The Breakdown: Brees and New Orleans – The ultimate underdog story
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Growing up in the Midwest, all you had to do was turn on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 on a Saturday morning in the fall to understand where it was you really lived: Big Ten Country.
I can remember so many weekends of my childhood – during football season, at least – where I sat and watched (what used to be) America’s premier conference on TV. Then, I’d go outside to play catch with my brother, pretending to be the quarterbacks I’d been watching all morning.
There were some good ones to admire, but looking back, there were only a couple that I really liked, and they both played on pretty bad teams – in Indiana.
Before I say who they are, I should probably explain the determining factor for me as a kid in picking players that I looked up to: It all came down to height. I was always one of the smallest players on every team I played on growing up, and because of that, I always liked watching guys that talking heads called, “too small to play.”
(Scarring-childhood-memory tangent: I was once told by a football coach in fifth grade that I couldn’t ever play quarterback because I was too little. I don’t think he meant it to be mean, but he said that there was no way I could play if I couldn’t see over the line. So, you can kind of see why I related to these other guys who were told the same thing.)
Anyway, the two players were Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El and Purdue’s Drew Brees.
When you break it down, the two were about as different as quarterbacks can be. Randle El was a crazy-good scrambler, who was the sole reason that the Hoosiers won a single game while he was there. Brees had a cannon for an arm and played in one of the first true spread offenses in the Big Ten, racking up a slew of conference passing records over his career.
(Blurry-childhood-memory-that-I’m-not-sure-actually-happened tangent: I recall watching a game Brees played at Purdue, and the announcers telling a story about his arm strength as a freshman. He was walking on the field before practice while the other quarterbacks were tossing balls into targets downfield. Without dropping his shoulder pads, which he was carrying in his left hand, Brees picked up a ball and threw it through a target 50 yards downfield without warming up.)
Now, the point to bringing all of this up – and, yes, I do have a point to this – is that I feel the story of Brees leading the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl is one of the best underdog stories in my lifetime.
I guess it’s pretty obvious that the Saints making it to the championship is a pretty big deal, considering their years of absolute misery in the NFL, not to mention the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the city. I mean, the team was extremely close to being the San Antonio Saints or possibly going to L.A.
And in this great Cinderella story, there is no one better to lead the team than Brees.
After his noteworthy career with the Boilermakers, Brees was drafted by the Chargers – in the second round. He had been considered a high-first to middle-first round pick, that is, until his height was factored in. Rostered at 6’0, it’s unlikely Brees is even that tall. And in a league with giants like 6’5 Peyton Manning and 6’5 Tom Brady, being anything but tall is a huge knock on a quarterback that has to throw over 6’8 offensive linemen.
Once he got his chance to play in his second season, though, it was pretty obvious that Brees belonged in the league. But a serious shoulder injury in his fourth full season caused San Diego not to re-sign him as a free agent.
That summer, it seemed no team wanted to take a risk on him. He wound up having to settle for the lowly Saints. Lucky him.
Over his career, Brees has always been the player that no one believed in. Even now, there aren’t many people that would categorize him in the same category of a Manning or Brady or even a Ben Roethlisberger.
Now, he has his chance. With a win, he can not only give a title to a city that desperately needs it, he can silence all his doubters once and for all.
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