Here in central Indiana, we know a thing or two about legendary quarterbacks and the records they set. After all, we watched Peyton Manning turn the Indianapolis Colts from laughing stocks to perennial championship contenders during his 13 years in town, and now we're welcoming heralded young Andrew Luck to the fold. And, when the Colts arrived in 1984, many of us wondered if we couldn't lure Baltimore Colts great Johnny Unitas out of retirement for one last go-round. So, it's not surprising at all that, on October 7, a quarterback with strong Indiana ties took possession of a Unitas record that many thought was untouchable, even in this pass-happy era. In defeating his former team, the San Diego Chargers, Brees led the New Orleans Saints to a 31-24 victory on the strength of four touchdown passes. It marked the 48th consecutive game in which Brees found the end zone and further tightened the strings that seem to tie the Hoosier state to QB legends.
Brees, who was born in Texas, made a name for himself as the quarterback for the Purdue Boilermakers in the late 1990s. Drafted by the Chargers at the top of the second round in 2001 and ultimately became a star for the Bolts before suffering an injury in the last game of 2005. San Diego cut bait with him that off-season and handed the starting job to backup Philip Rivers the next spring. In the meantime, as Peyton Manning was making his name in Indianapolis, younger brother Eli Manning came and went from San Diego before ever setting foot in the team's complex despite being the first overall pick in the 2004 draft. The Chargers brass apparently had so much faith in the adopted Hoosier lad that they ended up acquiring two young potential replacements before the end of that draft (Manning and Rivers, who came over in a trade with the New York Giants).
Of course, while Eli just polished off his second Super Bowl victory last February, Brees has done fine in his own right. Not only did the former Boiler lead New Orleans to a win in Super Bowl XLIV, but he took down Peyton and the Colts in the process. Last year, Brees set the single-season record for passing yards, a mark that seemed all but destined for Peyton's corner of the record book just a few years ago. And now, of course, Brees has dispatched Unitas and his legend to a slightly darker area of the NFL's stage of legends. As his career wraps up over the next 5-10 years, you can bet that the intertwining of his football fate with that of the Mannings and other gridiron Hoosiers will become even more complicated.
No matter how you slice it, it seems that the road to quarterback greatness passes through Indiana at some point or another. If you don't believe me, just ask all of those Notre Dame heroes who toiled up the road from Indianapolis.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.
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