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When it comes to athletic ability, Drew Brees defers to Russell Wilson
KO OLINA, Oahu – Drew Brees was aware of the comparisons that have been made between him and Russell Wilson.
But then it would be impossible to overlook them, as the Seahawks’ rookie quarterback has been talking about his fondness for and similarities to the Pro Bowl quarterback of the New Orleans Saints since Wilson was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft last April. The comparisons only increased the better Wilson played in leading the Seahawks to an 11-5 record in the regular season, then the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983 and finally within a two-point loss to the Atlanta Falcons of advancing to the NFC Championship game.
But Friday, after the NFC squad had finished its practice in preparation for Sunday’s Pro Bowl game at Aloha Stadium, Brees took a moment to qualify all the complimentary comparisons. Or mirror-imagine imagery, if you will.
“Russell is a much better athlete than I am,” Brees said with a laugh, his eyes squinting because of the bright sunshine that was drenching the makeshift practice field at the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa.
“As far as just pure ability to throw the football, he’s got it. He’s a great athlete. He can make all kinds of plays with his legs – a lot more than I’ve ever been able to make. So I would say his talent level probably is a little higher than mine.”
Brees then went that even one better, admitting that the season-long comparisons between himself and Wilson have been “very flattering.”
Wait just a minute. Brees is the QB who is about to play in his seventh Pro Bowl – as the NFC starter, and as an injury replacement. Brees is the one who has been voted All-Pro four times and not only won a Super Bowl but was the MVP in the game. Brees is the one who broke the NFL record – a 27-year-old record – by passing for 5,476 yards in 2011. Brees is the one who also set the league record for consecutive games with the touchdown pass (54) this season.
But when he looks at Wilson, Brees can’t help but admit that he wonders how all this passing has made the time pass so quickly.
“I still feel like a young player. I really do,” he said. “I feel like a young man. I’m 34-years old. I just finished my 12th year. I think I’m the oldest guy on my team. Here’s Russell Wilson, who’s just finishing his first year, and I’m 11 years older than he is.”
Those facts have been staring Brees in the face – and nearly eye-to-eye – all week, as he and Wilson have spent a lot of time together during the NFC practices. Brees is listed at 6 feet, Wilson 5-11. So that’s where the comparisons began, and it’s that detail that always seems to start any conversations about the two.
“I think the fact that we both came into this league undersized and had to earn everything along the way and kind of beat the odds, so to speak, those are definitely some similarities,” Brees said.
It’s those obvious similarities that first attracted Wilson to Brees.
“He’s a guy I love to watch,” Wilson said on Friday, echoing what he has been saying the past nine months. “He does a lot of great things. I love learning from him. He’s a great person to talk to.”
But now that they’ve had a chance to get to know one another, the similarities and growing respect run deeper than the position they play and the height they supposedly lack.
“I’ve been so impressed with the way he’s been able to play,” Brees said. “Mostly, I just like the way he’s conducted himself throughout the whole process. He’s remained very humble. He’s so well-spoken. He gives credit to his teammates whenever he gets a chance. He’s very thankful and grateful for the opportunity he’s been given.
“You root for guys like that.”
It’s obvious that Brees has been following Wilson’s rookie season, just as Wilson followed all those productive seasons that Brees has been stringing together.
“Over the past six, seven years, I’ve really studied him and tried to figure out what he does so well,” Wilson said. “He’s got great feet. He’s got great poise. He’s a tremendous leader.”
And, as Wilson added, “He’s a great human being.”
Flattered? Obviously. But Brees also finds some motivation in watching Wilson.
“Just to know that you’ve got that kind of influence on guys, especially guys like Russell who come into the league and play at that level, it’s a great honor,” Brees said.
Then there’s that motivational factor.
“It definitely pushes you, too,” Brees said. “As a veteran player, you want to be able to stay up with these young guys.”
No worries, Drew. It’s your lead that Russell Wilson is following.