Drew Brees didn't tip his hand on his plans beyond this year with the New Orleans Saints -- but others in attendance at The Advocate's Star of Stars high school sports awards event had no interest in playing coy.
When Brees was asked about his eventual retirement in a question-and-answer session on stage at L'Auberge Casino and Hotel on Monday night, the crowd answered before the quarterback could.
"Four more years! Four more years," they chanted.
Brees smiled and recalled the time he said he could play until he was 45. The 40-year-old didn't rule that out. His answer was a bit more wait-and-see.
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"I realized [before the 2017 season] that I'm closer to the end than I am at the beginning ... it's gone by so fast. And I don't want to let a second pass me by. I don't want to take it for granted for one moment. So I'm just going to enjoy the moment, just going to stay in the moment and play the season like it's my last. I'm going to play it with the mentality like it's my last," Brees said.
And what happened? Brees said he had more fun that season than he'd ever had before, even with a heartbreaking playoff loss in Minnesota.
So he changed nothing, playing the next year with the same mindset. The 2018 season saw even better results up until yet another heartbreaking playoff loss, this time to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship.
After that heartburn-inducing finish, it didn't take Brees long to declare his return, saying in his post-game interview that he was "pretty positive" he'd be back for a 19th NFL season.
Drew Brees just turned 40, he's the second oldest quarterback in the NFL, but he said he's not leaning toward retirement after a gut-wrenching…
And don't expect his mindset to change this time around.
"I'm just going to play each season like it's my last, because I want that mentality, that sense of urgency, that when I wake up every day, man there is something to prove, and I don't want to miss out on a second of it," Brees said. "I want to enjoy every moment, take a little more time in the locker room to enjoy my teammates, you know, joke around and just have fun. Dance to Choppa Style in the locker room, right? And just enjoy this time with my kids, because them being a part of this, them being able to experience this is just ... it's just magical. It's something I'll remember forever."
Brees was answering questions alongside Rod Walker, a Saints beat writer for The Advocate, during the annual event to honor the best in high school sports around the Baton Rouge area.
But Brees' answers offered more than just a murky glimpse into the crystal ball of his future prospects. He also gave the audience an adorable glimpse into how his children spend time around the team, and how important it is that he can share his Saints experience with them.
"They come in the locker room and they steal Mike Thomas' gloves, they go to [Alvin] Kamara's locker and steal his shoes, and Marshon [Lattimore]'s locker and take something of his. And [those teammates] come to me the next day like: 'Where's my stuff?' And I'm like, 'man, that's my kids, I'm sorry. I'll get it back.' And it's in their pillow case at home," Brees said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Brees didn't specify which of his kids -- he has three sons, Baylen, Bowen and Callen, and a daughter, Rylen -- had been responsible for the gear lifted from lockers.
"My kids are sports junkies. And they love the Saints, they love football. But, you know, just enjoy the moment and take a little more time to smell the roses. Because when it's over, it's over, and it's on to the next chapter, it's on to my family. But right now, I'm focused on winning a championship," he said, the last line drawing a round of applause from the audience.
Titles were won and records set. Teams and individuals spent time in the spotlight during a 2018-19 high school sports season that was as memo…
Brees, the second oldest quarterback in the NFL behind Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, celebrated his 40th birthday in the playoffs last season. Earlier in that dominant Saints' campaign he set new NFL records for career total completions and passing yards. He currently holds eight NFL records, with others still in his sights, including the career passing touchdowns record. He needs just 20 to overcome New Orleans-native Peyton Manning, who currently holds the record with 539.
The Saints open their 2019 season on Sept. 9 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Houston Texans.