METAIRIE, La. – With the Louisiana state high school football championships kicking off in New Orleans this week, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was asked about winning a Texas state title with Austin Westlake High School in 1996. Not surprisingly, it brought back a flood of memories:
“That whole road to the state finals my senior year was awesome,” said Brees, who started by rattling off all the special venues his team got to play in, from San Marcos to South Texas to San Antonio. “Then you went to the Astrodome to play Aldine, which was like an NFL roster - no joke - if you look man for man, heights, weights, talents, it’s unbelievable. We found a way to beat them and beat Abilene Cooper at Texas Stadium in the finals. When you think about it, you’re playing in college and pro stadiums, drawing between 20,000 and 40,000 people. That’s what it was all about. …
“We were 16-0. That’s hard to do, especially 5A in the state of Texas. I still talk to a lot of those guys and have great relationships with them. … You never know what’s going to happen. We weren’t a team that had a bunch of guys [go on to play in] college. I didn’t start getting recruited until the fourth or fifth round of the playoffs that year. That was the first time I had actually been contacted by schools to go on official visits with the thought of a scholarship offer to play in college. Most of my team was that way. Just a lot of hard-working guys, well-coached, that had the same goals, trying to win a state championship. That’s as pure as you get. Once you win it, it’s the greatest thing in the world because you don’t have expectations beyond that. I didn’t think I’d play in the NFL, so that’s what makes it so special too.”
Off the hook? The Saints set an infamous NFL record last year when their defense allowed the most yards in league history (7,042). However, this season's Dallas Cowboys are flirting with the record. The Cowboys have allowed the second-most yards in NFL history through 13 weeks (5,549 – just 131 yards behind the Saints at this point last year).
Not off the hook: Saints punter Thomas Morstead said Wednesday that he was fined for the first time in his career because of his illegal (but touchdown-saving) tackle against return man Ted Ginn Jr. in the first quarter of Sunday night’s 31-13 win over the Carolina Panthers. Morstead essentially clotheslined Ginn in the helmet – then later tracked him down to apologize on the field. Although Morstead felt bad about the hit (and got a little dinged up himself), he was glad the Panthers ultimately settled for a field goal on that drive.
Worth a click:
For all your Rams coverage this week, make sure to check out ESPN.com’s Rams blog and follow Rams reporter Nick Wagoner on Twitter @nwagoner. He had a good piece Wednesday on the Rams’ plan to finish strong this season even though they are out of playoff contention.
Brees is back up to No. 2 on ESPN.com’s MVP Watch by Dan Graziano. But this is looking more and more like a one-man race featuring Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro was not among the four names mentioned as top Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates by ESPN Stats & Information. Although I think Vaccaro has been a huge addition to the Saints’ defense – and think he could wind up in the running for this honor at year’s end – I can’t argue with any of the names on the list.
According to Panthers reporter David Newton, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has already talked to his brother Rex about the Panthers (who play Rex’s New York Jets this week). A Jets win could be enjoyed by everyone in the family.
Congratulations to Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins on the birth of his baby girl.