Mac Engel

Drew Brees ‘begged’ to play at TCU, and they said no. He became the best QB from Texas

Drew Brees wanted to play at either Texas A&M or Texas, but those schools had no interest, nor did Baylor or even TCU.

“My favorite thing about Brees: He begged to come to TCU, but (head coach Pat) Sullivan said, ‘I don’t need an option quarterback,’ ” said Fort Worth native and noted TCU and football historian Sir Dan Jenkins.

Brees had some good friends who knew Jenkins and they asked him put in a good word with Sullivan, who promptly shot it down.

“That was the response I got,” Jenkins said.

Imagine how Drew Brees as a Horned Frog could have altered the direction of that program.

Brees was not even an option quarterback, and he was famously blown off by the Aggies and Horns. That he had an eye for Baylor or TCU during his senior year at Austin Westlake is less known.

“I never heard that but that sounds like it could be right. He wanted to play someplace closer to home,” said former Austin Westlake assistant coach Derek Long, who was the defensive coordinator at the school when Brees played there in the mid-‘90s. “I know he had interest in Baylor because there was a legacy tie-in there. But Baylor didn’t offer.”

Brees comes to Arlington on Thursday night as a 7.5 point favorite with the New Orleans Saints to derail the hottest team “in the history of the NFL,” our Dallas Cowboys, which are sporting a torrid three-game winning streak.

At the time Brees was scholarship shopping, Baylor was the worst team in the newly formed Big 12, and TCU was at the bottom of its new league, the Mountain West. Famously, the only offers Brees received during his senior year at Westlake were from Kentucky and Purdue.

More than two decades later, after much review and considerable debate, Drew Brees has gone on to become the best quarterback from the state of Texas.

“You mean other than Bobby Layne, Robert Griffin, Johnny Manziel, James Street, Pete Layden?” Jenkins scolded me. “Judged strictly on college careers. Brees didn’t come with a Heisman or a national championship.”

I want to be sure to include as a candidate Texas Tech’s Billy Joe Tolliver, mostly because I like saying the name, “Billy Joe Tolliver.”

Brees did lead Purdue to a Rose Bowl berth, something the program has not achieved since and had only once previously, in 1967.

Who am I to debate with Dan Jenkins, but this argument must include life beyond college ball, which puts Brees above them all.

After conferring with some experts, including the GOAT, Pro Football Hall of Famer Charean Williams, the candidates to be called Best Quarterback From Texas are but three: Brees, Bobby Layne and Sammy Baugh.

For my money, which there is an ever decreasing amount, Brees or Baugh are your picks. Baugh because he was the first, and Brees for what he has done since he became the starter at Westlake as a junior.

Baugh led TCU to a national title in 1936, and the Washington Redskins to a NFL championship in 1942. His statistics and accomplishments remain absurd by any standard.

Layne was the best of his era with the Detroit Lions.

When evaluating players one should always factor in segregation: Baugh played a decent amount of his career in a segregated league. Doesn’t make him any less great, but it does change the game.

Brees, 39, benefits from playing in the most passer-friendly era of his sport, which he has only exploited to his advantage. And he has done everything a quarterback can do over a long period of time.

For decades, the Saints smelled like Bourbon Street at 5 a.m. until Brees arrived in 2006.

“You are talking about a guy who never lost a game as a starting quarterback in high school,” Long said. “You are talking about a guy who put an entire team on his back at Purdue and put them in a place where it had never been. And now look at what he has done in the NFL. It’s incredible.

“I know I’m biased, of course, but in my mind, there is nobody from Texas any better than Drew Brees.

Earlier this season, Brees became the most prolific passer in the history of the NFL, to go along with his numerous other achievements and accomplishments that are too many to list.

Remember, nobody in Texas wanted the guy.

“That was a time when colleges were really into dimensions of athletes,” Long said. “He had to be 6-foot-5, or really fast. Well, Drew wasn’t either of those things.”

Brees is not tall, but few passers have ever been better at putting a ball on a receiver, or knowing an opposing defense.

“I remember watching him in a Freshman B game and he caught my eye because there was this little guy running around and he always got the ball to someone where it was supposed to be,” Long said.

“It doesn’t mean the guy always caught it, but what impressed me was the way this little guy never seemed to panic when people were in his face,” he said. “That’s a very hard quality to have.”

Other than height, Drew Brees has it all. But no one from College Station to Austin to Waco to Fort Worth could see that. They just saw his height.

All of those coaches who couldn’t see past “6 feet tall” can see clearly what the world now knows: Drew Brees stands above every other quarterback from Texas.

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