Brian McKenna brought love and joy to the world while personally enduring the most difficult circumstances. I'll never forget him. pic.twitter.com/kVGrIcJl4J
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) May 14, 2018
Brian McKenna, a paralyzed New Orleans Saints fan who was befriended by quarterback Drew Brees during an appearance on the "Ellen" show, died May 6, 2018. His death was announced by Ellen DeGeneres on her show.
McKenna's story - he was paralyzed from a cycling accident in 2015 - became public when his friend Jackson Smith wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post titled, "How Drew Brees helped me and a friend get through war and heartache." In it, Smith details how McKenna elevated his spirits while he was serving in Afghanistan by sending a photo of a cutout version of Smith posing with Brees and his wife Brittany following the Bacchus parade. Smith returned the favor following McKenna's accident by getting Brees to pose with a cutout of McKenna following a Saints game. You can read the entire story here but the section below gets to the heart of it:
"And so he had done it again. For the second time Drew Brees had shown up to bring some measure of hope and good will to a person at their lowest point. I don't think he knows the magnitude of what he has done for me or for my best friend. I wouldn't expect him to, as he has affected so many thousands of people in the same way. His impact on the city of New Orleans has been discussed in many forums, but it cannot be exaggerated. He has embraced his role as a symbol of hope, and he carries that burden every day with the grace and selflessness that have made him my city's favorite son.
"In a way, this isn't intended to be a story, but a letter to two good men. Brian and Drew, thank you for the impact you have had on me. Drew, thank you for the impact you have had on so many.
"Most of all, thank you both for being the good men you are."
Smith then was a guest on the Black and Blue Report, the podcast devoted to the Saints and New Orleans Pelicans. You can listen to the show here. Following that appearance DeGeneres had Smith and McKenna on her show and they were joined via video by Brees. They later attended a Saints practice and game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Jackson and Smith also made follow-up appearances on "Ellen," once getting a surprise in-person appearance from Brees.
McKenna was 32 years old.
Brees reacted to the news Monday afternoon with this post: