Tuesday, January 16, 2001
Cool BreesWAILUKU, Maui -- It's going to be hard for Drew Brees to top his 22nd birthday.
The Purdue quarterback celebrates
a memorable 22nd birthday on
Maui during Hula Bowl week
By Paul Arnett
He celebrated last night with members of the Hula Bowl football teams when executive director Lenny Klompus surprised him with a birthday cake after last night's dinner at the Outrigger Wailea ballroom.
Considered by many to be a top five pick in the upcoming National Football League draft, Brees threw darts in the late-morning practice, signed autographs after lunch and manned himself with a video camera yesterday afternoon to make sure no Kodak moments went by unrecorded.
"How can you beat this?" Brees said to his camera as he focused on a picture-perfect day on Maui. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."
It might not be the last time the Purdue University quarterback suits up in the island chain. True, he's barely 6-foot tall, has worked out of a one-back system his entire collegiate career and doesn't have an arm that's a risk to receivers' fingers.
But it's possible the Atlanta Falcons will make him the fourth pick overall in the draft this April, something the Maxwell Award winner knows is a distinct possibility as he prepares for this Saturday's 55th annual Hula Bowl at Maui's War Memorial Stadium.
"There are teams out there that need quarterbacks," Brees said after yesterday's light workout. "I'm just going to have to prove myself. I've kind of set my goals where I want to go in the draft. And hopefully, I can achieve those.
"I think there are some teams in the top 10 picks that need quarterbacks. And if I could land on one of those teams, it would be nice. I think it could be as quick as Atlanta. But whether they see that I can do the job and have as much confidence in me as I do myself, then I think it would be a good fit."
Purdue head coach Joe Tiller is confident Brees can make the adjustment at the professional level. With the Boilermakers, Brees set Big Ten marks by completing 1,003 of 1,639 passes for 11,517 yards and 88 touchdowns.
The Austin, Texas, resident thrived in Tiller's one-back attack. He threw 39 touchdown passes his sophomore season. He was also the team's second-leading rusher this year with 546 yards. Brees led Purdue to the Rose Bowl and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind fellow quarterbacks Chris Weinke of Florida State and Josh Heupel of Oklahoma.
"It really came down to us and Kentucky," Tiller said. "He won't admit this, but if Tim Couch hadn't been there, he probably would have gone to Kentucky. We got lucky. Absolutely, he was attracted to our system.
"We were fortunate enough to lead the nation in passing my final year at Wyoming. And certainly that was attractive to him. He's the perfect guy for our system because he's extremely smart and he's extremely accurate. And that's what we look for.
"I think he has to prove he's not a system quarterback in the NFL. I don't have any question about that. Our system is very user-friendly, and yet, our system is just another way to try to move the football, unless you have a talented quarterback."
Brees proved that throughout his career, but concedes, having two guys behind him will take some getting used to at the next level.
"I think the NFL scouts just want to see me put the ball on people," Brees said. "Be accurate and be smart. It's true, the NFL is all two-back. And all we ran in college was one-back and no-back. Which is a little bit of a change.
"If you've got more linebackers in the box, you run different run plays. You have B plays with a fullback at running back. Stuff we've never done before. I think the reads are the same on pass routes. These are better athletes we're going up against. I'm pumped up because this is going to be fun."
Several NFL scouts plan to take a long look at Brees to see if he's the best quarterback in the 2001 draft. His size may hurt him.
"But I'm definitely going to say I'm 6-foot-1, but we'll see," Brees said. "I'm sure my size will have to be something I overcome. But there have been a lot of great quarterbacks in the NFL who were only 6-1 or 6-2. Look what Joe Montana did. Look what Steve Young did. Those guys aren't very tall. I can look to those guys as role models and examples of, hey I can make it in the NFL."