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Friday, February 11, 2011
Shooting the Brees with Drew

In July 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the President's Council on Youth Fitness to promote public awareness of the importance of exercise at a young age. Since then the council has continually expanded its reach, and this year, in an effort spearheaded by Michelle Obama, it was renamed the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition in order to emphasize the country's epidemic of childhood obesity. The council's co-chairs, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and former Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, were kind enough to carve out time between wall sits and pull-ups to discuss the council's goals and specific initiatives.

First up, I bring you my phone conversation with Brees, who discussed specific guidelines for parents and kids when it comes to incorporation of fitness and proper nutrition, as well as a certain fellow elite quarterback, and a noteworthy real estate transaction in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. (You didn't think I'd let him get away without talking football, did you?)

Melissa Jacobs: Tell me about your role as co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Drew Brees: My biggest responsibility is to basically promote and raise awareness as to how important it is to lead a healthy lifestyle through exercise and eating well, especially when you look at one of the major issues in the country being childhood obesity. And I feel like many kids don't fully understand the importance of exercise. That doesn't necessarily mean playing sports, although that's a great way to do it. Getting outside and playing 60 minutes a day whether it's hiking, biking, playing tag in the schoolyard with your friends or P.E. class, it's just about being active. We on the council also talk a lot about the food and nutrition that's provided in our kids' cafeterias. What are the healthiest alternatives for kids that allow them to start forming good habits? Building that combination of exercise and good nutrition is a powerful recipe moving forward both physically and mentally.

MJ: How difficult do you think the childhood obesity mission is in this day of a struggling economy? Doesn't fast food become even more attractive for certain families?

DB: Yeah, that's a good point. I think for the most part we live in an era of convenience and we allow our fast-paced lives to control our diet, ability or inability to get out and exercise, and affect our motivation. We need to work extra hard to establish goals that have exercise and cooking healthy meals involved.

Drew Brees
No eye black at the White House, Drew? Brees is co-chair of the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

MJ: Everyone in the free world knows you are a father. What advice do you give to fellow parents trying to balance a child's nutrition needs with all the peer pressure out there?

DB: Here's the thing: Just about everything is OK in moderation. Is it OK for your child to have a burger and french fries? Yes. Is it OK for them to have candy every now and then? Yes. But they don't need to be drinking four soft drinks a day and they don't need to be eating candy at the end of every meal. Really, it's the sugary stuff more than anything that's easy to sneak into your diet if you're not paying close attention.

MJ: Have you been able to see tangible changes since you started in your role as co-chair?

DB: Oh yes. I get feedback from teachers, principals and certainly coaches talking about what a great program it is. A lot of times parents and teachers can tell kids stuff that doesn't have the same effect as [when it comes from] a role model, someone they look up to. I just think the more those in a position of influence are able to reach out and let the kids know why this is important is crucial. That's the feedback we've gotten from everybody.

MJ: Tell me about the universally praised commercial you shot in 2009 with President Obama for United We Serve. What was that experience like?

DB: It was shot on the White House lawn in the middle of the season. Myself, Troy Polamalu and DeMarcus Ware were all there on a Tuesday, which is technically our off day. So I was watching film on the way up there and back on the plane. But during those couple of hours on the White House lawn, we had a blast with those kids and President Obama. And you know what, he is really a pretty impressive athlete. His hand-eye coordination and the way he was catching the ball, you could tell it was pretty natural for him, and it didn't take long to get the shot that wound up being the commercial. But it was so fun, especially because he's a big Bears fan and we've had some NFC battles with them in recent years, so he was getting after me since we lost all those battles.

MJ: So you'd be comfortable with him in a four wide receiver set?

DB: Oh definitely. No doubt.

MJ: I'd be remiss if I didn't throw in a couple NFL-related questions. The media has consistently labeled you, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the league's "elite" quarterbacks. Was Aaron Rodgers in that elite club before last Sunday, did he join it Sunday, or is he still somehow waiting in the wings?

DB: (Laughs) He's an elite quarterback. He's proven that when you look at his performance over the last three years and not just this year, although obviously he played with excellence this year and in the playoffs and Super Bowl specifically. I'm happy for Aaron Rodgers. I think he's a great quarterback and also a great guy. You can tell through watching the game the way his teammates feel about him as well.

MJ: And what was your reaction to Sean Payton becoming a Dallas citizen?

DB: It's a non-issue. I think everyone wants to immediately jump to conclusions and all of them are so untrue. The first of which is his family and him are having problems. No, that's not the case at all. The other one is he's taking a job with the Dallas Cowboys. No, not true either. People want to immediately jump to conclusions as to why he's bought a home in Dallas but most players and coaches in the league have a home base, a place where they're either from or where they spent a lot of time before so they have a solid foundation. There's not a guy who's more committed to his team and the city of New Orleans than Sean Payton. I think he's proven that.

MJ: Thanks for the time, Drew. Have a great offseason and congratulations on all your great work with the council.

DB: Thank you so much.

On Monday, we'll share our conversation with Dominique Dawes about the council's monumental Let's Move initiative, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary.