WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — When it comes time to excel in the NFL, Drew Brees has been there and done that.
n He led the New Orleans Saints, formerly the league’s laughingstock franchise, to the Super Bowl title in 2009 and was selected as the game’s MVP.
n He holds the league record of throwing a touchdown in 54 straight games, breaking a record legendary Johnny Unitas established in 1960.
n Brees shattered Dan Marino’s hallowed record for most passing yards in a season with 5,476 in 2011, only to see Peyton Manning eclipse it by a single yard last year.
n He’s been voted to the Pro Bowl seven times and has orchestrated one of the league’s top offenses of the last generation.
Now in his 14th season and having reached the ripe old age of 35, Brees would seem to have few wishes left to cross off his NFL bucket list.
So what continues to drive the former Purdue standout?
“I love to compete. I love to win,’’ Brees said following Friday’s opening training camp practice at The Greenbrier resort. “I love the game of football.
“I like to do things people haven’t done before, or that people would say aren’t possible or extremely difficult to do. At the end of the day, I’d love for people to look at my career, my legacy and say he did it the right way — man, he was a pro. And did it for a long time and was consistent.’’
Of course, Brees’ definition of consistency is a bit different than most. He’s thrown for more than 5,100 yards three straight seasons — a figure that was once thought unattainable.
“When I say consistent, I don’t want to be just the same level each year,’’ Brees said. “I want to consistently get a little bit better, and I feel like I’m at that point where each and every year, I can get a little bit better.
“I’m not in the decline most guys [reach] maybe in their mid-30s. In my mind, I’m not in my mid-30s. I’m 25 years old. I think it’s a mindset more than anything.’’
Brees isn’t one to make a lot of concessions for age as he begins his ninth season with the Saints.
“Certainly, there are things that come with getting a bit older,’’ he said, “a bit more maintenance, a bit more recovery, a bit more of some of those things, maybe a little bit different in the way that you train. And I feel like I’ve evolved along with that.
“But I think so much of it is a mindset. If I tell myself I’m 25, I’m 25 and honest to God, that’s my mindset. I could play another 10 years, and that would be my goal. I’m taking it one year at a time, but there’s no reason why I couldn’t do that.’’
Brees pointed out that other veteran NFL quarterbacks have recently proven that it’s possible to crank out excellent seasons post-35. Manning did just that last year, breaking a pair of records with 5,477 passing yards and 51 touchdown tosses.
“Peyton Manning was, what, 37 years old last year,’’ Brees said, “and had arguably the best year of his career. Brett Favre arguably had one of the best years of his career when he was 40? There have been perfect examples in the near history that prove that you can continue to play at a very, very high level, and I think there are a lot of things that go into that.
“You can’t just show up on Sundays and do that. There’s a lot of things throughout the week with regards to preparation, with regards to recovery, the way that you train — all those things, your diet, your sleep habits, all that. I try to be very in tune with those things, but it’s one year at a time, I understand that.
“I’m not gonna get too far ahead of myself, but I feel great. There’s nothing I can’t do right now that I could do 10, 15 years ago.’’
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.