Saints morning report: Lelito's inspiration

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
8:00
AM ET
Last week, the New Orleans Saints gave rookie offensive lineman Tim Lelito a game ball and a lot of well-deserved credit for overcoming the emotional loss of his grandmother and still producing at a high level in their 17-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

This week, stories written by the MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas and The Times-Picayune’s Larry Holder did an excellent job of crediting Lelito’s inspiration – his grandmother, Ardis Lelito.

Tim Lelito and his brother were adopted by their grandparents at a young age and raised by them. And the story of how much their devoted support meant to Lelito is a fitting way to kick off this Thanksgiving morning.

“My grandma took me to every single sporting event, every single practice,” Lelito told Vrentas. “We were in soccer, little league, basketball, cross country, wrestling. My grandpa jokes that the only thing we weren’t in was hockey, because we didn’t have it [where we lived]. We rodeoed for a little bit, too. She used to take us to all these little rodeos all over the place.”

Lelito also told Holder, “My grandpa would always tell stories how she would never complain – not once. She always loved watching me and my brother compete and do what we love, which was playing sports.”

Giving back: Lelito was one of several Saints players who took part in the team’s annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Giveaway on Wednesday. Players donated the funding for more than 1,000 Thanksgiving meals, and several of them met with the families at the event.

“It’s not enough,” defensive end Cameron Jordan said. “But having the power to put smiles on people’s faces is a great feeling.”

Brees honored: Here’s the biggest understatement you’ll read all day: New Orleans is thankful for Drew Brees.

Not only has Brees lifted the Saints to new heights since he arrived in 2006, but he and wife Brittany have also embraced the community and done remarkable things though their Brees Dream Foundation.

Brees was honored once again for those efforts Wednesday when the Big Ten conference named the former Purdue star as the 2013 recipient of the Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award (named after Minnesota’s Tony Dungy and Indiana’s Anthony Thompson).

Brees’ foundation has committed more than $17 million to charitable causes and academic institutions in the New Orleans, San Diego and West Lafayette, Ind., communities. He was previously honored as the co-recipient of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2006 and the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 2010, among other honors.

MVP watch: Meanwhile, Brees remains in second place on Dan Graziano’s MVP watch for ESPN.com. But this week will be a big one for all the candidates on the list. Current No. 1 Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will be at the Kansas City Chiefs, while Brees goes head-to-head with No. 3 Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.

Another record: It seems like Brees breaks some new record every few weeks, and Monday might be no exception. Brees is two touchdown passes shy of his sixth straight 30-touchdown season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that would be the longest streak in NFL history. Brees is currently tied with Brett Favre with five straight 30-TD seasons.

Whitner still upset: San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner is still upset over the penalty called against teammate Ahmad Brooks for his hit against Brees two weeks ago in New Orleans’ 23-20 victory. Whitner described Brees as “a little guy who can’t take a hit” – though he later clarified the statement by saying he wasn’t questioning Brees’ toughness, just the fact that he used the penalty to win the game.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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