The hottest book in town these days is not about vampires or witchcraft in an English boarding school. It’s a testimony of a Christian man who has the full attention of the football world at the moment.
The title of Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ just-off-the-press book is “Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the hidden power of adversity.” (His co-author is well-known Christian author and speaker Chris Fabry.)
All this morning, Drew Brees signed books at the local Barnes & Noble store. When someone asked me Friday if I intended to join the crowd for an autograph, I laughed at the idea.
This morning’s Times-Picayune says people started lining up last night at 4 pm to be first in line this morning at 9. The man has achieved rock star status, it would seem.
The title “Coming Back Stronger” carries a dual meaning. Primarily it refers to his near-career-ending surgery after the 2005 football season and his comeback to win the Super Bowl on February 7 of this year. But almost as strongly, it refers to the city of New Orleans which has come back (and is still returning) from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Odd that in the same week we have books hitting the stands from Coach Sean Payton (“Home Team”) and from Brees, his star quarterback.
If Payton’s book made us laugh and want to stand up and cheer, Brees’ book touches our hearts and strengthens our faith. Oddly, Brees’ book has more of the inside football dope on what plays were run and how they are called than the coach’s book does. But mostly, Brees writes about his love for the Lord and how God uses adversity in our lives to make us stronger and better and more effective.
Drew Brees is one of those natural athletes who even from childhood was the first one chosen for any team he played on–softball, baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer. As a senior in high school, he led his team to the first state championship in their history. At Purdue University, he took the team to the Rose Bowl. In the pros, he was the Super Bowl MVP and star quarterback of the champion New Orleans Saints. A winner.
It’s all come easily for him, right? Ha. Not even close. The story of Drew Brees is one of adversity after adversity. Setbacks, disappointments, betrayals. And each time, getting back up and getting into the game and learning from what just happened.
Here is a short list.
When he was seven years old, his parents divorced. It was “one of the most difficult things I experienced as a child.”
His family had so many problems through the years, Brees has sometimes asked himself, “Man, how did my family end up with so many problems?” Then he found out that everyone has problems. Every family has its issues and “is a little dysfunctional.”
In his junior year of high school, just when he had become the starting quarterback for the varsity team, he tore his ACL and went through a 6 month rehabilitation process. Brees says, “It was a defining moment in my life. I made a decision not to let something negative control my emotions.”
During the lengthy recovery time, he writes, “I remember hobbling with my dad into First Baptist Church of Austin, Texas. Usually I didn’t pay much attention during the sermon.” That day, he did.
“Dr. Browning Ware was preaching about what God wants us to be. As an illustration in his message, he mentioned the movie ‘A Few Good Men.’ He said that God is looking for a few good men to carry on his teachings and to walk the walk with Christ. That’s when the lightbulb came on for me. He’s talking to me. I want to be one of God’s few good men.”
That was the moment of his salvation. From that moment on, God had control of Drew Brees.
Some of the adversities Brees mentions in the book are games lost, hopes dashed, and lessons learned the hard way on the playing field.
In the 2005 season, when Brees was playing for the San Diego Chargers (who had drafted him out of Purdue four years earlier), during the last and mostly meaningless game of the season, he had the ball stripped from his hand. Then, he did the wrong thing. Quarterbacks are taught never to jump on a loose ball because you are about to be buried under a ton of linemen. But as his instincts took over, Brees jumped on the ball, and was crushed.
When he got up from the pile, his right shoulder was out of socket and his arm hung off to the side as though it were laying on a fence post.
The shoulder was shredded and would have to be rebuilt.
Birmingham’s Dr. James Andrews did the surgery and warned Brees that very few players could come back from such an injury. But Drew kept his faith in God and prayed. After the surgery, Dr. Andrews said, “I could do that surgery a hundred times and not do it as good as I did today.”
The book goes into detail about the recovery process, the weeks of rehab, of having to learn to throw a football all over again, and of the fears of reinjuring the shoulder Drew had to deal with.
Later, Brees was to decide that the shoulder injury was a blessing from God. It brought him from San Diego to New Orleans, it strengthened his faith, it solidified his marriage to Brittany as they spent those months of rehab close together, and it did something to his football skills.
In having to relearn to throw the ball, Brees found he had been doing it wrong. So he learned a better way and came out of this a far better quarterback than he would have before.
Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t had that injury at the end of the 2005 season. If I hadn’t had to walk that road of recovery, I certainly wouldn’t have wound up in New Orleans and experienced the real life that sprang from that comeback. I wouldn’t have met the folks who are now my friends and teammates in New Orleans or had so man incredible opportunities that have come my way. And if I hadn’t had the injury in high school, I probably wouldn’t have attended Purdue and I wouldn’t have met Brittany. God used all those things to work together for good in my life, and I’m grateful not just for the victories but also for the tough times that guided me and helped me become who I am.
That principle–that God can use any situation, no matter how tough, to make you stronger–is not confined to the football field, Drew insists. “It applies to every facet of life, whether you’re battling an illness or dealing with a layoff or facing a financial setback.”
However, you can’t be passive. You can’t sit back and wait for God to do something good with what life has thrown you. “You have to take action.”
You have to get to the point where you not only accept it but own it and put it into practice. That’s the only way you’ll see a change.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
David said, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your ways.” (Psalm 119:71)
Paul wrote, “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:9-10)
Drew Brees says, “Just about every important stage in my life has begun with a huge negative.”
He concludes, “Some of those challenges in my life have been the very things God has used to make me a better leader. The low points have given me the chance to regroup and refocus on what’s most important. And those experiences have also given me empathy for others when they are going through a tough situation.”
So, why did you write this book, Drew Brees?
“My desire was to have you turn the last page and become excited about waking up tomorrow…. Don’t forget that adversity is not your enemy. It can unleash a power in your life that will make you stronger and help you achieve amazing things….”
He concludes the book with points for everyone who reads the book:
1) Find a mentor.
2) Don’t give up.
3) Turn your defeats into triumph.
6) Be flexible.
7) See adversity as an opportunity.
8) Don’t be afraid of taking a few steps back.
9) Don’t spectate–be ready.
10) Remember who you are.
11) Finish strong.
The next time adversity knocks on your door, stand up tall and do the right thing. You can do more than just survive. You can come back–stronger.
Thank you, Drew Brees. Thank you, Chris Fabry.