NEW ORLEANS – Drew Brees' career as the Saints quarterback is barely four years old, and he's already reached legendary status with the Black and Gold faithful.
Fiery in the huddle, a tactician in the pocket and quite the influential personality outside the arena. In Brees, the Crescent City has the perfect ambassador.
But it hasn’t been all glitz and glamor for No. 9. And for that part of the story, we decided to bring you back where it all began – his home town of Austin, Texas, at his alma mater Westlake High School. That’s where Drew Brees’ football career began, but not really in a traditional sense like on the Pop Warner field; no, Brees’ journey to NFL definitely began on the road less traveled.
“He went to a private school here in Austin at St. Andrews Episcopal, and they didn’t have tackle football, they had flag football,” said Chip Brees.
And for Chip Brees, that was the best option for his son at that time.
“As a kid playing flag football, you’re so much more involved in the game,” Drew Brees said. “You’re throwing the ball on every play. I think you’re just able to develop a lot faster.”
“When you’re playing flag football, I think it almost kind of hones your skills a little bit more,” said Johnny Rogers, a teammate at Westlake.
Johnny Rogers got a better understanding of this once Brees became his teammate at Westlake. That's where their friendship began and the competition for playing time began.
Rogers was ahead of Brees on the depth chart for quarterbacks, albeit, on the freshman team.
“He didn't really,” said Rick Shroeder, Brees’ high school football coach.
But there were times when he certainly played the part well enough to raise some eyebrows.
“I remember watching Drew during in a B-team game, and I said this kid is not going to be a B-team player much longer,” said Ben Deleon, a former Westlake teammate of Brees’.
“I saw Drew throw on this fade route, right down the sideline, and just hit the receiver in stride,” said Rogers. “And I said to myself, I’m in trouble, I might lose my job.”
But, that's not how Drew felt. In fact, because of a lack of opportunities, he'd become increasingly disinterested in playing football.
“I remember kind of riding home with my mom in the car, saying mom, I might want to quit football, just because I don’t think I’m ever going to get a opportunity,” Brees said. “And I love baseball, and I love basketball, and I feel like I can get a scholarship in any of those two sports to play in college. And I remember her telling me you’ve just got to trust that the opportunity will come.”
Chip Brees said in the last scrimmage before the season started when they were sophomores, Rogers tore his ACL.
“All of a sudden I’m thrown in the mix, and it’s just like, oh my gosh – my head is spinning. I didn’t mean for this to happen, but here I am,” said Brees.
Starting quarterback for the freshman “A” team. With an appointment to varsity coming one year later.
“Johnny Rogers had this major knee surgery, and Drew played that entire season and gained all that experience,” said Shroeder.
“I was kind of anointed as the next, you know, it was like J. Rogers and then Johnny Rogers was going to come in and play,” said Rogers.
Brees said he was just happy to be there.
It's the type of takeover that could've killed the locker room and especially their friendship. But, the exact opposite happened.
“That had to have been hard for Johnny, because he was the heir apparent, he took it with such grace,” said Amy Brees.
“There was no animosity, and for whatever reason I think it was just because we were good friends,” said Rogers.
In fact, Johnny, Ben and Drew did everything together. They were inseparable both on and off the field.
“We were typical high school students, we got in a trouble a little bit,” said Deleon.
Some other tidbits about Drew Brees the teenager: As the quarterback, he had a certain image to uphold.
“Drew has always taken pride in how he looks,” said Deleon.
“His hair had to be perfect. And when the term pretty boy came along, that’s Drew Brees,” said Rogers.
Brees didn’t doge the claims.
“Yeah, I was a little bit of a pretty boy. I’ll be honest,” said Drew Brees, who said he loved the mirror. “Had to get it just right for the high school girls.”
Brees said his first car was a 1983 Volvo.
“We called it the silver bullet. It was silver, had 125,000 miles on it, it had kind of nasty cloth seats,” Brees said. “And I put at the time what I thought was some really cool six by nine speakers in the back – just six by nine.
“I played Snoop Dawg all the time, kind of roll around town, thinking I was all that in my ’83 Volvo, the Silver Bullet.”
And from that came the nickname: “Dawgy.”
So the pretty boy with the golden arm, the shiny wheels and the cool nickname had it all going for him. That is, until things came to a crashing halt during his junior season.
“We went into the bedroom, I’ll never forget Drew had the ice machine on his leg, and he was crying,” said Amy Brees. “It was very scary.”