White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. – Thirty-five years, 13 NFL seasons, 51,081 passing yards (fifth most all time) and 363 touchdowns (fourth most) haven't dulled his enthusiasm by as much as the diameter of a pinhead.
Drew Brees still loves what he does, still maintains a maniacal desire to improve and still possesses a drive potent enough to fuel a franchise.
"I love to compete," Brees said Friday, after the New Orleans Saints' first training camp practice at The Greenbrier resort. "I love to win. I love the game of football. I like to do things that people haven't done before, or that people would say is impossible or extremely difficult to do.
"At the end of the day, I'd love for people to be able to look at my career, my legacy and say, 'Man, he did it the right way. He was a pro, and he did it for a long time, and was consistent.'
"When I say 'consistent,' I don't want to just be the same level each year. I want to consistently get a little bit better. And I still feel like I'm at that point where each and every year, I can get a little bit better. I'm not in the decline. In my mind, I'm not in my mid-30s, I'm 25 years old."
Part of the reason Brees feels that way, he said, is because of the youth that surrounds him.
Receiver Kenny Stills, who averaged 20 yards per catch last season, is 22. Rookie speedster Brandin Cooks is 20, Nick Toon is 25 and Joseph Morgan is 26. They lead a youth movement that should leave the Saints in good hands when Marques Colston (31) and Robert Meachem (29) begin to fade.
They jump-start Brees now because of the potential they have to jump-start the Saints.
"Young players like Brandin," Brees said of his motivation. "Like Kenny. Like Toon. Like so many others. When you look at my eight years in New Orleans, so many of those years our skill position guys were Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem.
"Those were kind of the big four for seven years and now, obviously, two of those four are gone and now you've got these young guys that are here to take their place. They rejuvenate me. They get me excited to come to work every day, to work with these guys, to try to build that same trust and ESP (extrasensory perception) as we think about this system and where we're trying to take this offense. That's the fun part for me."
That, and the fact that Brees believes he can keep it fun for an extended period of time.
"I think it's a mind-set," he said. "Certainly, there are things that come with you getting a bit older – a bit more maintenance, a bit more recovery, maybe a little bit different in the way that you train. And I feel like I've evolved along with that.
"But I think so much of it is a mind-set. If I tell myself I'm 25, I'm 25 and honest to God, that's my mind-set. I could play for another 10 years. And that would be my goal. I'm taking it one year at a time but there's no reason why I couldn't do that."
Photos from the first practice of 2014 New Orleans Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon at The Greenbrier on Friday, July 25, 2014. Photos taken by Alex Restrepo. (New Orleans Saints photos)