers to Brees was Purdue and Kentucky. Brees chose Purdue because at Kentucky he would have likely played behind future No. 1 NFL Draft pick Tim Couch. He became a member of Joe Tiller’s first recruiting class at Purdue.
♦ Brees played sparingly as a freshman, appearing in eight games. He completed 19 of 43 passes for 232 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. The next season, he earned the starting job and never looked back. In his four seasons as a Boilermaker, Brees passed for 11,792 yards and 90 TDs. He also rushed for 900 yards. He set numerous Big Ten records and, in 2000, received the Maxwell Award as the country’s most outstanding player.
♦ His relatively short stature (Brees was six feet tall) and the notion that he was a “system QB” caused Brees to slip in the 2001 NFL Draft. The San Diego Chargers tabbed him with the first pick in the second round. He was the second QB selected in the Draft (Atlanta picked Michael Vick with the No. 1 overall pick). The Chragers’ first-Round pick was running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
♦ Brees spent his rookie season backing up veteran Doug Flutie. He made only one appearance for the Chargers that year. In Week 8, stepping in for an injured Flutie, Brees was 15 for 27 for 221 yards and 1 TD against the Kansas City Chiefs. KC beat the Chargers in San Diego, 25-20.
♦ The next season, Brees took the starting job from Flutie and led San Diego to an 8-8 record. He finished the season with 3,284 passing yards, 17 TDs and 16 INTs. In 2003, after a 1-7 start to the season, Brees would be replaced as the team’s starter by Flutie, although he would regain his starting job by the end of the year. The Chargers acquired rookie Philip Rivers in 2004, but Brees held on to the starting job and rewarded the organization with its first AFC West crown in 10 years. For his efforts, Brees was named “NFL Comeback Player of the Year” and earned his first Pro Bowl selection.
♦ Brees became a free agent after the 2005 season and narrowed his choices to the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. He chose the Saints, inking a six-year, $60-million contract with the franchise.
♦ In 2009, Brees led New Orleans to a 13-3 regular-season record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. He also set a new league record for completion percentage (70.62%). He threw for a combined 444 yards and 6 TDs in playoff wins over Arizona and Arizona. Then, in Super Bowl XLIV, Brees has 32 completions (a Super Bowl record) for 288 yards and 2 TDs. The Saints defeated Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, for the team’s first ever NFL championship. Brees was named the game’s MVP.
♦ On Oct. 8, 2018, at the age of 39, Brees broke Peyton Manning’s record for career passing yards. He broke the record on a 68-yard TD pass to receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings.
♦ Brees’ career numbers and accolades include: 20 season, 287 games (286 starts), 80,358 passing yards, 571 TDs, 243 INTs, 67.7%,13x Pro Bowls, 7x NFL passing yards leader, 4x NFL passing TDs leader, 2x NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 1x NFL Man of the Year (2006), 1x Super Bowl champion, 1x Super Bowl MVP.
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