In addition to his usual day-after aches and pains Monday, Drew Brees’ head was sore from a helmet-to-chin hit.
Then there was the depression from the 34-28 overtime loss which broke the Saints’ three-game winning streak and dropped them on the wrong side of playoff possibilities at 4-5.
Sean Payton’s somber address to the team that morning didn’t brighten things up too much, either.
But by that afternoon, Brees was all smiles, greeting the excited, sold-out gathering of 400 at the Lakeside Dillard’s, fans who had purchased $74 worth of Hugo Boss products and then stood patiently in line to get an autographed football plus a minute or so of one-on-one time with the Saints quarterback.
“This always makes me feel better,” Brees said after almost two hours of nonstop signing and posing.
“It separates you from the game and what happened on Sunday. It means more to these folks than just winning and losing. That’s why they’re here.”
90 years young
Like Ruth Collins of Metairie, a loyal Saints fan for so many of her 90 years, but who, until Monday had never met Brees.
“I love the Saints, and I love Drew,” said Collins, whose grandson, Jeremy Deubler, and his wife, Heather, brought her to the store as a surprise. “It’s so nice to finally meet him.
“I even got to give him a kiss.”
Not that Collins has any designs on being Brees’ girlfriend.
“He’s got a beautiful wife and four beautiful children,” she said. “I just want the Saints to win the Super Bowl again.
“But I’m behind them no matter what.”
Love for No. 9
Brees might not need a girlfriend. But if he did, Heidi Hall of Metairie would volunteer.
When Brees told her she should get closer as they posed together, she hopped up on the table and put her arm around his neck.
“It just sort of happened,” said Hall, who purchased enough cologne to get two footballs – one for her boyfriend and one for her son. “Drew has this awesome smile, and he’s always so nice.
“He’s done tremendous things for the city. This is why we love him so much.”
The signing started shortly after 3 p.m. But not knowing when people would start lining up, Kristi Olsen of Houma had arrived five hours before and stood there the entire time.
Olsen was rewarded by being the first to get her football.
“I wore my tennis shoes, so it wasn’t so bad,” she said.
“I’m in heaven right now.”
‘Awesome’ to meet Brees
It wasn’t an all-female turnout.
Felix Mayfield is from Fort Worth, Texas, but is working in New Orleans, which has turned him into a Saints fan.
“It’s worth it, every bit,” Mayfield said of coming to the signing. “Drew’s the life of the team.
“They breathe through him. Meeting him was awesome.”
If Collins was the oldest fan at the event, six-month-old Drew Sander was probably the youngest.
But young Drew, named for his father, not No. 9, slept through the whole thing, even while being held up and kissed by Brees.
“I got the cologne as a Christmas present for my husband and the football for Drew to have,” Mary-Therese Sander said. “And I just wanted to meet Drew (Brees) and have him have a chance to meet my Drew, so this was a dream come true.”
“He was so gracious and wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for a better interaction.”
That Sander and the others would get so much out of their experience with Brees is no accident.
Whether it’s during post-practice autograph signing sessions during training camp or organized events like Monday’s, Brees always seems to add a personal touch — asking a name or age and posing for pictures until everyone had one.
And while Monday’s event was part of Brees’ individual deal with Hugo Boss plus an NFL promotion that saw similar events featuring Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Matt Forté in other cities in recent weeks, Chris Stuart, Brees’ longtime marketing agent, said Brees turns down far more gigs than he accepts.
In fact, during the season, Monday afternoons are the only time allotted for them. The upcoming open date will be spent on a family vacation.
“Drew’s genuinely built up by days like this,” Stuart said.
“He wants to build the fans up, too.”
Worth the money
The line contains all sorts of groups.
Noland McFarland of New Orleans is there with his wife, Anita, and daughter, Joyce. But the cologne and footballs are for his sons, Eric and Wendell, plus one for himself, making it a $222 purchase.
“I’m broke now,” he said. “But it’s worth it.”
“We’re big fans of Drew and wanted to come out meet him and cheer him up after yesterday. I thought they should have thrown that fella that hit him in the head out of the game.”
They didn’t. But the offending player was fined $17,363 if that makes you feel any better.
Kids make Brees smile
Mike Chapman, Selina Blanco and daughter Kira, 3, had never met Brees before, although Chapman “missed him by about a week” when Chapman, then in the Coast Guard was deployed to Guantanamo just after Brees made an appearance there.
They wound up purchasing enough to receive four footballs.
“We’ve waited for about two hours, and Kira got a little tired, but she wanted that football,” Blanco said. “Drew is so good with all the kids.
“She usually doesn’t talk to people she doesn’t know, but she did with him.”
“Seeing all of these kids puts a smile on my face,” Brees said. “It reminds me of my own.
“There’s a real connection there.”
Brees paid particular attention to Sean Bullins, a spina bifida patient from Waveland, Mississippi, who was there with his mother, Nicole; brother, Caleb; and little sister, Bella.
“I think he was a little embarrassed by it,” Nicole Bullins said. “But Drew told him how special it was to meet him.
“That meant a lot.”
‘Seven more wins’ ahead
Despite the disappointment from the Titans game, there’s little, if any, bringing that up among the fans.
The most common complaints, Stuart said, are from fantasy football players.
Instead, most folks are like Debra Seeger of Destrehan, a 10-year season-ticket holder who had never before met Brees.
“We may have gotten beat,” she said. “But we’re behind Drew and the team all the way.
“We’ve got seven more games. That’s seven more wins.”
Now who wouldn’t feel better after being told something like that? No matter how much your head hurts.