Drew Brees passed his first test as a QB in the Canyon

Seeing Drew Brees up on that podium Sunday night and holding his infant son in his arms with tears in his eyes, just minutes after guiding his team to a Super Bowl victory, teleported me like a flash back to September 6, 1995.

That’s the date when Brees started his first high school game as a Westlake Chaparral. I was there.

During that 1995 season, that’s what I did on Friday nights—I exclusively covered Westlake football games for the newspaper I was working for.

There were huge question marks for the Chaparrals that season. It was only their second season in Class 5A. They had lost seasoned quarterback Jay Rogers to Indiana.

They were coming off a loss to Tyler John Tyler in the Class 4A finals the year before.

That year in Texas Football magazine, Brees was not even mentioned. The prospect at quarterback was someone named Mark Genung.

Brees Brees Despite the uncertainty, the Chaparrals had enough veteran experience coming back, that they were ranked No. 4 in pre-season, behind defending champs John Tyler.

In that first game at New Braunfels Canyon, despite the immense pressure of starting his first varsity game, Brees had to deal with the peripheral baggage in tow.

Westlake had won 41 straight regular season games and had not lost since 1990.

He did have some help in the school’s all-timer leading rusher in Ryan Nunez, recordsetting receiver Reid Ryan and future NFL offensive lineman Seth McKinney.

The 6-foot, 160-pounder got off to a shaky start, misfiring on five of his first six passes.

Then suddenly, he became deadly accurate, completing eight straight passes including a 33-yard touchdown strike.

The junior finished his first varsity game impressively, however not overwhelmingly, 11-of-16 for 167 yards having completed his last 10 passes in the 38-14 victory.

I remember talking to he and Westlake head coach Ron Schroeder after the game.

While Schroeder—who in my humble opinion is the best game-day coach around— answered questions about the game, Brees fidgeted and stared at the ground.

“Drew has looked like that in practice,” Schroeder said of his rookie quarterback’s performance. “He got untracked and threw real well. Rifle arm. He has a great feel for the game.”

When I finally questioned Brees, Schroeder had to prompt him to answer, like a ventriloquist dummy.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Brees said softly, still looking at the ground. “Only fifteen more to go. I was a little jittery, a little nervous, but I eventually got used to it.”

I remember thinking this guy is going to get killed because he was so darn boneexposing skinny. His shoulder pads engulfed him.

Just like his game, he improved on the quotes as the season wore on.

I also remember how polite and well spoken he was and how he always credited his teammates for any success he had, which was quite refreshing.

Westlake didn’t win state that year—Brees was hurt and missed the Chaps quarterfinals loss to San Antonio Roosevelt— but captured its only crown the next season with Brees at the helm. He was 28- 0-1 as a starter.

To see how that shy, skinny boy has become such a fiery team leader and spokesman for New Orleans as a 31-year old man is remarkable to me.

Nobody wanted him, now everyone wants to be around him.

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2010-02-11 digital edition

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