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Life is a Brees

Anyone who reads my blog knows sports are a part of my life, they always have been. Ever since I was six the Packers have been a part of my football life, especially the years before Bart Starr retired and the years after Brett Favre became a Packer.

Over time Mary Kay “broke me” of including a Brett Favre reference in every article I wrote. This week I found a way to include his name – and it has nothing to do with the fact that he turned 49 last week.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, set a new NFL record for career passing yards last week. Earlier this year he broke Favre’s record of 6,300 completions. The reference to Favre ends, much to my wife’s pleasure!

MK is a graduate of San Diego State and the San Diego Chargers drafted Brees in the second round of the NFL draft. (Yes, uh, just a few years after MK graduated.)

He wasn’t a first round draft pick because he was small, he wasn’t quite 6’ tall and had a mediocre arm. Last Monday I watched one of the analysts who was in the same class as Brees, he mentioned “this kid from Purdue” just didn’t look that good.

After several good years as a Charger Brees got hurt in January 2006 and it wasn’t good. It appeared to potentially be career-ending. He saw a renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Andrews, who discovered that Brees had a torn labrum and would need 11 surgical anchors. He would also need to repair his rotator cuff. Fortunately, this procedure was done arthroscopically.

Regardless, it would be a grueling rehabilitation. The Doctor said, “Lord, I was just hoping to give him a functional shoulder, an average athlete would not recover from this injury.” Dr. Andrews then handed Brees off to a physical therapist who said, “I had never seen an injury this severe in any elite-level throwing athlete. We are in uncharted waters.”

In May 2006 he was traded to the New Orleans Saints.

It was August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. On September 25, 2006, the New Orleans Saints started playing again at the Superdome in New Orleans. New Orleans and Brees were healing together.

He became the first quarterback to ever throw for 72,000 yards.

Now let’s fast forward to last week.

Brees is now 39, which is old for a quarterback considering these quarterbacks who retired:

  • Dan Marino, who was 38 when he retired,
  • John Elway, was also 38,
  • Roger Staubach was 39,
  • Troy Aikman was 34,
  • Joe Montana was 38,
  • Kenny Stabler was 38, and
  • Peyton Manning was 40.

This puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?  He doesn’t see himself close to retirement. Maybe you are asking, “What does all of this have to do with leadership?”

When he broke the all-time passing yardage record, officials stopped the game, gave him the ball, and showed him speaking with his kids. When asked what he said to his kids at that moment, he said, “I probably told my kids what I tell them each night, you can accomplish anything in life that you want to work for. Nothing is given, everything is earned. God has equipped us for great works. I tell them that every night.” He continued, “I love playing the game, and I play because I love this game. I love to compete and I love being a part of this organization.”

Can any of us say this? “I love to compete. I love being a part of my organization. I love playing the game.” If you can say this, congrats, because you are undoubtedly, a great leader!

Hiking on a Mountain = Preparation

I’m not an outdoorsman, I’m a city boy who grew up in Rockford, Ill., in the early 60s. We played basketball, baseball and football wherever we could. Many of us got married when we were in our late teens and early twenties. The closest mountain was hundreds of miles away. I’d guess the majority of us never learned to snow ski unless we drove up to central Wisconsin.

I’ve previously talked about our Saturday breakfast club in my blogs – a group of us get together every Saturday for an hour to run, ride or walk –so we can burn enough calories for the next hour when we have breakfast together.

Many of us did a half or a full marathon together in the Grand Caymans a couple of years ago. This year the group decided we’d go to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to summit two of the Presidential Peaks. Mount Washington is the highest of the Presidential Peaks with an elevation of 6,288 feet. It’s the highest mountain east of the Mississippi and North of the Carolinas. Eleven of us travelled to the Joe Dodge Lodge in Jackson, N.H.

Preparation.

I hadn’t planned on being one of the hikers, but one of the guys in the group recently had knee surgery and would be limited to what he could do; so I’d hang with him. The leader of the group’s wife was going with the two of us as a ‘travel agent’ while the other eight hiked.

We’d be staying at a hiking lodge, but I had no idea what that meant. I did zero research and figured it would be a lodge/hotel like many I’d stayed at before, but I was wrong.

Each room was about the size of my closet. A double bed with some drawers, no phone, TV, or bathroom. There were two large bathrooms per floor – one for the guys and one for the ladies.

Breakfast and dinner would be served in a cafeteria setting. So far I’d been wrong on everything I’d expected. Why? No preparation.

As the eight hikers got together I was impressed by their gear. I’d never been around any hikers before. Each had three bottles of water, a straw that allowed them to drink out of a stream without getting sick, special shoes, special pants, flashlights (in case they didn’t make it back by dark), a compass, walking poles and the list goes on. Of course, they dressed in layers. I wore sneakers in case I did any walking. Brilliant.

Half of the hikers got back about 4:30 p.m. The other half were still trying to summit a second peak. One of them was out of gas and said she would stay with the gear. All I could think of was, “There are bears and moose in those woods. Bring a gun.”

By 11 p.m. the second group wasn’t back. They’d been on the mountain for 14 hours. Now I understood why they dressed in layers. It was about 35 degrees when they started. I don’t remember the last time it was 35 degrees in Waco. It had been dark for several hours. I have no idea when the last time they ate or what they ate was. They got back to the lodge after midnight, and we were relieved.

Preparation.

Everyone got back safely – about 8 hours later than expected.

It was an easy day for the three of us who didn’t hike, we saw the most beautiful fall colors I’ve ever seen in my life. It convinced me I never want to hike the mountains and showed me the power of preparation.

As always, I learn leadership lessons each week.  Most of the time without ever thinking I’ll learn them in that manner. I’m glad the hikers prepared. A great example of what we all need to do each week.