Durkin gets the longest embrace, and when the pleasantries are done, he leads Brees to a corner of the gym where Saints running back Darren Sproles and backup quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield are waiting. Durkin tapes a piece of paper to the wall and gives the guys a verbal run-through of what’s to come—a two-hour “split-fusion” training session comprising a series of disparate circuits that incorporate about 100 movement variations. To a layman, the language on the sheet looks like Latin. Brees & Co., though, have the whole thing memorized as if it were a playbook, and hop to.
Lean and muscular at six feet tall and 209 pounds, Brees moves through the workout with cool precision, his posture ramrod straight at all times like a Marine. His every step displays a combination of purpose and the easy athletic grace you’d expect from an All-Pro NFL quarterback. He’s got a long scar by his right eye that bisects his famous birthmark, thanks to a biopsy that came back A-OK—news that allowed him to keep the trademark that earned him nicknames like “Spot.”
“I’ll never take it off,” Brees says. “It’s who I am.”
It’s easy to understand why he wouldn’t want to change for anyone. Along with his gentlemanly bearing, there’s a chip on his shoulder, too, which started growing back during his days as a superstar high school quarterback in Texas. Despite his winning a state title, scouts discounted Brees as being too short for the storied college football programs, so he wound up at Purdue. Once there, he went on to torch the school record books while becoming a second-round draft pick for the Chargers in 2001. San Diego, though, basically left him for dead when he tore the labrum and rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder in the final game of the 2005 season, and it was only the Saints—the perpetual down-and-outers rumored to be leaving town in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—who were willing to take a chance on him. A marriage of misfits was made, and it turned out to be one for the ages, with Brees not only bouncing back from the injury to play his best football yet, but also elevating the organization beyond any status it had ever enjoyed, culminating in New Orleans’ first-ever Super Bowl win in 2010.