Tuesday, 26 April 2011 11:55
NFL Draft Stories: Drew Brees, Cam Newton
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With his football future up in the air, Purdue's Drew Brees lived in a maddening limbo from New Year's to the NFL Draft, working out for NFL teams, watching his stock rising and falling, never knowing which NFL jersey he'd wear.

Brees was washing dishes in his kitchen, trying to distract himself from the torture of waiting for the phone call from an NFL team. The phone rang twice before Brittany, Brees' girlfriend then and wife now, snatched it off the living room floor and shouted, "Drew, the phone's ringing!" On the television screen voices informed viewers that that the San Diego Chargers were next on the draft clock, with the first pick of the second round, the 32nd selection over-all.

This is how the waiting ends. Nearly 16 weeks after playing his final college game, Brees would at least find out where football would take him next.

For Brees the ride had been measured in the increments as short as an eighth of an inch in height and as long as a ball sails when thrown by a passer with an NFL-approved arm.

Brees remained at Purdue instead of going to a pre-Combine training program in Florida. He was projected as a mid- to low-first-round draft choice, but NFL scouts had questions about him. Were his big college numbers a product of Purdue's spread offense? Is Brees, barely 6-feet tall, gifted enough to overcome his size? Does he have quick feet and passable sprinting speed?

But Brees is a 3.42 student, majoring in industrial management, and an NCAA postgraduate scholarship winner whose good citizenship resulted in the naming of a street Brees Way, in his honor in West Lafayette, Ind.

Brees went to Hawaii for the Hula Bowl and each player was weighed and measured. This was a big moment for Brees. He was listed at 6-feet-1. When Brees was measured, the attendant paused before barking, "Five-feet-eleven- seven- eighths." The audience groaned. Brees stepped back and stared at the scale and its operator. He asked to be measured again. "Six even," barked the attendant. Everybody in the room wanted Brees to be six feet.

Brees went to the Combine with high expectations and specific targets. Forty-yard dash: 4.79 seconds.  Not bad. Five-10-five shuttle: 4.15 seconds. Acceptable. Vertical jump: 32 inches. Right on.  L shuttle: 7:05 seconds. Acceptable.

The heart of the quarterbacks' workout was a series of 20 passes. Of Brees' 20 throws, 11 were solid, and 9 were poor. His long throws were wobbly, setting off alarms throughout the league.

Mel Kiper Jr., the ESPN draft expert, ranked Brees No. 16 among the draft prospects before the Combine.  Afterward, he dropped him out of the top 25.

Here were Kiper's notes on Brees before the Combine:

"Did a great job directing a sophisticated offense, but in the NFL , he will be looking to overcome his lack of ideal size and top arm strength. A major plus is he has all the intangibles you look for. He's a tremendous competitor and always maintains his poise. He has the resiliency in close games that could go either way.

"Directed his college team to its first Rose Bowl since 1966. In the end ,he'll have to silent skeptics who question how effective he will be when it comes to cutting through the wind late in the season. He lacks big-time arm strength and has to prove to skeptics he's not just a systems quarterback."

Back in West Lafayette, Brees was waiting for the Chargers to draft him with their first-round draft choice. He had spent a lot of time with Chargers coach Norm Turner.

San Diego traded its first-round draft pick to Atlanta for the Falcons' No. 5 and several players.

The Chargers drafted running back LaDainian Tomlinson with their first round pick and Brees realized that changed things.

Finally, Chargers general manager John Butler called. "Yessir it's me," said Brees."I'm coming to play.

When ESPN announced his name, Brees shot his right fist into the air.

The Chargers were thrilled. "We wanted Drew with our second pick," said Butler. "We tried to make a trade with Miami for its first-round pick at 26, but it didn't happen, so we held our breath."

Brees did a quick teleconference with the San Diego media, and agreed to jump on an early flight to California.

SOME hither, others yon: Somebody -- or at least claims they will put up $1 million to prove their suspicions about Cam Newton are true. There is now a website called CamNewtonLie author of the website proposes, "An Open Challenge To Cam Newton." Newton will be paid $1 million if he can pass the,"4 Questions College Football Fans Want Answered" (that's the headline on the site). Before going into more detail, it's worth noting that I have attempted to contact the site through both the phone number an d email address listed and have yet to hear back. The phone number listed (302-284-6213) comes up as an unpublished number in Felton, Del. Is this legit? Probably not. Besides Newton may be the first pick in the NFL Draft and really won't need $1 million. Maybe his dad can figure how to make a buck out of this.

by Ed Staton


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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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