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Attention to detail keeps Drew Brees going strong as he nears 40th birthday

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Old 01-12-2019, 09:42 PM   #1
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Old 01-12-2019, 09:46 PM   #2
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Re: Attention to detail keeps Drew Brees going strong as he nears 40th birthday

BY ROD WALKER | rwalker@theadvocate.com Jan 12, 2019 - 2:39 am


New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) waits to run on the field before an NFL preseason football game against the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The task probably took a little longer than it would have for most people.

But for Drew Brees, everything has to be done just right.

So Brees meticulously lined up all his shoes just the way he wanted them, looking more like someone setting up a display in a shoe store than a Hall of Fame bound quarterback just cleaning up around his locker.

"A little OCD, Drew?"

"Yeah, a little," Brees responded. "Just like to be organized."

It's that attention to every little detail, making sure everything is just where it's supposed to be and done exactly when it's supposed to be done that makes Drew Brees Drew Brees.

Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen says Brees' approach to the game is the best he's ever seen.

And according to his peers, it's why he's still going just as strong today as he was 13 years ago when he first came to New Orleans as a 27-year old quarterback carrying the hopes of a city on his surgically repaired right shoulder.

The shoulder, as Brees has shown since his arrival in 2006, has held up just fine, helping him rewrite the NFL record book over and over again.

Other than a hairline that has receded since he first started wearing the black and gold, there aren't many other clues to let you know that Brees turns 40 on Tuesday.

He'll leave the 30s behind this week, playing his final game as a 39-year old Sunday when the Saints host the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.

If things go as planned, he'll be preparing for the NFC championship game as a 40-year old. Win that one, and he' d be just one victory away from becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl at the age of 40.

Not that Brees is really thinking too much about joining the fraternity with the 20 other quarterbacks in NFL history who have played in a game at the age of 40.

“I stopped counting birthdays a long time ago," Brees said. "It does not make a difference at this point. Maybe once we get to the offseason, it'll set in that I’m 40.”

Or maybe it won't.

At least not according to what Brees said back in November when Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett mentioned that Brees is playing with the youthfulness of a 23-year old.

"I feel 25," Brees said with a smile that day. "I don’t feel 23. I mean mind over matter. You cannot stop the aging process, but I think you can delay it a little. I am having fun playing the game, and I have a definite routine. It takes a lot of time."

Ask any of his teammates what sets Brees apart and chances are they'll mention that routine.

"When I got here, I was thinking 'Is this guy a robot?' " Saints receiver Keith Kirkwood said. "It's the same routine every single day. Nothing changes. Just a true winner."

Receiver Tre'Quan is starting to see more and more just how precise Brees' routine is: from the way Brees gets in the hot tub on the exact same schedule every day to the way Brees does his stretches the exact same way Brees to some of his practice rituals like jogging to one end of the field while everyone else is on the other end.

"I don't know if he runs down there and talks to himself or what, but it's the same thing every time," Smith said. "He's just so locked in and focused. There are a lot of guys in the league with a routine. But most guys may skip a day of their routine because they may be tired or something. Not Drew."

Kirkwood and Smith are both rookies, so they are new to Brees' way of doing things. But Jay Romig, the Saints' do-everything-that-needs-to-be-done administrative director, has seen this same work ethic and detail since Brees first arrived. Romig knows that Brees' car is always going to be the first one to arrive at the practice facility and the last one to leave.

"And that's not something he grew into," Romig said. "He's been like that since Day 1. It's why he's been able to do what he has done for so long and been the hardest-working guy in the building."

Charles Davis, a television analyst for FOX who will be a part of Sunday's broadcast team, has watched Brees over the years. He isn't surprised to see Brees still going strong at 39.

"Sitting in meetings is a grind," Davis said. "Going to the weight room is a grind. Turning down those beignets to make sure your body is right isn't easy. At a certain point, guys start saying they don't feel like making that sacrifice anymore. Drew has never got to that point where he stops sacrificing. There are days you are going to hate it, but if you know what your bigger mission is and you still love the bigger mission, then you'll embrace that. That's why Drew Brees does what he does. That's why he's still going."

His summer workouts are just as structured as what he does during the season.

Brees has worked with Tom House, who was the pitching coach for baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Ryan pitched until he was 46.

Will Brees try to go that long?

He has given no indication, with his words or with his play, that he is slowing down anytime soon. He broke his own NFL record for completion percentage (74.4 percent) this season, surpassing the mark he set last season after first breaking the same record in 2011. He also set the NFL record for career completions and career passing yards this season. His stats look more like a quarterback approaching 30 than 40. He's put together a season that has him in the conversation for Most Valuable Player, the one honor that has eluded him in his 18-year career.

"He's had an outstanding season and I do not feel like it’s (almost) 40 for him," coach Sean Payton said. "I think it has been really uneventful relative to seeing any age. He is playing at such a high level. I'm glad he is our quarterback."

Payton said the only time he really notices his quarterback is getting older is when he sees Brees' four kids at the practice facility. Other than that, it's been the same ole' Drew.

Brees has missed just three games since he started playing for the Saints. One, in 2015, was because of an injury. The other two were because Payton decided to rest him in the final game of the regular season after the Saints had already locked up the No. 1 seed (2009 and this season). So the guys backing up Brees have rarely been called to duty. But even if they don't get as many game reps, they say they are better by just being around him every day.

"You can't buy this kind of experience," backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "There's something about him that keeps him driven. I don't think anyone really knows what that is but Drew and those close to him. But you just watch him and he has this look in his eyes. Always."

Third-string quarterback Taysom Hill sees the same thing: an attention to the finest of details.

"There's not any rock that not overturned," Hill said. "Everything he does, every single throw in practice, is deliberate. That's what it boils down to. His ability to be deliberate in everything he does. If you think about it, that can be exhausting. But he does it."

For Brees, winning a game starts with the preparation. What he does before the game is just as important as what he does during it. A reminder of that philosophy, an ancient quote from Chinese military strategist Zhuge Liang, sits on a shelf in Brees' locker.

“Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before they fight, while the ignorant fight to win.”

It's the "thus the wise win before they fight" part that makes Brees do all those routine things that may seem quirky to some.

And now, two days before his 40th birthday, Brees is trying to keep the routine going. Sunday's game will be the 278th game of his career, which is about 278 games more than many people thought he would ever play. There was a time when many thought he was too short to play in the NFL. And before that, there was a time when he some thought he wasn't quite tall enough to play big-time college ball either.

But he is still going, much to the delight of his teammates, many who grew up watching him.

Saints defensive end Alex Okafor is from near Austin, Texas, Brees' hometown. When Okafor would play Madden video games as a kid, he'd often be Brees. Now he shares the same locker room with him. He's paid close attention to what makes Brees tick.

"Success is addictive," Okafor said. "Once you start experiencing it, you want some more of it. Drew's had so much of it that being the best ever is attainable to him. So I'm sure that greatness has to be a motivating factor for him. Greatness, man. Just greatness. Almost 40? You gotta appreciate that."

“Your best?!? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home (with) the prom queen.” - Sean Connery in The Rock
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Old 01-12-2019, 10:42 PM   #3
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Re: Attention to detail keeps Drew Brees going strong as he nears 40th birthday

"I feel 25," Brees said with a smile that day. "I don’t feel 23. I mean mind over matter. You cannot stop the aging process, but I think you can delay it a little. I am having fun playing the game, and I have a definite routine. It takes a lot of time."

Five more years then! LOL
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