Super Bowl XLIV
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TODAY   |  September 09, 2010

When a ‘Saint’ came marching in

Katrina-devastated New Orleans needed a hero and found one in star quarterback Drew Brees. TODAY’s Matt Lauer speaks with the Saints’ iconic football player about his “calling” to “be a part of the resurgence of a city.”

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host (New Orleans): And we're back with more of TODAY KICKS OFF from New Orleans . It was back in August of 2005 that Drew Brees , then a quarterback for the San Diego Chargers , watched the destruction that Hurricane Katrina brought to the city of New Orleans . He visited here, he fell in love, and he made a decision that he wanted to be the quarterback of the Saints . He probably couldn't imagine that a few short years later the Saints would win the Super Bowl , he'd be the MVP and he and his son Baylen would steal the show.

Offscreen Voice: The Saints are going to do it!

LAUER: So many iconic images from the Super Bowl , but I think the image that a lot of people remember and you know what I'm talking about, after the game when you held Baylen up to the crowd. He was one at the time?

Mr. DREW BREES: Yeah.

LAUER: Are you looking forward to the day where you can sit down with him and have a meaningful discussion as to what the moment meant to you?

Mr. BREES: I can't wait. I can't wait.

LAUER: What will you say to him?

Mr. BREES: Without getting too emotional, it was -- it was such a special moment and I'll just tell him how much that moment meant to me, having him in my arms, and just what a difference he made in my life. You know, all that we had been through, you know, in order to get to that point.

LAUER: Reaching that point started in March of 2006 , seven months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast . The people of New Orleans were looking to rebuild, and coming off a disappointing season and major shoulder surgery, so was Drew Brees . Take me back to that time. You've got a decision to make. You've got a contract you can sign and New Orleans comes and they offer you a deal, but it is the worst time for the city. It would have been fine, a lot of other guys, nobody would've blamed them for turning away and saying, 'I don't want anything to do with that. That's a city in decline.' Why you didn't think it was a hopeless situation, not to play here, but to live here.

Mr. BREES: I really felt like it was a calling. I saw it as an opportunity to be a part of something that most people don't get a chance to do in their entire lifetime and that is to be a part of the resurgence of a city, maybe more so than that, a mind-set. And that is no matter what knocks us down, we're going to find a way to come back stronger.

LAUER: Yeah. Going back to the Super Bowl last year, it was one of those few times I think where a sporting event and a sports team rose above the status of sports team and sporting events. And you had to feel as if you were America 's home team in that game because so many people wanted the people of New Orleans to have a reason to celebrate in the midst of all the pain they had felt. Did you feel that? Could you sense it?

Mr. BREES: We did feel it. We felt like there was a piece of everybody that could identify with what New Orleans went through and could see the fact that this went well beyond just the game of football, that this meant so much more to so many people. You know, that just makes you feel like we can accomplish anything.

LAUER: And Drew lived his life according to that philosophy, believing that adversity breeds opportunity, something he writes about in his book, "Coming Back Stronger." You've taken this philosophy of yours and you've put it down on paper in this book. and the title itself has a great double meaning. What was your idea in choosing it?

Mr. BREES: It's really a mantra. Every piece of adversity that I will ever face in my life, and I know there will be plenty more, that no matter what happens, I'm always going to look at it as what is the positive out of this? I'm going to take that negative, I'm going to turn it into a positive. I'm going to find a way to come back stronger.

LAUER: And Drew is hoping to do just that as he heads into the new season. Good news is you guys are world champions and you were the MVP of the Super Bowl . The bad news is you guys were world champions and you were the MVP of the Super Bowl . I mean, it -- how do you -- how do you repeat that? How do you top that?

Mr. BREES: Certainly expectations are at an all-time high. And not to take anything away from what we accomplished last year, it was very special. It will link us together forever, as a team, a city, organization. But there's always another challenge around the corner.