Drew Brees spent 15 seasons cultivating a Hall of Fame career as the New Orleans Saints quarterback.
Along the way, Brees raised his family in Louisiana, becoming a part of the community, which included developing an affinity for LSU football.
But when Jeff Brohm announced he was leaving Purdue after six seasons to return home to coach at Louisville on Dec. 7, Brees knew he wanted to help out his alma mater.
“That is when my conversations with Purdue began about just offering my assistance, to be able to come in and help as a coach in any capacity,” Brees said. “I love my university. I love my alma mater and wanted to provide whatever assistance they might need during this time, not only to get ready for the bowl game but also to help stabilize the program and help with any transition to the next head coach.”
Brees joined the program as a countable assistant coach on Dec. 15, helping interim coach Brian Brohm as the Boilermakers (8-5, 6-3 Big Ten) prepare to take on No. 17 LSU (9-4, 6-3 SEC) in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl on Monday (1 p.m., ABC).
The school received a waiver from the NCAA, which allows Brees to work with players on the practice field and play a role in the program’s recruiting efforts.
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind for Brees, who has been trying to get up to speed on the offense’s core principles and familiarizing himself with the quarterbacks.
“I love the game of football, so to have the opportunity to take a lot of the things that I’ve learned throughout my career and maybe impart some of that knowledge, experience and wisdom on these young men was a great opportunity,” he said.
Brees retired from the NFL in 2020, leaving a professional career that saw him pass for 80,358 yards with 571 TDs while winning a Super Bowl title in the 2009 season. Before leaving in May, he had joined NBC Sports in 2021 to serve as a color analyst on the network’s Notre Dame football coverage.
Throughout his time in Louisiana, he’s spent time around the LSU program, getting to know some coaches on staff and athletics director Scott Woodward. The 43-year-old even had shoulder surgery in Baton Rouge in May, followed by a rehab stint at the Tigers football facility.
“I have a great relationship with these guys, but I will equate it to when you go out in the yard on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day to play a backyard football game with your family,” said Brees. “You love them, but you are trying to beat him.
“I love LSU — except for Monday.”
Purdue quarterback Austin Burton didn’t need much research on his new coach. Brees spent four seasons with the Boilermakers from 1997-2000 before leaving the program as the all-time leader in passing yards (11,702), passing completions (1,026) and passing touchdowns (90).
“As a room, excited would be an understatement,” said Burton. “To have a Hall of Famer come in your room and to be able to learn so much.”
Burton, a sixth-year senior, will get his second start after starter Aidan O’Connell announced he was opting out of the bowl game.
“It has been a long career,” said Burton. “To go out on top here and win the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl would be a good way to go out.”
For Brees, this coaching opportunity is a one-time thing. He has no plans to pursue a coaching career despite having been contacted by other teams to gauge his interest.
“I’m not entertaining those. This is interim,” he said. “I’m just doing this because I love my university and the opportunity to coach young men like Austin and our team, and to get this program through the bowl game. To prepare us to go out there and play well against LSU on Monday. After that, I turn back into a pumpkin.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Matt Murschel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.