When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees flew out to Denver in June, his intention was to workout and build chemistry with his newly acquired target Emmanuel Sanders. What Brees didn't anticipate was that he would be getting reps in with another teammate that week.
In order to maximize the work they could get accomplished, Brees asked Sanders to have his workout buddy tag along. NFL veteran free agent Bennie Fowler picked up the phone when Sanders called to invite him to the practice field with Brees.
"I just wanted an opportunity to get in front of Drew," Fowler said last week. "Emmanuel invited me so I decided to go out there and a couple rounds in, he asked me if I was on a team and I was like, 'No, I'm not on a team right now because of Covid. I haven't had a chance to work out with anybody or travel to any teams.' And he was like, 'I'm going to call our guys right after this.' I was like, OK, we'll see. Then my agent maybe called me like a day or two later and said, 'hey, Drew really did call about you and whatever you did, you must have really impressed him.' To get in front of a Hall of Fame quarterback, even just to catch passes from him, if nothing came out of it, I learned a lot from him and I'm glad that it did come to this to where they reached out to me and signed me. They just said, 'once training camp starts, we'll bring you in for a workout.' And they just ended up signing me because Drew vouched for me so hard."
Saints Coach Sean Payton and Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis trust Brees. So when he endorses a wide receiver he wants as a part of the team's roster, the Saints are going to take note.
"He's a guy who came in as an undrafted free agent so we say that he came in the hard way, right?" Brees said. "He's had to earn it each and every year. He's had to play a ton of special teams. So, to me, those guys are just football players. Whatever you need them to do, they're willing to step in and do it, and, at times, that's the dirty work."
Sanders explained his background with Fowler in a media conference call: "Bennie's been my boy ever since he came into the Broncos locker room. I took him under my wing and he became my workout buddy. So every Tuesday we would have days off, me and Bennie would meet up at the Broncos facility and throw passes for like an hour and work on our game and work on different mentalities."
Fowler spent the last two seasons playing a small role in the New York Giants offense, but maintains a regular workout schedule with Sanders over the summer. That familiarity just might have helped him land a job.
"For Drew to vouch for me like that, it really means a lot, not just because he's a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he's a Hall of Fame person as well," Fowler said. "I just really appreciate him going out of his way to help me get here."
During a conference call with local media, Fowler was asked if he will be buying Sanders dinner for the rest of the year.
"Buy him dinner?" Fowler said, "No, not necessarily. Emmanuel is like a brother to me. He pulled me aside early in my career, so this is our fifth year playing together. We have a great relationship like that. We have a big brother, younger brother relationship. So yeah, I'll definitely take him out and take him out to dinner, but I don't know about buying him dinner for the rest of the year."
Fowler entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State in 2014, signing with the Broncos. He spent four seasons in Denver, catching 56 passes for 698 yards and five touchdowns.
"He's a smart veteran player," Payton said. "I think there's a physicality to how he plays. I think he can help us in the kicking game. I think he's a guy that can block on the perimeter. And I think he understands who he is and what he has to do to make the team and those are a few areas that you know, he's going to have to excel in."