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Gameday program cover story: Drew Brees

Saints great has the respect of his teammates

The numbers would be staggering, if we hadn't grown so accustomed to them that we've become somewhat deaf to just how loud they scream, if we hadn't become somewhat blinded by just how magnificently they stand out in NFL history.

Drew Brees, the best free agent acquisition in New Orleans Saints history and a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible, had passed for 52,655 yards in his 14-year career entering last Sunday's game against Detroit, fourth-most in league history. Since joining the Saints in 2006, he'd thrown for 40,307 yards, the least amount of time ever required for a quarterback to pass for 40,000 yards with one team.

With 372 touchdown passes, he ranks fourth all-time and he's first all-time in 5,000-yard passing seasons, with four. His current streak of six consecutive seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes is another NFL record, and his 71.2 completion percentage in 2011 is a single-season mark.

He has 41 regular-season games with at least 30 completions – yep, another NFL standard – and 25 regular-season games with at least four touchdown passes, second all-time.

Dizzying, the numbers can become, but not defining.

For that, we'll turn to a few teammates.

Tight end Jimmy Graham, the Saints' record-breaking, two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler in four seasons, who has said he only wants to catch passes from Brees in his NFL career:

"He's a leader on and off the field. There are some guys who lead on the field but sometimes aren't connected off the field, but he is. I've always been very close with him. Like this preseason, he took all the tight ends to Virginia Beach. It was the tight ends and the quarterbacks. I look up to him in every way. A lot of people don't know that he's got a bunch of OCDs (obsessive compulsive disorders) that I'm not allowed to talk about (Graham smiles, laughs). But it's what makes him who he is. When you're trying to strive for perfection – I think every athlete tries to – you have to be attentive to the details, and he is. He does everything the right way. He really does."

Receiver Marques Colston, the Saints' all-time leader in receptions (622), receiving yards (8,585) and touchdowns (64), all from Brees. He was drafted by the Saints in 2006, the year Brees was signed as a free agent:

"I think he's really all you can ask for in a teammate – the work he puts in on a day-to-day basis here, not only to get himself better but to get everyone around him better. The kind of person he is off the field, just having the chance to kind of get to know him as a family man and a father the last couple of years, he's just a great guy to be the face of this organization."

Right tackle Zach Strief, another member of the 2006 rookie class, whose only quarterback has been Brees:

"Someone asked me to kind of be reflective of my career in general, and the thing to me that stands out more than anything is, I've had an opportunity to start all of my games as a pro with a Hall of Fame quarterback. And that's a pretty amazing thing, from my perspective. You look up to him in so many different ways. You look up to him for how he prepares, you look up to him for how he performs, the way that he handles himself in the community, the type of father he is, the type of husband he is – being around a person that does everything right kind of inspires you to be better. It's been a blessing to be around him and then get to experience him. There are other guys in here like that, but getting to spend all nine years with him has been real special."

Right guard Jahri Evans, a five-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler who became a Saint in 2006, as a fourth-round draft pick:

"First guy here, last guy out. I know when I come in in the morning, Drew is watching film. He puts in a lot of work off the field. It's just amazing because he's good at putting in the work off the field during the week and then taking it to the game, and seeing it in the game. Being here for nine years, it's a thing of beauty when  you practice something during the week and it happens in a game and he picks it up just like that, like it was scripted during the week, and you see a big play. His work ethic is just amazing. He's a general out there and he does so much for this offense."

Linebacker Curtis Lofton, who joined the Saints in 2012 after spending four seasons with Atlanta:

"I think Drew is an amazing guy. What Drew does on and off the field … for me, when I was in Atlanta just watching Drew, I always wanted to see what made him great. Why was he so good? My first year here, I saw it. He's the first in the building, the last to leave. No one works like Drew, whether it's on the football field, in the weight room or in the classroom. I really admire him. You can see why he's great."

Defensive end Cameron Jordan, who's in his fourth season with New Orleans:

"He's a phenomenal leader. If he was to ride into battle, I'd be right behind him – or on a horse, beside him.

"Seriously, as an offensive leader, that's somebody you want. He's vocal and he takes pride in what he does, and you know that he's one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. Therefore, it puts a lot less pressure on the defense to have to create turnovers and it makes it that much more special when we can create turnovers and give the ball back to him."

Left guard Ben Grubbs, who became a Saint in 2012, after five seasons with the Ravens:

"Great guy. Drew is a great guy, on and off the field. People say that and maybe not have any meaning behind it, but seriously, Drew is a great guy. Just being in this locker room, just the attention to detail that he has is unbelievable. I get (to the Saints practice facility) pretty early. But he's always here, his car is always in the parking lot before mine is and his is the last to leave. When you think about a captain and a quarterback, you think of Drew. He's one of the names that you bring up, because he puts in the work. It's easy to come out here and try to be great but when you have a picture in mind of a Hall of Famer, and then you see the work that they've put into it, you're like, 'OK. That's why he's a Hall of Famer.' He's not a prima donna. He definitely puts in the work. He makes me want to work, and that's what a leader does – lifts up the players around him."

Outside linebacker Junior Galette, a Saint since 2010, who has had a few opportunities to chase after Brees in practice:

"One of the hardest-working players, people I've ever seen. Great person, great leader to have. Doesn't get any better. Top tier. I'm  just honored to follow in his footsteps as far as being a captain and just watching what he does, follow his mannerisms and how he acts toward his teammates. It's really a blessing."

Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks, who worked out with Brees during the offseason:

"He's a tremendous leader, to start off. He leads by example, he leads vocally, he leads in every aspect that you can lead in. He's just a real hard worker, which is what you want your quarterback to be. He's the captain of this offense and of this team and just being with him this offseason in San Diego, just showed me his work ethic and what it means to be a professional. And that's what he is – he's a complete professional."

 

Photos of Drew Brees from the 2014 season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. New Orleans Saints photos.

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