Retired National Football League star Drew Brees was quarter-back for the New Orleans Saints from 2006 to 2020, leading the team to victory in Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. Over a 20-year NFL career, he set numerous records and remains the league’s all-time leader in career pass completions, career completion percentage, and regular-season passing yards. But Brees— who’s now an analyst for “NBC Sunday Night Football”—is just as well known in some circles for his family focus (he married his college sweetheart and the couple has four children) and his philanthropy. When REALTOR® Magazine caught up with Brees, he was focusing his attention on efforts to help Louisiana residents affected by the devastation of Hurricane Ida.
REALTOR® MAGAZINE: It’s an understatement to say you’re widely admired, not just in New Orleans and not just for your football record but because you come across as a genuinely nice guy who cares about his family, cares about his fellow humans, and wants to leave the world a better place. Can you share an insight about what or who shaped your worldview?
Drew Brees: I’d say I was shaped by growing up near and spending a lot of time with my grandparents. They lived in a small community where everyone looked out for one another. Many times, as a kid, I witnessed my grandparents helping others who were in need. I’ve followed their example and always felt that was part of our responsibility as people and Christians.
RM: In interviews you did when you announced your retirement, you said one of the things you were most excited about was the opportunity to engage in philanthropic work. Can you share a success story, something you’re working on today with the Brees Dream Foundation?
Brees: We recently announced a partnership with Ochsner Health Systems in Louisiana to build 13 primary health care facilities in underserved communities throughout the state. We were excited to open our first one in New Orleans East in the fall of 2020. The feedback we have received and the number of people we are able to serve each day in that community is incredible, and it’s very rewarding to know we’ve had a hand in providing much-needed services for the community.
RM: You had success with the San Diego Chargers. In fact, the Associated Press named you NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2004. And you went on to achieve many winning seasons with the New Orleans Saints, including the Super Bowl win. But you’ve also overcome loss and injury—and you’ve written about overcoming adversity. REALTORS® are out in the field every day, trying to make sales. They deal with rejection and high emotions daily, and many aren’t paid if they don’t close sales. What would you tell them about getting past defeats and negative thoughts that threaten to derail them from their goals?
Brees: I’ve always believed that adversity equals opportunity. With every failure, there’s a learning opportunity. Everything that happens in our lives is designed to motivate, train, and empower us to put us in a position to accomplish even greater things down the road. Failure is a tough teacher, but that is where you absolutely learn the most. The mindset of constantly driving forward, putting one foot in front of the other, and that never-quit attitude is what makes the journey challenging, fun, and rewarding when you are able to accomplish the goals you set out to accomplish.
RM: I read that you studied business at Purdue University and then, as an NFL player, took continuing education classes in business. What would you say sets the most successful businesses apart from the rest?
Brees: The most successful businesses have a great culture. I’ve always felt that’s the most important element to any business. When businesses fail, it’s not necessarily because they didn’t have a good idea or didn’t have the ability to execute. It was the fact that they didn’t create an environment where everyone on the team is buying in, working toward a common goal, and really enjoying coming to work each and every day because the work is about something more than themselves and they really enjoy being a part of the team.
RM: Speaking of something bigger than themselves, about 10,000 REALTORS® will be reading this magazine when they’re in San Diego attending this industry’s largest event, the REALTORS® Conference & Expo. You’re no stranger to this city. Do you have a favorite spot in San Diego that REALTORS® shouldn’t miss?
Brees: There are so many great options. Of course, if I am with my kids, there’s always the San Diego Zoo, one of the best zoos in the country. The Wild Animal Park makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the Serengeti. There’s Sea World and the activities in Mission Bay. Del Mar is one of my favorite beaches to hang out, and Legoland is a family favorite.