I remember watching Super Bowl XLIV when the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17. Even though I was still bitter that neither the Houston Texans nor the Dallas Cowboys were playing in the big game, I felt compelled to root for the Saints.
As a Houstonian, I saw the impact that Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans. Thousands of New Orleans’ residents sought refuge in my city and I did my part to assist them by volunteering at the shelters. I experienced the pain of people who had lost everything including their hope.
Somehow, I felt that a Saints victory in the Super Bowl would restore hope for the ailing city. And surprisingly, it did. Leading that charge of hope was Saints quarterback, Drew Brees. His phenomenal performance not only lifted his team out of the lower echelon of the NFL, but it also lifted his city’s spirits.
In addition to instilling pride in New Orleans, Brees managed to give a boost to fathers. I can still remember how he embraced his son and lifted him in the air to celebrate the victory. In the midst of the hoopla, Brees managed to share a tender, intimate father/son moment with the world.
Today Brees continues to be a top-tier quarterback (he’s the starter on my Fantasy Football Team) and a top-notch father. In addition, he continues to be an ambassador for the city he loves.
“I know from personal experience that our fans make our team better, get us pumped and give us that extra edge out on the football field,” said Brees. “There’s nothing better than pulling up to our stadium or running out of the tunnel and seeing that sea of black and gold. It’s something that every player loves.”
Throughout the season, Brees will post personal pictures (mostly of his sons wearing Saints jerseys) on Twitter (@drewbrees) that represent his love for the black and gold.
I spent some time with Brees to discuss fatherhood, football, and the city of New Orleans.
Mocha Dad: What do you love most about New Orleans?
Drew Brees: There is so much to love in New Orleans. I love the culture, the charm, the food, the music. But most of all I love the sense of community. We have the best fans in the world. I love their loyalty and passion and they love me because I love New Orleans.
MD: As a professional football player, how do you manage all of your family responsibilities?
Brees: It’s all about having balance. When I’m on the field, I focus on playing my best, but spending time with my family is important to me. Mondays and Tuesdays are centered around family. I try to spend as much time with them as I can. I’ll schedule my work while my sons are napping or at school. One of my favorite parts of the day is when I read a book to them at night.
MD: How do you stay connected with your family when you’re on the road.
Brees: It’s tough, but I manage to keep in touch with Facetime and speaker phone. I need to hear my kids’ voices every night.
MD: You’ve been married for 10 years now. How do you maintain your marriage?
Brees: We make time for each other. My wife and I have designated date nights. We may go out to dinner or simply park by the river, talk and listen to music.
MD: How did you feel when you first found out you were going to be a father?
Brees: It was the greatest feeling. I was happy and scared at the same time. It’s hard to believe that you can have both of those emotions at the same time. But I love being a dad. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
MD: What wisdom did you get from your father that you use with your kids?
Brees: I didn’t necessarily get it from my father, but from my family in general. The greatest thing you can give your kids is love. You can read all of the parenting books and get a lot of different opinions, but it all comes down to loving your kids. Teaching them right from wrong and surrounding them with love is the most important thing.
MD: How has fatherhood changed you?
Brees: I’m much more emotional. I can’t watch movies or TV shows where bad things happen to children. I start thinking about my own kids and I start to tear up.
MD: Do your sons play football?
Brees: They’re still a bit young for organized football, but they like to toss the ball around the house. They love coming to the practice facility and running around on the field.
MD: Will you encourage them to play organized football when they’re older?
Brees: I will encourage them to play sports but I won’t force them to play a particular sport. I believe that kids gain so much from participating in team sports. Teamwork, work ethic, working through adversity are just a few of the valuable lessons they will learn.
MD: How do you want your sons to remember you?
Brees: I plan to be around for a long time, but I hope my sons remember their dad as a man who did things the right way and to the best of my abilities. I want them to say that I made time for them and always showered them with love.
MD: What advice do you have for new dads?
Brees: First, learn how to change a diaper. Being a dad is a great experience, but kids grow up so fast. Cherish every moment, take lots of pictures, show your love, and enjoy your time with your family.
Photo by Ian Ransley