Drew Brees

By in Celebrity Leaders, Leadership, Sports Leaders

Drew Brees with his son after winning Super Bowl XLIV


Drew Brees once said, “There’s not anything, I don’t think, that I can do or accomplish.”[1]  Brees is the heart and soul of the ‘Who Dat’ nation that gives great New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole.  On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit the East Coast; changing lives forever.  Drew Brees assumed a leadership role by taking the saints to the 2006 NFC South title, keeping the Saints franchise in New Orleans, creating the Brees Dream Foundation, participating in hands on hurricane relief, and moving into the city to experience the recovery process with his fans. By doing these things he demonstrated his ability to support the growth of others, to make alliances, his openness,and collective leadership.

Brees was born on January 15, 1979, in Austin, Texas. Later, he went on to attend  Purdue Univsersity where he was a two-time Heisman finalist, steered the Boilermakers to a Big Ten Championship as well as a trip to the Rose Bowl.[1] Also while at Purdue he earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management from the prestigious Krannert School of Management.  Academics was always the focus since he was a child, football came second.

Three Accomplishments

Making it to the NFL is one of Brees’s most obvious achievements. From the beginning of his football career he experienced challenges.  One that became more prominent in his journey to the NFL was his height.  Brees is only six feet tall, which is extremely short for a quarterback.  This made is very difficult for him to get drafted despite his success at the college level.  It was not until the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, when he was chosen by the San Diego Chargers for the first pick.[1]

Motivating and giving hope to an entire state that is destroyed. In August of 2005 Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.  New Orleans particularly was destroyed.  The whole city was in pieces and it looked as though it would never be the city it used to be.  The Saints did not play in the Superdome that season and the franchise was even debating leaving the city for good. The damage Katrina inflicted on the Superdome made the need for a new or renovated stadium even more pronounced then before the storm. [1]Brees was the main voice in deciding to stay in New Orleans.  He even moved into the city limits himself to prove to the people of New Orleans that he, and the rest of the organization, was not going to abandon them.  That was a life changing decision for many people. Off the field, “The Who Dat Nation”, the passionate fan base of the Saints, created a sense of fandom that existed outside the confines of the publicly funded stadium on game day as people encountered indicators of Saints fandom through everyday lived experiences.”[2] On the field, he made the Saints a winning team and in 2009 he led the franchise to victory in Super Bowl XLIV, earning the game’s MVP honors along the way. [3]  The Saints quickly became even closer to the hearts of all the people in the city. Even the media acknowledge the effects of the Saint’s success on the moral of New Orleans.  It is argued that, “sports journalism invoked and negotiated the memory of Katrina and produced a largely uniform media narrative—one which relentlessly employed a winning team as the trope for metaphorical recovery and a means of the collective simultaneously coping with and escaping from traumatic memory.”[4]  Turning on the television on a Monday night and watching the Saints win gave people something to believe in again.

Brees’s effect on the city was obvious, but he felt like he could do more. Drew and his wife, Brittany, established the Brees Dream Foundation in 2003 and since then have contributed and/or committed over $7 million to help advance cancer research.  The foundation also raises money for rebuilding parks, schools, and athletic facilities.[1]  Recently, they have instituted a mentoring program for students


A critique some people have of Drew Brees is that he focused his relief only on New Orleans when most of Louisiana and the whole Gulf Coast was destroyed.


In 2004 he was named Comeback player of the Year.[1]  His actions on and off the field caused him to be voted “Sportsman of the Year” for 2009 by Sports Illustrated Magazine.[1] This was an obviously choice for the year of 2009; he even coined the nick name “Breesus” by the people of New Orleans.[2]  He made the Saints a winning team and in 2009 he led the franchise to victory in Super Bowl XLIV, earning the game’s MVP honors along the way.

Leadership Lesson

Drew Brees showed leadership on and off the field, this is what has made him so successful.  His leadership success is credited to him always being the leader of a team.  He was a part of the New Orleans community that camae together, as a team, to get back on their feet after Katrina.  This attitude carried over into the Saints run to the Super Bowl and could also be referred to as collective leadership.  He supported the growth of others by making sure the Saints franchize did not leave New Orleans.  This gave the public the hope to keep pushing through their problems. Brees also showed openness by also keeping an optomistic attidue when other people would have just given up.

How Does This Relate to Me?

Civic engagement does not have a specific definition; it is completely up to interpretation.  Through my experiences mentoring at Port Richmond High School, I have come to the realization that civic engagement is a necessity.  Giving back to your community and being active not only helps others but also allows you to grow as a leader.  Drew Brees is extremely civically engaged in his community.  He recognizes the importance of gaining leadership experience and fosters this growth through his mentoring program which is a part of the Brees Dream Foundation.  He played a vital role in the rebirth of New Orleans.  The Saint’s success was a determining factor in the city’s return to its former glory




[1] Drew, Brees. The Brees Dream Foundation, “Foundation.” Last modified 2012. Accessed December 7, 2012. http://www.drewbrees.com/bio.


[1] King, Peter. “My Sportsman: Drew Brees.” Sports Illistrated, November 23, 2009. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/magazine/specials/sportsman/2009/11/19/king.sportsman/index.html (accessed December 7, 2012).

Fuerst, Mark. Heart Insight , “National Football League’s PLAY 60 Campaign Tackles Fitness And Nutrition Education To Intercept Unhealthy Habits.” Last modified 2010. Accessed December 7, 2012. http://journals.lww.com/heartinsight/Fulltext/2010/11000/National_Football_League_s_PLAY_60_Campaign.1.aspx.

[1] Brees, Drew. The Brees Dream Foundation, “About the Foundation.” Last modified 2012. Accessed December 7, 2012. http://www.drewbrees.com/foundation.

[1] Matheson, Victor. “Can New Orleans Play It’s Way Past Katrina?.” Holy Cross. : 3. http://college.holycross.edu/RePEc/hcx/Matheson_NewOrleans.pdf (accessed December 7, 2012).

[2] Ehrenfeucht, Renia. “We are the ‘Who Dat’ Nation: city identity, narratives of renewal, and football fandom in New Orleans public realm.” Scholar Works at UNO. . We are the ‘Who Dat’ Nation: city identity, narratives of renewal, and football fandom in New Orleans public realm (accessed December 7, 2012).

[3] E-A Networks, “Drew Brees Biography.” Last modified 2012. Accessed December 7, 2012. http://www.biography.com/people/drew-brees-20950559.