Couric Honors Drew Brees, Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year

Sportsman of the Year Drew Brees and Katie Couric pose with the trophy onstage during the 2010 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Celebration at IAC Building on November 30, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images) (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Sportsman of the Year Drew Brees and Katie Couric pose with the trophy onstage during the 2010 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Celebration at IAC Building on November 30, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Last night, Katie Couric introduced Drew Brees, before he accepted the Sportsman of the Year trophy from Sports Illustrated. Her speech comments are below.  Scroll down to watch the video from Sports Illustrated. 

I am truly honored to be here tonight to celebrate the career of one of the most influential figures of our time - of course I'm talking about the new spokesman for Nyquil. Drew, I know it's the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever so you can rest medicine, but please try to stay away from it before games.

Let me take you back to February 7, 2010. It was Super Bowl Sunday. I had just finished an interview with President Obama, and my team and I left the White House and made our way through the aftermath of an epic snowstorm to try to get a train back to New York. 

We stopped at a sports bar across the street from Union Station to get something to eat, and the game had just started. It was playing on a jumbo screen in the restaurant. I ate my cheeseburger in peace, because all eyes were glued on the big star in the room, and that was all anyone cared about at that moment. This night was about much more than football. It was a new beginning for a city that still desperately needed to a second chance - and in Drew Breesus - they saw the second coming.

Drew, tonight you join a pantheon of awesome men and women. Sportsman of the Year is about more than athletic prowess. It's not about those stadium spotlights - it's about the light that shines in you.

You may not realize it, Drew, but you have a lot in common with the past winners. In 1980, the U.S. hockey team made a Miracle on the Ice. You made a miracle look easy...for the Big Easy.

Michael Jordan missed over nine thousand shots in his career but still won 10 NBA scoring titles. You have also proven that the difference between failure and success comes down to sheer grit and perseverance.

Arthur Ashe once said, "From what we get we can make a living. What we give, however, makes a life." You have given back in ways that can't be measured in yards, passes, or completions.

The man once named Comeback Player of the Year has helped the comeback city of the decade in immeasurable ways.

The week before the Super Bowl last February, I had the opportunity to sit down with Drew and his wife Brittany. Drew told me when they first visited New Orleans, before he signed with the Saints, they drove around the city so they could see first hand the devastation and destruction Katrina had left in her path. The Superdome had half a roof, the city was barely above water, and cars, flipped upside down and were floating in people's living rooms. Drew said it was "the worst of the worst." Lots of NFL stars...let's face it...lots of ordinary people would have walked away.

But Drew saw an opportunity and some uncanny parallels.

He had just had major shoulder surgery and doctors claimed he had a 25 percent chance of a full recovery. What were the chances of New Orleans recovering? Maybe about the same.

He told me that it was a mutual gamble, saying, "This was the only team that really looked at me and said we trust you. We have confidence in you. We believe in you. And sometimes all you need is just for somebody to believe in you in order to be able to accomplish what you never thought you could."

It took the Saints two decades to have a winning season...and more than 40 years to win a Super Bowl. Maybe they just needed someone who believed in them, and who they could believe in, too.

There's a saying in New Orleans, "Who dat say they gonna beat dem Saints?" Drew took on the challenge, and gave them an answer: Nobody.

I couldn't believe I was stuck on Amtrack during the Superbowl, following the game on Twitter. But halfway between Philly and Trenton, I could almost hear the City of New Orleans, in a spectacular reversal of fortune, screaming from the rooftops...their agony replaced by the thrill of victory. And what a thrill it was...I personally found it so exhilarating...not because of Drew Brees, the quarterback. But because of Drew Brees...the man.

Drew and Brittany have both become MVPs for their community. The Brees Dream Foundation has raised more than $6 million dollars to help advance cancer research, care for cancer patients, and help rebuild parks, schools and playgrounds for the children of New Orleans. I visited one of those schools where the kids were planting a garden and showed off their spinach and rosemary with pride.

Drew also knows that if you build it they will come. (sorry, mixing my sports metaphors here.) He's encouraged people to plant new businesses in the area to help it grow economically. And he doesn't just support entrepreneurship - he is one! 

Next time you're in New Orleans, you may want to pick up a club lulu at his Jimmy John's sandwich shop, or a T-shirt from his ByU Gear clothing company. He's also got an eye on the future...he's joined forces with The Idea Village to help foster young entrepreneurship.

Drew said the city of New Orleans saved him at a time when his career and his spirit needed saving. He has called the opportunity to play for the Saints "destiny."

But Drew, you created your destiny.  Your fearlessness gave a city courage.  Your heart gave a city hope. And with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and the Saints trailing the Colts by just one point, completing all seven of your passes in a nine-play, 59-yard march to a stunning victory...you gave a city reason to believe in itself again. You gave a reason for all of us to believe. Very simply put Drew...on and off the field...you kick ass.

Congratulations on being the 2010 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.

  • Katie Couric

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