Prolific New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees didn’t put on shoulder pads and a helmet until he was a freshman in high school. Now, the 17-year NFL veteran is paying his own youth football experience forward.
Brees is starting a co-ed youth flag football league that he hopes will grow into a safer alternative to tackle football across America. This fall, the Brees-backed Football ‘N’ American league will kick off with teams in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Covington, La.
“I think that this has the opportunity to really save the game of football, honestly,” Brees told ESPN.com. “I think we’re filling a void that is much-needed. We felt like, you know what, we have the opportunity here to really create what will be the premier youth co-ed flag football league in America.”
According to ESPN, Brees developed the idea with longtime friend and marketing agent Chris Stuart while coaching their sons’ flag football team in San Diego over the past two offseasons. Brees has run into former Chargers teammate Philip Rivers along the way.
Brees has long been a proponent of the noncontact version of football, but with the birth of his four children over the last decade, he has taken a closer look at the impacts concussions can have on young athletes.
“I would not let my kids play tackle football right now, because I don’t think that’s necessary, and I don’t think it’s as fun at this level, and I just think there’s too much risk associated with putting pads on right now at this age,” Brees told ESPN.
Brees’ oldest son, Baylen, started playing flag football last year at age 7, with his second son, Bowen, starting this year at age 6.
“I know what I want to experience as a player, as a coach and as a father when I watch my kids play. So I kind of come at this from all angles,” said Brees, whose son Baylen’s team won the league championship this year.
Brees also plans to help coach up the coaches in the Football ‘N’ America league with personal video tutorials and playbooks for coaches and commissioners. Registration opens Friday for the six-on-six leagues, which will carry five age levels: kindergarten, first and second grades, third and fourth grades, fifth and sixth grades, and seventh and eighth grades.