February 08, 2010
This is a college football blog, obviously, so for full-speed Super Bowl coverage of the most obsessive order, head over to Shutdown Corner. (MJD and friends could really use the traffic). In the meantime, allow a tired, slightly dazed Saints fan a rare moment of nostalgia and unabashed hero worship.
Of all the possible NFL stars who come out of college every year, Drew Brees -- a short, lightly recruited kid who came up in a spread offense at a non-traditional power -- didn't exactly leap off the page when he was leaving Purdue. But at least college fans remember Brees as a prolific Heisman finalist and Rose Bowl starter in his final game; I put up his greatest amateur moment because I couldn't find a college clip of key Saints teammates Darren Sharper (William & Mary), Marques Colston (Hofstra) or Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg State) if my life depended on it, or of Pierre Thomas, the hardest runner in the Super Bowl, who was lucky to make "Honorable Mention" on the All-Big Ten team and catch on as an undrafted free agent. The archives are slim on Tracy Porter, too, a second-team all-conference pick at Indiana and second round reach who just happened to pants two certain Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks in a row in the clutch to lock up a conference and then a world championship.
It's not like the Saints are a bunch of cast-offs and misfits, as most of the city and media would have you believe -- between Reggie Bush, Jeremy Shockey, Robert Meachem, Sedrick Ellis, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Malcolm Jenkins and injury casualties Charles Grant and Jammal Brown, New Orleans has more than its share of first-rate college stars turned first-round picks. But Brees is the glue, the indispensable mainframe at the heart of the league's reigning Death Star of an offense, and today he wakes up as the first genuine star -- maybe a burgeoning legend, at least to the beleaguered people in his adopted hometown -- in Saints history. You could see it in him when he led his long-suffering, overmatched college mates over No. 4 Kansas State in 1998 to put Purdue in the final polls for the first time in 18 years, and past Michigan and Ohio State as a senior to break the Boilermakers into the Rose Bowl for the first time in 34 years. Before that, I know people who said they saw it in him when he led his high school team to a state championship. On the biggest stage of his life Sunday night, he was the same guy he's always been.
Not that anyone could have necessarily predicted it -- the scrappy "it" player who flames out at the next level is so common, it's something of a cliché -- which is why Brees was snubbed by his hometown school, only a second-round pick by the Chargers, and rather easily dismissed when he suffered a major shoulder injury that ended his time in San Diego. But it was there. In fact, you might want to get used to seeing a lot more of it. Some guys are just naturals.