NEW ORLEANS -- Ten years ago this month, the New Orleans Saints signed Drew Brees in the wake of his major shoulder injury and a major natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina. A recent ESPN poll of all 46 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters ranked him as the second greatest free-agent signing of all-time, behind only the Green Bay Packers' Reggie White.
Brees reflected on the remarkable 10-year run he has enjoyed with the Saints -- and put his memory to the test in a pop quiz -- during a Q&A with ESPN.com.
Q: Does it feel like 10 years?
Brees: Man, it's gone by fast [laughing]. I don't know, I guess you think so much about the future and kind of the next opportunity and each year just one at a time. My mind is obviously already on where we're at as a team now and the excitement level around some of the guys that we have and just how good I think we can be. I really feel like we're entering a window of time here where we can make a run at it.
But as you reflect back, you think, "OK, 10 years. Wow." Just all the teams, all the guys that you played with. We had a great run with some guys for a long period of time. There were stretches where we had guys for five, six, seven, eight years, 10 years all together, which I'd say is pretty rare in this day and age. But that's a testament to (general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton) and the entire organization bringing in a great group of guys, high character, great leaders. And hence the success.
Q: Did you watch Peyton Manning's farewell news conference?
Brees: Yeah, I did.
Q: I loved the part where he rattled off all the "little things" he'll miss. Give me two or three of those little things that you've loved during your 10 years in New Orleans.
Brees: Again, I think a lot of reflections are ones that happen when you're done playing, just because you're still very locked in and focused. And I think the appreciation of the little things at this point is just knowing that those little things are your little things. But so much of the routine, I think, is what you'll miss. And that is the Thursday night O-line dinners, just kind of an opportunity for guys to cut loose a little bit and relax and have fun and talk about things other than football and kind of bust each others' chops a little bit, laugh. The plane rides home after big wins on the road, seeing the guys standing up in the aisles, just laughing it up and having a good time. There's locker-room moments, moments in the huddle. Just a lot of those little things that you can't replicate when you leave the game. Certainly I've got plenty of those moments with the guys I've played with.
Brees: Yeah. I think at some point we all knew that none of us are gonna be left standing, right? I think you just try to just relish those moments as much as you can while they're happening and really live in the present and just appreciate it and never take it for granted. So I can look back on those times with Marques and Jahri and so many other guys. The Devery Hendersons and Lance Moores and Robert Meachems and Jonathan Goodwin and Jon Stinchomb. So many guys that meant so much to our program and were here for so long. The big thing is just if you live in the moment, you appreciate those times as much as you can, knowing at some point it's gonna come to an end for all of us.
But as long as we can look back and say, "Hey, we did it the right way and we had fun," that's all you can ask for.
Q: All right, I'm gonna put you to the test. You've thrown touchdown passes to 38 guys with the Saints. If I give you two minutes, how many you can rattle off? Or would you rather just try to name the top 10?
Brees: I'll give it a go. I'll start with the running back position, so I'll say Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, Aaron Stecker, Heath Evans, Mike Karney, Austin Johnson, Mark Ingram [surprisingly incorrect], Darren Sproles, Khiry Robinson, Ladell Betts maybe [also incorrect]. I'll go to tight ends: Mark Campbell, Billy Miller, Jeremy Shockey, Darnell Dinkins, Eric Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui, Ben Watson. OK, receivers, so Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Joe Horn, Terrance Copper, Jamal Jones. Let's see here, OK, Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman ...
[Brees started to stall at that point as time ran out, correctly guessing 27 names. As I read off the others, his responses included, "Dang it" and, "Yeah, that's right." They were running backs Pierre Thomas, C.J. Spiller and Travaris Cadet, receivers Kenny Stills, Nick Toon and Joe Morgan, tight ends David Thomas, Ernie Conwell and John Gilmore and fullbacks Jed Collins and Erik Lorig.]
Q: Do you have a favorite touchdown pass?
Brees: That's hard. Gee whiz. No, I can't. It's funny, because I can remember so many. I remember the first one. I was in my office the other day, and I saw a ball, it was the first touchdown pass to Marques Colston, it was at Cleveland. That was pretty cool. And when they painted the ball up, they painted Marques' name wrong, that's what was funny about it, too. That's my little inside story.
Q: All right, here's the negative one. Which two players have you thrown the most interceptions to since you've been with the Saints?
Brees: Ummm. Gee, I don't know, that's a good question.
Q: They're pretty random. They've each gotten you three times -- one of them in the same game.
Brees: Oh, was that the linebacker from Cleveland, Bowens? [Nope.] Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, Bulluck [LB Keith Bulluck from Tennessee in 2007].
[The other was safety Dawan Landry, twice with Baltimore and once with Jacksonville.]
Q: I was looking through an article when I sat down with you and [wife] Brittany during that first summer in 2006. And that was before four kids, so I'm sure life has changed. But you guys talked about falling in love with sno-balls and beignets and rattled off the list of restaurants where you had been eating. What New Orleans treasures are still absolute favorites?
Brees: Audubon Park is still one of those places. When we were single, we'd go over there and we'd walk around the park and hold hands and just enjoy the big, beautiful oak trees and just the feel of it. And now we're going over there with the kids and going to the playground or playing catch or going to feed the ducks. We don't obviously make it out to eat much, but we certainly have our favorite spots. And so much of it would be the routine of being a parent, all the stuff that's fun for the kids. We've been to the zoo a million times, we've been to the aquarium a million times, the insectarium a million times.
Q: Do you eat the bugs (a popular feature at the insectarium, sometimes chocolate-covered)?
Brees: Oh, yeah, we do.
Q: In that same article, you had a line. It was right in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and you said the best thing you could do for the city is win a lot of football games. How gratifying is it that you delivered on that?
Brees: Well, I think obviously during that time, I think everybody just needed something to hope for and to lift their spirits. And we as a team needed the city as much as the city needed us. And I think that was why we were successful, because we had each other. And so I am as appreciative, or even more so, to the city and the fans and the people as maybe they are in our team for delivering those wins, to bring them out of a very tough spot and make them feel proud about their city and their home and their team.