Garrett Grayson hasn’t had a chance to think about taking over as the heir apparent to Drew Brees.
He’s still starstruck by the man he might someday replace.
Grayson, who hadn’t spoken with Brees since the Saints took him with the 75th pick of the draft three weeks ago, finally got a chance to meet the legend Saturday. Brees brought his children to the practice fields to watch the second day of New Orleans’ rookie minicamp.
For a moment, Grayson felt like a fan, not a teammate.
“When I went up and met him, I was like, ‘Holy cow, that’s Drew Brees!’ ” Grayson said. “It’s still kind of like the deer-in-headlights kind of thing, because it’s something that’s a dream come true for me, to be able to have this opportunity to learn from one of the best quarterbacks of all time.”
Grayson is taking his first snaps as a Saint this weekend under more pressure than most quarterbacks expected to sit and bide their time for at least a couple of seasons.
The Colorado State product is only the second quarterback drafted in the Sean Payton era, a player picked higher than any Saints quarterback since Archie Manning was taken with the No. 1 selection in 1971.
No matter what happens in the next two seasons, Grayson understands he’s learning the NFL game under the weight of the legacy left by Brees and Manning.
“There’s that pressure,” Grayson said. “Being the highest one with (Payton), and then being in the same sentence with Archie Manning, the career that he had — because he’s kind of a god down here, too. Just being mentioned with those guys, it’s truly humbling for me.”
Grayson, who hasn’t been a backup since the beginning of his freshman season at Colorado State, is relishing the chance to learn behind a player like Brees.
If he had been a first-round pick, Grayson likely would have been asked to play right away. Going to the Saints gives Grayson a chance to navigate the NFL learning curve away from the pressure of getting a team to the playoffs and, during the NFL draft process, Grayson meant it when he told teams he had no problem biding his time to earn a starting role.
“I told all the teams that I met with (that) I had no problem sitting and learning from a guy like Drew Brees,” Grayson said. “I kind of looked up at Aaron Rodgers and the success that he’s had, sitting behind Brett Favre, I think that’s helped him a ton. I have no problem taking that route.”
Two days into his NFL career, Grayson has flashed some of the skills that prompted the Saints to use a third-round pick on him.
“He’s a quick decision-maker. He has good arm strength, his athleticism, he is in shape and you guys will have a chance to see him soon at practice,” Payton said. “He’s been sharp. He’s a quick study and very accurate.”
But Grayson knows he’s no Brees. Not after popping in the tape.
Now that Grayson is in Metairie and working out with the team, he has gotten plenty of chances to watch Brees on film. A rookie who already knows he needs to refine his throwing mechanics and make his throwing motion more compact, Grayson finds himself marveling at Brees’ ability to get the ball out quickly.
“Seeing how quick his release is, that’s something I’m kind of getting ingrained in my mind, to be as quick as I possibly can,” Grayson said. “It’s almost like he’s throwing darts out there, and I think that’s why he’s been so great.”
By virtue of the team that drafted him, Grayson knows he’s always going to be compared to Brees. Quick decision-making and accuracy, two of the traits Payton mentioned Saturday, also have been Brees hallmarks during his time in New Orleans.
Beyond those traits, though, Grayson knows he has a lot of work to do to get to the level Brees has made the norm in New Orleans.
“That’s kind of hard, to compare yourself to a guy that’s going to be a Hall of Famer,” Grayson said. “If people want to compare me to him, I’m totally fine with that. Hopefully, I can be half the quarterback he’s been.”
Grayson feels lucky that he doesn’t have to start trying to step into those shoes yet. Brees is still the Saints’ driving force, a star who remains one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.
For the moment, all Grayson has to do is keep watching Brees. Pretty soon, he’ll get to see that release in person.