A brush with greatness-why I want Drew Brees to win tonight

In the late summer of 1992, I had moved back to Austin after a year in Nashville, TN. I was teaching middle school math at the time and was fortunate to land a job at St. Andrew’s School, an Episcopal school in Austin that at the time only went from grades 1-8. I was going to teach a couple of classes in the Upper School (grades 7-8) and to get a full-time salary/benefits was asked if I could coach flag football and basketball. I of course agreed, although I had zero experience with coaching football.

St. Andrew’s is a very strong academic school that has now expanded to include a high school, but in those days, we were just a small campus. The school had just purchased some adjacent land and the house on the property. It was on that land where our small field was placed. My classes were small, with no more than 15 kids, who were all pretty solid students. The entire Upper School had fewer than 100 kids in it.

We competed in the Austin Interparochial League and had four flag football teams that season. We decided to split them into grades, one each for the 5th through 8th, and I was assigned to coach the younger two.

The quarterback for my 5th graders was a kid by the name of Reid Brees. He had a brother that was the eighth grade quarterback named Drew. Yes, that Drew Brees. The same kid who will be leading the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl this evening was playing only flag football back in eighth grade for the St. Andrew’s Crusaders.

Reid was an extremely talented kid, whom his classmates loved. He was insanely talented and one of the funniest kids in the school. He was so much more talented than his classmates that he was a leader any team I coached. He was in a rollover car accident in high school and was never the same athlete, although he did play some great baseball at Baylor.

Their step-sister, Teal, was a student in my math class for two years and a great athlete in her own right.

Drew was best athlete I have ever seen at that age, ever. He was also one of the fiercest competitors I have ever known.

He was a state-ranked tennis player, although he rarely played because he was so busy playing every other sport. He was in one time in a tennis group at Barton Creek taught by Tim Stallard that included Andy Roddick and Chris Mihm.

He was the point guard on our basketball team, but it was football that he loved.

That eighth grade team ran some of the sickest plays. At the end of every practice, they would work on special trick plays to run on two-point conversions. There was always something goofy, like a pass-back or Statue of Liberty feel to them. I think between Drew and the head coach, Tom Costas, they would try to think of something crazier to run every time. Their ability to pull these crazy plays off was amazing for their age. It came in handy too, as Drew led his team to a come-from-behind victory against the other top team in the conference.

On a side note, one of Drew’s favorite targets was a kid by the name of Ben Schenkkan. Most people these days know his as Benjamin McKenzie, who starred as Ryan  in the hit t.v. series, The O.C. These kids were insanely good both inside out outside the classroom, Schenkkan at UVa, while Drew flourished at Purdue.

Over the years, I would run into Drew at various times. He was always excited to chat about the ‘old days’ and laugh about the things he did, whether it was scheming something on the playground during lunch or trying to dunk over me when we would play full court basketball on 8-foot rims.

I know why his teammates say he is a great leader. He has a way of making everyone a part of the team. St. Andrew’s had a rule that anyone who tried out for a team, played. There was one kid who played, but wasn’t much of an athlete. He would play center at times and Drew always made sure he got at least one catch a game.

I was always amazed at what he accomplishes, but never surprised. He was one of those ‘good kids’ who ends up growing into ‘great man’.

I am sorry this is a non-tennis ramble.

Good luck tonight to the Who Dat Nation.

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