rees looks to blow past Minnesota on way to Heisman

Drew Brees was a 19-year-old sophomore in early October, 1998, when he prepared to make his first Big Ten start as Purdue’s quarterback.
Brees took the field at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind., with one thing on his mind: Beat Minnesota.
Three hours later Brees trotted off the field with more than just a win. He had just played one of the most impressive games ever for a Big Ten quarterback.
Brees almost single-handedly picked apart the Gophers defense. He completed 31 of 36 passes, threw for 522 yards, tossed six touchdowns and was not intercepted.
Since then, Brees has made a name for himself as not only the best quarterback in the conference, but perhaps the best in the nation.
Gophers coach Glen Mason said Brees is worthy of the high praise.
“He’s got pinpoint passing. He’s got a strong arm that can throw deep. He’s got the touch on the short passes,” Mason said. “But what makes him a cut above the rest is what he’s got between his ears. He is awfully smart.
“He’s a master, sometimes he laughs at defenses. He’s knows what they’re doing to him before they try and do it.”
Brees’ mastery didn’t come quickly however. His smarts and success were not what gained large amounts of recognition while he was in high school.
A graduate of Westlake High in Austin, Texas, Brees was passed up by Big 12 powerhouses such as Texas — which is in Austin — and Texas A&M.
Instead, Brees was contacted by a school in Indiana — hardly a football hot-bed like Texas.
“When I first heard Purdue was recruiting me, I didn’t even know where Purdue was,” Brees said. “I thought it was an Ivy League school, I didn’t know it was in the Big Ten.”
Now a senior, Brees definitely knows about the Big Ten. And in turn, the Big Ten certainly knows about him.
By the end of this season Brees could hold as many as six conference records, including passing yards, touchdown passes, attempts and completions.
Brees’ numbers have made him a favorite for this year’s Heisman Trophy — given to the nation’s best collegiate player.
Brees is the sixth-ranked passing quarterback in the country having already thrown for 733 yards and seven touchdowns in three games.
But along with having one of the best signal callers in the country, the Boilermakers are also trying to put something special together as a team.
Purdue hasn’t won a Big Ten title since 1967. The Boilermakers also went to the Rose Bowl that season, but haven’t been back to Pasadena since.
The Gophers are the first team to get in the way of Brees and Purdue’s march to Pasadena this season. And after Brees smoked Minnesota for 56 points his sophomore year and 33 last season, the Gophers will have their hands full on Saturday.
“He’s a total package back there,” Minnesota defensive back Mike Lehan said. “We’re going to have to be on top of our game in order to step on the field against Brees this weekend.
“We just have to play up to Drew Brees standards on the defense and make sure our heads are in the game.”
So with Brees chasing the Heisman and Purdue in the running for a Big Ten title, is Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller worried the two goals will shoot each other down?
“Drew’s a very mature player, and a team-oriented guy,” Tiller said. “We’ve never had a problem with that, and I don’t expect us to have a problem with that in the future.”

John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]