Saints’ Brees paved way for NFL run of Texas high school QBs

Posted Saturday, Nov. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The list is a long one: Drew Brees, Christian Ponder, Matt Flynn, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Josh McCown, Andrew Luck, Case Keenum, Robert Griffin III, Nick Foles and Matthew Stafford.

Those are the Texas high school-bred quarterbacks who have started an NFL game this season. (Only five stayed in state to play college ball.)

For the fifth consecutive week, the Cowboys play a quarterback groomed in their home state. After Griffin, Foles, Stafford and Ponder comes Brees.

“Obviously Texas has a very strong football tradition with a number of players going on to play college football and certainly the NFL,” Brees said in a conference call last week. “Obviously, there’s a ton of quarterbacks, which is pretty unbelievable when you look at it. A lot of them went on and played all over the place, it’s just not guys that stayed in the state of Texas. In most cases, guys went and played in other places across the country and different conferences, different division levels and that kind of thing.

“I think it’s something we take a lot of pride in. I think it makes you proud considering we have that Texas state pride, having played in the state, and knowing the level of competition within the state when it comes to football, so it’s pretty cool that we’re able to have that many guys playing quarterback in the league.”

But it wasn’t that long ago that Brees stood alone.

In 2005, Texas had only seven quarterbacks on NFL rosters, with Brees the only starter among them. Now, he has company. Brees isn’t even the only quarterback from Austin Westlake, with Foles following in his footsteps.

Brees, though, doesn’t consider himself a trailblazer.

“Yeah, I guess I really haven’t thought a whole lot about it just until recently with all these young guys that are now playing,” Brees said.

Brees, 34, is on his way to becoming the fourth Texas high school quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sammy Baugh (Temple/Sweetwater), Bobby Layne (Highland Park) and Y.A. Tittle (Marshall) played a long, long time ago.

Brees has passed for 48,591 yards, the most in NFL history by a Texas high school-bred quarterback, and 345 touchdowns. Most of that has come since he joined Sean Payton in New Orleans in 2006.

Brees wanted to join the Dolphins as a free agent in ’06, and then-Dolphins coach Nick Saban wanted him. But Brees failed a team physical, having had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that off-season.

Dolphins team doctors gave him a 25 percent chance of returning to form.

So while Miami signed Daunte Culpepper, who threw two touchdown passes in his only season there, Brees accepted a six-year, $60 million offer, with $10 million guaranteed, from the rebuilding Saints.

It has been a marriage made in the Superdome.

Brees has a 75-44 record, a Super Bowl title, 36,243 passing yards, 265 touchdowns and a new state to call home.

“Just by the circumstances I made my way to New Orleans, coming off the injury, not really having many opportunities, and yet here’s coach [Sean] Payton coming from Dallas to become the head coach here, first-time head coach, and he wants me to be his quarterback,” Brees said.

“It meant a lot to me that he had that belief in me, that confidence in me, to come back from the injury. I think we’ve always kind of had a bond there, just feeling like, ‘I want to make him right.’ I always think that. I never take that for granted. I never overlook that. I constantly want to feel like even though I’m getting later in my career, that I always have something to prove. I’ve always had something to prove to him and everybody else.

“The offense has evolved from when we first installed it. I feel like the thing I appreciate so much is him allowing me to be a part of that evolution. There’s so much dialogue and communication that happens between us on a daily basis in regards to the game plan, how and when we want to call things and who we’re trying to attack, so on game day, it’s almost like I know the play call before it comes out of his mouth.

“So many times, probably more times this year than ever before, I will be thinking of a play and thinking, ‘Hey, this is the situation when I know he’s going to call’ and sure enough that’s what comes out of his mouth. It’s more like we’ll go to say the same thing at the same time. It sounds kind of corny and cheesy, but I’ll just kind of sit there and chuckle.

“It’s good when you’re on the same page with your play-caller.”

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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