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Drew Brees on the moment he knew he was leaving football: 'Definitely a process'

"I’ve had a chance to play this game for 20 years in the NFL, and I think for the last few years, I felt like this moment was coming," he told TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Drew Brees announced his retirement Sunday, closing the door on a career that will one day end with his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rumors that the New Orleans Saints quarterback would hang up his cleats have circulated for the last few months. So when did he know it was time?

“You know, that’s a decision that you don’t just wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna retire,’” he told Hoda Kotb Monday on TODAY.

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Brees, who also announced he will join NBC Sports post-retirement, said he knew this day would arrive and made sure to embrace the ride before retiring.

“It’s definitely a process, and listen, I’m 42 years old,” he said.

“I’ve had a chance to play this game for 20 years in the NFL, and I think for the last few years, I felt like this moment was coming, and it just made me so laser-focused on staying in the moment each and every day, enjoying the moment, enjoying the preparation, enjoying the grind, enjoying the celebrations with my teammates, just knowing that at some point I will retire and move on to the next chapter. And I want to be able to look back with incredible memories and knowing that I gave it my absolute best.”

Brees leaves behind an impressive legacy with a bevy of records, including the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards, while also being second in touchdown passes thrown. He’s the only player who's passed 5,000 yards in a season five times. He also led the NFL in passing yards seven times and was under center for the Saints’ lone Super Bowl title in 2010.

“I’ve approached the last four seasons with that mentality of I’m just gonna pour everything I have into the season, and then I’ll give myself at least a little while after the season to soak it in with my family and my wife, Brittany, and then make a very thoughtful decision,” he said.

“But I think, going into this season, I felt like this was gonna be it and let’s go get it.”

Brees and his wife are parents of four children: sons Baylen, 12, Bowen, 10, Callen, 8, and daughter Rylen, 6. He pointed to his kids when thinking about what he will miss most about playing.

“There are so many things. The moments on the field after the game, I think those are the moments my kids most look forward to,” he said.

Drew Brees played 20 years in the NFL, 15 with the Saints.Chuck Cook / USA TODAY

“It’s the game after the game. I think that’s been one of the most special parts of this whole journey ... watching our kids grow up through this and be able to retain the information and come to the Saints facility, and they would jump in the hot tub with me," he continued.

“They’d run around the indoor facility, and then they’d bring their footballs to the game knowing they would have an opportunity to go on the field after to play, so having them be a part of this and knowing that there’s memories and hopefully moments of inspiration for them that will last a lifetime, that’s what it’s all about.”

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