Before Super Bowl XLIV, before the Saints, before Katrina, before the Chargers, before the 2001 NFL Draft, Drew Brees was a Boilermaker. I remember my senior year in high school. Joe Tiller took over as the new head coach at Purdue. Behind all-Big Ten quarterback Billy Dicken the Boilers made a stunning run. it resulted in a second place Big Ten finish, a 9-3 record, and an Alamo Bowl win. Dicken had a great year that year, but a short, skinny kid from Texas was his backup that played in a handful of games. That's where it started, as he committed when Purdue was coming off of its 12th straight losing season and we were teh laughingstock of the Big Ten.
I was there when he made his first home start against Rice in 1998 when I was a freshman. I was there when he torched No. 5 ranked Michigan State in 1999. I was there when he made the amazing comeback against Michigan in 2000. I was there for Brees-to-Morales (the happiest moment in Ross-Ade Stadium history). I was there for his career finale, when he took a back seat to Montell Lowe and did something that had only been done once before: take Purdue to Pasadena. I was there when Roy Johnson said, "You can sweep them clear across this bright Southern California sky!" and Purdue fans erupted as he prepared to take the field in the Rose Bowl.
As a Purdue alum that was there when Brees was doing his thing in West Lafayette, this night is special. Even when San Diego foolishly gave up on him and got Philip Rivers I still knew that he could be a solid NFL quarterback. Instead, one of our own has become one of the greatest to ever play the game. It is amazing to me that I can say I was there at the beginning. He's become my favorite athlete of all time, and last summer when I met him at a book signing I was pretty much swooning. I have a serious, unabashed hetero man crush on Brees, and I am not the only one.
Brees now has a Hall of Fame resume, and you cannot convince me otherwise. The single-season record for passing yards, a Super Bowl title and MVP, a possible league MVP with a solid chance at another ring, a chance to throw a touchdown pass in more consecutive games than anyone else (42 and counting), and two of only three 5,000 passing seasons in NFL history (though Tom Brady will likely join him with the fourth 5,000 yard season next week) mean he is a Hall of Famer. It is only a matter of time.
More importantly, Drew Brees is an excellent human being. He has donated millions to Purdue and millions more to the City of New Orleans. He understands that he has been given much, and it is therefore his responsibility to lead by example and give back. I know New Orleans loves him, but he will always be a Boilermaker. He will always be from the Cradle of Quarterbacks.
Congratulations, Drew, on the NFL single-season passing record. Thank you for being a Boilermaker.