Poised for greatness
Tough decisions nothing new for Purdue's Brees
Posted: Tuesday December 07, 1999 01:44 AM
Purdue quarterback Drew Brees put up huge numbers again this season, which earned him first-team All Big Ten honors. AP
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Decisions, decisions. Drew Brees is
accustomed to facing tough choices, and not always on the football
First he had to pick a college. Spurned by the major schools in
his home state of Texas, that decision wasn't too difficult once
Purdue and coach Joe Tiller came calling.
Then, after three record-breaking years with the Boilermakers
made him a strong Heisman Trophy candidate, he had to decide
whether to return for his senior season or make millions in the
NFL. With his girlfriend set to graduate in the spring, that one
was a little tougher.
He decided to return to Purdue next year to complete
"There are a lot of things, myself and the team, which are
goals that we haven't accomplished," he said.
In addition to preparing for the Heisman ceremonies Saturday
night in New York, Brees is getting ready for the Outland Bowl in
Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1.
"I've had a chance to look back at the season, the ups and the
downs, figure out where we are," Brees said. "The Outback Bowl
wasn't our goal, but today it is the best place we can be."
After two consecutive nine-win seasons, including victories in
the Alamo Bowl, Purdue faced a tougher schedule this year and wound
The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder from Austin, Texas, played well enough
to be selected first-team All Big Ten by the coaches and media.
Playing at a school long recognized as a cradle for future NFL
quarterbacks, Brees already is first or second in all of the
school's passing records. After 31 games and 24 starts, Brees has
the highest completion percentage in Purdue history at .616 with
681 completions in 1,106 attempts for 7,746 yards and 60
His production was down from the record-setting numbers of his
1998 season when he became a starter.
"There's a lot of things that I did better than last year. I
think as a team, we were a lot better, even though our record
doesn't show it," he said. "The level of competition was much
For much of the season, Brees was considered a leading Heisman
candidate. But now he believes Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne
"He's kind of been their team for the last four years," Brees
Many were surprised that Brees decided to remain with the
Boilermakers instead of a becoming a high first-round draft pick in
a league hurting for quarterbacks.
"The main reason is there is a lot of unfinished business,"
said Brees, who's working toward a degree in industrial management.
"I have a lot of personal goals, but I don't really share them.
All I can say is I just want to get better every time I go out on
With a big assist from Brees, Tiller has transformed a program
that hadn't had a winning season on the field since 1984.
"He's just a down-to-earth guy," Tiller said. "He likes to be
thought of as one of the good guys. If he was to write a
biographical sketch of himself he'd like to say, 'I'm a good guy.'
He's a refreshing guy to be around."
Ignored by the big Texas schools, Brees knew little of Purdue's
history of producing quarterbacks such as Bob Griese, Len Dawson,
Mike Phipps, Gary Danielson, Mark Herrmann and Jim Everett.
"I knew of its academic reputation, playing in the Big Ten, the
best conference in America from top to bottom, brought me here,"
Brees said. "And I love to throw the ball, and coach told me we'd
sometimes be throwing the ball 50 times in a game."
Fifty? That's nothing for Brees, who has done that seven times
in his career. He set an NCAA record by passing 83 times and tied
the NCAA record of 51 completions against Wisconsin in 1998.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who also bypassed
a chance to leave college after his junior season at Tennessee,
said Brees is a cinch for the NFL in 2001.
"He's a really good quarterback," Manning said. "It's one of
those fun offensive systems that you like to play in as a college
quarterback, and he's played really well."
Even when Brees tries to relax -- rare these days -- he's still
faced with a decision.
"I'm kind of a movie buff. I like a good movie on a Saturday
night. Instead of going out and partying, I'll just stay in and
watch a movie," he said.
"Sometimes if it is a dark and rainy night, I'll get a scary
That's appropriate. Brees has been plenty scary for Purdue's
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