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Drew Brees gifts 174 players, coaches custom-painted game balls

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METAIRIE, La. -- Drew Brees surprised dozens of his past and present receivers, offensive linemen, coaches and mentors this week with commemorative footballs and letters to recognize the part they played in him breaking the NFL career passing-yardage record.

"I wanted to do something for everybody," said the New Orleans Saints quarterback, who broke the record on Monday Night Football in Week 5 and has 73,908 career passing yards. "Obviously the emotions that came after that and just the reflections. It was a good thing that we were going into a bye week because it gave me a chance just to take a deep breath. And you just start thinking about all the guys that had a hand in that.

"Take care of those who take care of me."

Brees said the best part has been receiving feedback from those who received their gifts this week. He opened up his phone to share a hilarious video from his first fullback with the San Diego Chargers, Fred McCrary, who excitedly showed off his football to friends in a barber shop, shouting, "I'm famous today!"

When Brees opened his phone, he had a fresh text waiting from LaDainian Tomlinson. He said he received a video from Brandin Cooks in the Los Angeles Rams' locker room. And he said one ball was sent to Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner -- even though they're playing against each other Monday.

Brees credited Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, communications director Doug Miller and the media relations staff for helping him put together a list and tracking down addresses and the like. The 39-year-old said his first thought was to do something for everyone who had ever caught a pass from him with both the Saints and Chargers.

"And then I started thinking, 'Well, it's not just about the receivers, it's about the guys blocking.' So it's like, 'All right, let's find every offensive lineman that's ever started a game,'" Brees said. "So we did that. Then I started thinking about coaches, then I started thinking about other people as well. So it was actually a long list. But I just wanted to do that for them."

In all, the Saints said they shipped out balls to 174 people, including Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery on his throwing shoulder in 2006, longtime throwing coach Tom House and Saints owner Gayle Benson.

"It's him," Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said. "It's surprising, but it's not surprising at the same time that he would give a special thanks to the guys that helped him along the way.

"Obviously this is his accomplishment, but him being the leader that he is, he loves to defer praise to other people. I'm just thankful to be able to play with him and be able to contribute to the greatness that he's achieved."