Drew Brees gifts footballs in honor of passing record

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(New Orleans Saints PR/)

METAIRIE, La. -- After absorbing the significance of becoming the NFL's all-time career passing leader two months ago, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees knew he wanted to do something special for those who helped him achieve the record.

Brees, who established the milestone in Week 5 against the Washington Redskins, just needed time, and the Week 6 bye afforded a perfect opportunity for the signal-caller to devise a thoughtful plan to commemorate the journey.

"I wanted to do something for everybody," Brees said Friday. "Obviously, the emotions that came after that and just the reflections. It was good that we were going into a bye week because it gave me a chance just to take a deep breath and just start thinking about all the guys that had a hand in that."

With the assistance of general manager Mickey Loomis, executive director of football communications Doug Miller and members of the Saints' PR staff, Brees came up with a list of 174 names that played a role in the record over his 18-year career.

The compilation proved a task, as Brees said a lot of effort was spent tracking down each individual and confirming mailing addresses.

With the mission accomplished, a total of 15 current receivers, 84 former ones, seven current offensive linemen, 49 former blockers, 11 coaches and eight contributors, including Saints owner Gayle Benson, will receive a customized football with their name and contributions in time for the holidays. Also included with the football is a letter personally signed by Brees thanking each individual for their assistance.

"What's been actually really cool is we just -- it took a while to get the balls made and, obviously, get everything ready to send them out -- but we wanted to get it done before Christmas," Brees said with a smile. "So, we just sent them out earlier this week. It's awesome to see now the videos that I'm getting, guys send of them receiving it."

The packages containing the custom football have been arriving in recent days, and former Saints fullback Mike Karney on Thursday used Twitter to post a photo of his football. Brees said he also heard from Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who spent three seasons in New Orleans, and former San Diego Chargers fullback Fred McCrary.

Saints tight end Josh Hill said he received his unexpected gift Thursday.

"It's one of those balls that will go in the cave," Hill told NFL.com. "It doesn't surprise me that he did it because he's always thinking about the guys around him. It was a cool gesture that he did for everybody."

Saints rookie wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith, whose 62-yard touchdown catch in Week 5 helped Brees break the record, said Friday he was surprised when his package arrived in the mail earlier in the week.

"That just shows you the kind of person he is," Smith told NFL.com. "Everything you do to help this organization or to help him, it doesn't go unnoticed by him. That means a lot coming from a new teammate, a rookie, looking up to a veteran."

Smith added the play, which also produced his first career touchdown, produced a highlight he won't ever forget. Smith also knows he'll forever be the answer to a sports trivia question.

"I'm going to forever cherish that moment," Smith said. "And I figure I'm really going to be thought about in that moment because when somebody thinks of Drew Brees' passing record, it will automatically come to where Tre'Quan Smith caught the pass. It wasn't just a first down or a 3-yard pass, it was a 62-yard touchdown."

Meanwhile, Brees might not be finished coming up with a commemorate gift to highlight an accomplishment on his Hall of Fame career.

While he already owns numerous NFL passing records, including the all-time completions mark, the career touchdown passes milestone is within reach. Brees currently sits on 519 passing scores, placing him 20 behind Peyton Manning's 539 on the all-time list.

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