The Shutdown Corner interview with Drew Brees

Cagewriter's Maggie Hendricks recently had an opportunity to talk to reigning Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees(notes) of the New Orleans Saints, and was good enough to share it with us. Brees talks about defending the Saints' title, his recent visit to the oil-soaked Gulf Coast and keeping kids physically fit.

Shutdown Corner: You and the Saints are coming off a Super Bowl win, and the best season of your career. How do you avoid that Super Bowl dip?

Drew Brees: You have to recognize what has held teams back in the past, and what has held them back from the repeat. I think you're naive to think that there are not challenges you have to face. If you look at history, the last 10 Super Bowl winners, five of those 10 haven't even made the playoffs the year after they won. What you have to realize is that you're never entitled to anything. Just because you step on the field as the defending world champs doesn't mean people are going to just roll over. It's just the opposite. There's a big bullseye on your chest. Everyone's gunning for you. You know you're going to get everyone's best performance. You've got to bring your best performance.

The minute you think you've arrived, and you don't think you need to get any better, that's a big mistake, because you're always getting better or getting worse. You're never staying the same. We just have to set goals, get better and play it one game at a time.

But you still had one more chance to celebrate the Super Bowl when you were given your Super Bowl ring. What was that like?

It was unbelievable. The ceremony itself was a reflection on the season. We watched our highlight video, and reminisced about all those good memories, and watching it all come together, and all those good feelings and emotions come back to you. Then when they bring those rings out, and you actually put that ring on your finger, you know what that symbolizes. It symbolizes that no one can take that away from you. You will forever be a Super Bowl champion.

When you look at that ring, it symbolizes everything that we've gone through. Not just this season, but the past four seasons in New Orleans. Who would have thought four years ago that we would have this opportunity? It really was a citywide, a region, a nationwide effort. All those who went through so much that had a tie to New Orleans and who were New Orleans fans, Saints fans, that could identify with everything we meant to the city.

It did seem like the whole country was cheering for Saints. Did you feel that support?

Definitely. Whether you were a Saints fan at the beginning of the season or not, there was a piece that everybody could identify with, with what we've been through as a city and as a region and as an organization, post-Katrina. It wasn't easy. We had to fight through a lot but we stuck together. We came back stronger than we ever were before.

Speaking of the region, were you part of the group of Saints who went to see the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

Yes. Our whole team went.

What was it like?

It was crazy. We got a chance to meet with a lot of National Guardsmen and Coast Guard. People that were working on the spill, and we met with a lot of families that were affected by the oil spill and see how it's affected their economy and their livelihoods. It's really a serious problem, obviously. Everyone's very concerned, especially since we haven't gotten it stopped yet, but even the long-term effects that oil could to the Gulf.

How did the people in the Gulf react to you?

They were very excited because they were all huge Saints fans. And just like we were for the fans after Katrina, it gave them something that can take their mind off the hardships and struggle that they're going through every day. Something to put a smile on their face and make them forget about all that other stuff, even for a short period of time.

We also announced that day that we're going to be raffling off one of our Super Bowl rings to raise money to support the people down there that need our support. We're going to announce the winner at our home opener. They're $2 raffle tickets, so everybody has an opportunity to win this. Hopefully, we'll raise millions of dollars to help the cause. Obviously, it's an opportunity to raise money for the people down there but also, one of our fans to get a Super Bowl ring. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

You had to work for 20 years to get that ring!

Exactly. You can buy a $2 raffle ticket and win one!

You were recently named the co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. How did you first get involved?

I've been a spokesperson for NFL Play 60, and I had the good fortune of doing a commercial with President Obama on the White House lawn for Play 60 last year. It's a great program. It encourages kids to get out and play for 60 minutes a day and promotes physical activity which helps fight childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes, and is very much in line with what the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition is all about.

It's about educating these kids and letting them know how important it is to have good diet and exercise. It doesn't have to be where you're playing sports. It could be hiking, or biking or just outside playing with friends, or playing tag with my brothers and sisters or whatever it may be. The point is that you're outside. You're active. Those are good lifestyle habits to learn at a young age.

As a parent yourself, what advice do you have for parents to keep their kids active?

Set goals. Through this program and this council are the Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards, and it's about saying, over a six-week period, I'm going to get out five times a week and exercise 60 minutes a day. That can be anything. What a great way to spend times with friends and family, because typically you're not doing those things by yourself. You might sit down in front of a video game or computer game and do that by yourself, but when you're outside and you're active, you're typically doing that with friends and family. It's a great way to develop social skills, life skills and team skills.

Nutrition is now a focus on the council. You have food allergies, so have you found nutrition to be a challenge?

In the beginning it was. I ended up losing 10 pounds because I started taking everything out of my diet, and when you're in training camp, you're burning thousands of calories a day. I had to be good about what I was putting in my body as fuel. You just have to be disciplined. You have to be very disciplined.

How old were you when you first started playing football?

As far back as I can remember, just playing out with my friends in the street, and it wasn't always football. It was football, baseball, basketball, tennis, running around, playing hide and seek, just being active with my friends.

As a kid, did you have to do the President's Physical Fitness test?

I remember doing all kinds of those, like the competitions. How many pull-ups, how many sit-ups could you do in 60 seconds and all those things. They'd give you ribbons and medals for getting the Presidential Fitness Award. Now it's just expanding on that. It's been around since the Eisenhower administration. It's great that both President Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama have taken such an interest in this.

Your co-chair on the council, Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, said that she could do 35 chin-ups when she did the test, and she beat all the boys.

I have never been able to do 35 chin-ups. I can maybe do a third of that. That's it!

Being a tiny little gymnast ...

Exactly. That helps.

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