I am a Saints fan. I have been since they took the field for the first time in 1967. I, like other Saints fans, endured all the frustrations that being a Saints fan meant, and I was part of the Who Dat Nation reveling in their glorious Super Bowl victory this past February.
Of course that also meant buying souvenirs, downloading videos, and acquiring anything I could that would allow me to cherish that achievement. Along the way I read a couple of books, Sean Payton’s “Home Team'” and Drew Brees’ “Coming Back Stronger”.
We have come to expect that most of our professional athletes will be tarnished in some way. It’s not if they will do something selfish or illegal, but when. When Drew Brees signed with the Saints the vibe was not the same as with past acquisitions of perceived great talent. Intuitively you could sense he was different, in the same way an earlier favored son, Archie Manning was different. However I wasn’t fully aware of how special this young man was until I read his book.
The full title of Drew’s book includes the phrase ” Unleashing the hidden power of adversity.” In his book he opens up and talks candidly about the tough times in his life, his parents divorce when he was very young, his knee injury in high school, getting slighted by colleges in Texas, being passed over in the first round of the NFL draft, getting benched in San Diego, his devastating shoulder injury in San Diego during the last year of his contract, and most painful the suicide of his mother from whom he had become estranged.
I often have said that adversity is a gift from God because it gives you perspective and can make you stronger. I started thinking of my own bouts with adversity. At age five my family lost our home to Hurricane Betsy, at age seven my ten year old cousin was electrocuted, at age eleven my father died, at age nineteen my right knee was injured, in my thirties my wife and I were now parents to two sons with profound autism and they were later admitted to a residential care facility, at age forty-two my mother died and we also had a contentious relationship, at age forty-six I had a benign tumor removed from my spinal cord that left me with some physical deficits and later we evacuated for Hurricane Katrina, at age forty-eight I had surgery on my left knee, and four months ago I had yet another benign tumor removed from the left atrium of my heart. I felt that if anyone could relate to Drew, it was me. What I didn’t realize was that I would learn something extraordinarily valuable from this young man.
Obviously Drew Brees is not perfect but he has a character trait that is singularly magnificent in its scope and effectiveness. Drew Brees knows how to commit totally, and by doing so he loves unconditionally. He loves his wife, he loves his son, his teammates, his brother, his friends, and his community. He wakes up each morning prepared to do his best at whatever task is at hand. His approach to adversity is simple, it happened and it doesn’t matter why it happened, I am going to work through it.
He is also a faithful person in the most dignified and endearing way. His relationship with Christ isn’t beaten over your head with a hammer, it is expressed simply and sincerely. His faith is strong but tolerant. And he professes it with actions, valid and meaningful contributions to his family, friends, and the communities that he has ties to.
Recently at a conference in Florida hosted by my employer, my wife and I had a chance to have our picture taken with him. This was before I read his book and Drew had to take over two hundred photographs within an hour’s time. We were the second to last people to be photographed and even though I am a middle aged man as this athlete strode towards us, certainly fatigued from having to go back and forth across the stage, I was in awe of him just being on the stage with me and the patient and sincere way he had had greeted everyone he was photographed with. Little did I know that the feeling I experienced then would be multiplied ten fold after reading his story.
There are troubles in the world, both financial and political, but somehow knowing that a man the caliber of Drew Brees is going to be working hard and committing his life to others makes the future seem a whole lot brighter.