Drew Brees donates rare John Wooden jersey to Purdue

Purdue coach Matt Painter with John Wooden’s jersey. (Via @CoachPainter)
Purdue coach Matt Painter with John Wooden’s jersey. (Via @CoachPainter)

A one-of-a-kind bit of Purdue history is returning home courtesy of one of the school’s most famous alumni: Drew Brees.

A jersey believed to have once belonged to legendary coach John Wooden sold at auction to a “mystery bidder” for $220,000 (plus a $44,000 buyers’ premium), and on Tuesday, Brees revealed that he was indeed the mystery bidder. Brees has announced that he’ll loan the jersey in perpetuity to the university, where it will hang at Purdue’s Mackey Arena.

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Brees had planned to travel to a Purdue event in Louisville for the big reveal, but weather problems kept him grounded, so he chimed in via video:

The jersey had been in possession of a local family after a contemporary of Wooden’s obtained the jersey. Brees first learned of the jersey’s availability from a local restaurant owner. “The first words out of my mouth to him upon finding out the John Wooden jersey would be made available to the public was, ‘We have to get this for Purdue University,'” Brees said in the video. “This jersey belongs in Mackey Arena back at Purdue.”

The restaurant owner, Orlando Itin of Bruno’s Swiss Inn in West Lafayette, Ind., had initially planned to display the jersey in his memorabilia room, figuring that it would fetch about $30,000. But it soon became clear that the Wooden jersey would go for much, much more, and so Itin reached out to Brees. A few six-figure bids later, and the jersey belonged to Brees.

Purdue did not spend any money on the jersey, but will be responsible for its maintenance and security at Mackey Arena.

Wooden was a three-time All-American and national player of the year, and then went on to national fame as the head coach of the worldbeating UCLA Bruins for nearly 30 years. Brees was a Heisman finalist while at Purdue, and he quarterbacked the team to the 2001 Rose Bowl.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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