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 Thinking Man's Quarterback
Management Major Drew Brees Excels in the Krannert Building as well as Ross-Ade Stadium

By Tim Newton

Laptop or pigskin, Drew Brees handles both with ease.

Drew Brees

In addition to being a pretty good football player, Drew Brees is a curious person.

Brees, an industrial management major in the Krannert School, was selected Academic All-Big Ten following his sophomore season. During an awards ceremony, he was intrigued by the thought of becoming an Academic All-American, which requires a 3.2 GPA in addition to significant on-field talent.

Brees was so driven by the honor that he retook a course last summer that he already had passed in order to raise his average. The dedication paid off, as he was named second team Academic All-American quarterback. On the field, he was selected first team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media and finished fourth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy.

“I think Drew has a great ability to keep his priorities in perspective,” says Erik Props, his academic advisor. “He came to campus as a virtual unknown commodity and quickly became a star on the field. Instead of letting himself get wrapped up in the hype, he continues to take care of business in the classroom.”

The soft-spoken Brees is as humble about his academic work as his football skills. “I’ve always really been into my studies,” he says simply.

“I’ve always been a business kind of guy. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than run my own business. Purdue has a strong management school, so it was a perfect fit with football and academics.”

The Austin, Texas, native says quarterbacks Joe Montana and Drew Bledsoe were his football heroes. His business idol, though, was another Austin resident.

“Michael Dell is just an amazing guy. I mean, here’s someone who began building an empire in his dorm room and who now sells $3 million a day on the Web. He eliminates the middleman and goes straight to the customer. That’s the way I want to be when I go into business,” Brees says.

There has been talk late last season that the talented quarterback, a likely first-round draft pick, would bypass his senior year for an early shot at the National Football League. He ended the speculation by announcing he would return for a shot at the Big Ten championship.

In addition to playing his football career to completion at Purdue, Brees will graduate with his class in the spring of 2001. “It’s one of the main reasons I decided to stay,” he says.

Despite his fame on the field, Brees says his classmates treat him as one of the gang.

“I’m in upper-level courses now, and most of the students know each other, so it’s pretty much old news,” he says. “When I’m in class, I’m just an ordinary student like anyone else.

“The only time it’s different is when we talk about sports in class. Then I can be the center of discussion. During an economics class, I had to explain about how the college football system works, with television rights and revenue sharing and everything else.”

Brees understood the interest. He knows what it’s like to be curious.

Drew signing autographWhy Purdue, Drew?

Purdue fans can thank a stroke a bad luck for their fortune of having Drew Brees suit up as a Boilermaker.

His high school team in Texas, Austin Westlake, was 28-0-1 with Brees as a starting quarterback as a junior and senior. The squad went 16-0 and won the state championship his final year, and Brees was named Class 5A (big school) Most Valuable Offensive Player.

Throw in the facts that his grandfather, Ray Akins, is the third-winningest high school football coach in the state of Texas; his father, Chip, played freshman basketball at Texas A&M; and his uncle, Marty Akins, was an All-American quarterback at the University of Texas, and it was difficult to imaging Brees leaving the Lone Star State.

But Brees suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament during his junior season, and a number of schools, including Texas and Texas A&M, backed away. Purdue head coach Joe Tiller had recruited Brees when Tiller was still at the University of Wyoming, but the Texan had little interest in going to Laramie. When Tiller took the Purdue job, he resumed his pursuit of Brees, and this time the interest was mutual.

In the end, Brees chose Purdue over Kentucky, despite the fact that his recruiting host on his trip to Lexington was All-American quarterback Tim Couch.

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