As a four-time Pro Bowler and quarterback of the NFL’s most explosive offense, Drew Brees knows what it’s like to run the show.
But as a sophomore at Purdue in 1998, with only 43 college passes under his belt, the 19-year-old Brees was far from what you’d call an experienced quarterback. And it was during that time that Brees listened to the advice he was offered from another member of the quarterback fraternity who reached out to him.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
That’s right. The same Peyton Manning who Brees will look to defeat in nine days when the New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV was the guy who used to offer words of wisdom when Brees was a Boilermaker.
“I’ve known Peyton since he was a rookie with the Colts and I was a college player at Purdue, just down the road in West Lafayette, Ind.,” Brees told me recently in a phone interview. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for him even going back to those days when he would be a mentor to me. I’d get a call from him every now and then and he would wish me luck, you know, playing against Ohio State or whoever.”
Whether it was Manning’s advice that set the stage for what was to follow is unknown. But numbers don’t lie.
And Brees put up a lot of them during his sophomore season at Purdue — the same season he started listening to Manning.
Entering the 1998 season with only seven games of experience, Brees went on to set Big Ten and Purdue season records for passing yards (3,983), touchdowns (39), attempts (569) and completions (361) on his way to winning the Big Ten offensive player of the year award.
“I’ve just always had a lot of respect for him [Manning] as a player and as a person,” Brees said, “and now to have a chance to play in a Super Bowl, you know, against his team and you look at that…model organization over the last decade and…having been to a Super Bowl and won a Super Bowl back in ’06 and seven consecutive seasons at 12 wins or more. He’s going to go down in history as one of the best quarterbacks if not the best quarterback of all time. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
He’s right. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Because the world will be watching on Feb. 7 to see if the former 19-year-old college sophomore can take down one of the greatest of all time.
His former mentor.
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To listen to the interview in its entirety, just click the play button at the top of the story.