New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees announced his retirement on March 14, exactly 15 years to the day after signing with the franchise. Given his 20 years in the NFL and his success at Purdue, it will be hard to imagine football without Brees on the field.
The surefire Hall of Famer has already signed on to be an analyst for NBC's "Sunday Night Football"so he will remain connected with the game. Only time will tell if he will be successful in the broadcast booth. In the meantime, here are the 10 greatest moments of his football career.
1. Texas High School 5A State Champion (1996)
Brees did not play tackle football until high school, but went 28-0-1 as a starter at Austin's Westlake High School. During his senior year in 1996, he led his team to a 16-0 record and earned offensive most valuable player honors in Texas. In the state championship game, Brees threw two touchdown passes and ran for three more in a 55-15 win over eventual NFL peer Dominic Rhodes and Abilene Cooper.
2. Basketball on grass (1998)
In part because he suffered a knee injury his junior year in high school, Brees only received scholarship offers to Kentucky and Purdue. He chose to be a Boilermaker and was a perfect fit in head coach Joe Tiller’s "basketball on grass" spread attack. Brees became the starter in 1998 and threw for nearly 4,000 yards and led Purdue to an upset of fourth-ranked Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl.
3. Big Ten champions (2000)
Brees' best season in West Lafayette came in 2000 when he won the Maxwell Award and was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year for the second time. He also led Purdue to its first Big Ten title and Rose Bowl appearance since the 1960s. To give you a sense of this accomplishment, the Boilermakers have come within a game of winning another conference championship only once in the past 20 years.
4. AFC West champs (2004)
The San Diego Chargers took Brees in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. In 2004, they showed their lack of confidence in him by taking Eli Manning with the first pick and then trading him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers, the fourth pick. Brees responded by completing 65.5 percent of his passes and leading the Chargers to a 12-4 record and their first AFC West title in 10 years.
5. A resurrected career, team, and city (2006)
Brees tore his labrum late in the 2005 season and had surgery in the offseason. When San Diego offered him a new contract based heavily on incentives, he signed with a New Orleans Saints team that went 3-13 the season before when it played all of its games on the road because of Hurricane Katrina. Brees led the team to a 2-0 start on the road before it returned to New Orleans to a sold-out crowd at the Superdome to play the Atlanta Falcons. On the fourth play of the game, safety Steve Gleason blocked a punt and Curtis Deloatch landed on the ball for the Saints' first touchdown. Brees then quarterbacked a workman-like 23-3 win. New Orleans went 10-6, won the NFC South, and made it to the NFC Championship Game, breathing new life into the city.
6. Walter Payton Man of the Year (2007)
Upon arriving in the Crescent City, Brees immediately got involved in efforts to help rebuild from Katrina. His work earned him the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award after the 2006 season, which he shared with his former Chargers’ teammate LaDainian Tomlinson.
7. Super Bowl champions (2009)
In 2009, Brees led the league in completion percentage (70.6), touchdown passes (34), and quarterback rating (109.6) as the Saints jumped out to a 13-0 start and made the Super Bowl. Facing Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, Brees set a Super Bowl record for completions at 32 and was named the game’s MVP in a 31-17 win.
8. Triple Crown (2011)
Only three quarterbacks have achieved the NFL’s passing triple crown by leading the league in completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdown passes, Kurt Warner in 2001, Tom Brady in 2007, and Drew Brees in 2011. He completed 71.2 percent of his attempts, shattered Dan Marino’s record with 5,476 yards, and threw 46 touchdown passes.
9. Breaking an unbreakable record (2012)
For decades, Johnny Unitas’ record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass was considered to be one of the NFL's unbreakable records. Then on Oct. 18, 2009, Brees threw four scoring strikes in a 48-27 win over the New York Giants and kept doing so for 54 straight games. The streak came to an end on November 25, 2012, in a 31-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
10. First quarterback to pass for 80,000 Yards (2020)
Brees is the league’s all-time leader in passing yards and completions. On Christmas Day 2020, he became the first quarterback to throw for more than 80,000 yards in a 52-33 win over the Minnesota Vikings. While Tom Brady will likely surpass Brees in both categories, Brees racked up these numbers in less time.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.