NFL quarterback Drew Brees led the New Orleans Saints to win Super Bowl XLIV — hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in victory. With confetti falling and his young son’s ears protected by headphones, Drew lifted 1-year-old Baylen in what has become an iconic football photo.
It took a lot of desire, focus, patience and hard work for Drew to get to the pinnacle of his sport. And he’s found it takes the same kind of effort to raise a family.
“Winning a Super Bowl was a lifelong dream,” Drew said. “You might consider that the end of a season or career-long journey. But having children is [just] the beginning of a lifelong journey, and it’s truly God’s greatest gift.”
Born Jan. 15, 1979, Drew grew up in Texas and, after a successful college career at Purdue University, was drafted by the San Diego Chargers for the 2001 season. During the last game of the 2005 season, Drew suffered a horrific injury to his throwing shoulder. He underwent surgery and the hard work of recovery before being signed by the New Orleans Saints the following year.
His remarkable 2006 comeback and the Super Bowl victory just three seasons later mirrored the comeback of his new hometown — a city many felt was too far-gone after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. But having secured a Super Bowl victory, Drew still believed his success on the field paled in comparison to a life-changing event off the field — the arrival of his son Baylen.
In the years since Super Bowl XLIV, Drew and his wife, Brittany, have added three more children to their family: sons Bowen and Callen and their daughter, Rylen.
When a new football season begins, the struggle to be a good father and husband competes with Drew’s desire to be the best he can be on the field. He admits it can be hard to turn off the football switch during the season because there are so many things running through his mind, but Brittany faithfully reminds him to “be present” when he gets home.
Brittany commends Drew for the way he can walk in the door after a long day and throw himself on the floor and let the kids climb all over him. “Drew loves being a dad,” Brittany says. “He approaches being a father like he does all other aspects of his life: He reads countless books. He studies the effects of learning music or languages on the child’s brain, and he simply loves to play with the kids. He really is the best dad.”
So how do Drew and Brittany navigate the stresses a football season can put on their marriage and family?
“It helps to have a great routine and a very patient and understanding wife,” Drew says.
Brittany realizes that during football season Drew belongs to the team because he has tremendous responsibilities with a lot of people counting on him. Drew appreciates how she is encouraging and supportive both at work and at home. She brings the kids to visit Drew at the practice facility if he’s staying late, and she helps the kids tape drawings around the house when Drew’s experienced a big win or a tough loss.
Living the season
Drew and Brittany work hard to carve out time together amid the craziness. “When I do get home, which is usually late, we do our best to find 30 minutes where we can just sit and talk about the day,” Drew says. “And we make decisions together about kids or the schedule or whatever we’re facing.”
Brittany acknowledges that with each additional child, life has gotten crazier. To help minimize the stress, Brittany says they divide their lives into two parts: the off-season and the season. “In order for him to be successful on the field, his life off the field during the season needs to be as stress-free as possible. There are many days where he will call home and ask how everyone is and I will [simply] say we are great.” Because Brittany understands that the details would only distract Drew from what he needs to do at work, she chooses to wait until his off day to fill him in.
During the football season, Brittany has come to expect that on most days Drew will be gone from 5 a.m. until almost 8 p.m. “This is not an 8-to-5 job, but not many jobs also have a few months off — so it all evens out.”
Drew admits that the hardest part of working out family life together is the lack of time — but that’s where routine comes in. Drew explains, “My goal each day is to get home in time to read Bible stories to the kids before bed. I want them to grow up knowing how much Jesus loves them. This forces me to be ultra-efficient with my time, knowing I have something very important to get home to.”
Since 2009, Drew has continued to set passing records and is considered one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. But in spite of personal victories, there have been some disappointing losses, and the team hasn’t returned to the Super Bowl. Drew acknowledges that the family helps him keep the wins and losses in perspective.
Drawing on football terminology, Drew says that life with four young children brings constant “audibles.” He and Brittany have to react to different situations and be ready to change plans, at times making decisions on the run.
The best advice Drew says he’s been given is to realize that his children are always watching him, so it’s important that his actions back up what he’s telling his kids.
Becoming a father has taught Drew things he didn’t fully understand about life. He admits, “I’ve learned the value of patience, discipline and communication. You obviously have to be very patient with your children as they go through different stages of development. And I have to be disciplined to know that they’re watching everything I do. . . . And communication with them and Brittany is so important. Everyone needs to be on the same page.”
With the records, awards and Super Bowl ring, what would Drew Brees want his kids to say about him?
“I want them to say that I always kept a promise, was always there for them when they needed me, and there was no doubt in their minds just how much I loved them.”
Chris Fabry is an award-winning writer and host of Moody Radio’s “Chris Fabry Live!” His latest novel is War Room, based on the film by the Kendrick Brothers.