When you hear the name Drew Brees, you likely think of a great football quarterback. While this is true, there is much more to Brees than meets the eye. Professional athletes can choose to do what they want with their impressive earnings, so it is especially remarkable and impressive when a player elects to donate much of his earnings towards rebuilding his city.

Brees arrived in New Orleans in the spring of 2006 for his first season as a member of the city’s NFL team, the New Orleans Saints. Just six months prior, New Orleans had suffered the most disastrous hurricane – Hurricane Katrina – in United States history. Although a newcomer to the city, Brees immediately took a leadership role, not only on the team but also in the community. He created the Brees Dream Foundation to rebuild children’s recreational and athletic facilities that had been destroyed by Katrina. In his first year, the community rallied behind his foundation through its philanthropic works, and he led the Saints to an NFC South Division title.

Brees has always been involved in philanthropy. He takes his commitment very seriously and serves as a model for other professional athletes. When athletes establish charities, they frequently do not realize how much work and expertise is needed to do it correctly. Indeed, many experts advise athletes to work with established charities rather than forming their own, thereby saving startup costs, overhead, and stress. But Brees was undeterred by the amount of work necessary for forming a successful charity. He had a vision to help rebuild New Orleans, and he saw his vision through.

Brees created the Brees Dream Foundation in his second  NFL season.   Originally founded to advance cancer research and care for children, it combined efforts with Operation Kids following Katrina to help rebuild the city. To date, the Foundation has committed and contributed nearly $6 million to academic institutions, while participating in a plethora of charitable causes in both New Orleans and San Diego.

In addition to his civic and charitable endeavors, Brees has been an outspoken ally for bullied children. He appeared in a television commercial urging kids to be vocal when they see instances of bullying. Additionally, after the BP oil spills in 2010 contaminated the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana coastline, he was featured in a public service announcement to rally for relief and raise awareness about the dangers of oil spills.

That same year, Brees led the Saints to the NFL championship by defeating the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.  The championship gave the city a reason to smile again. But Brees’ positive impact on New Orleans far exceeds his accomplishments on the football field.  Saints fans and non-fans alike recognize and applaud his overwhelmingly positive impact on the community. Through his philanthropic works, including rebuilding local parks and recreational facilities, he has profoundly demonstrated the overwhelming extent to which athletes can contribute off the field as well as on. Perhaps more than any other modern athlete, Drew Brees exemplifies how an athlete can positively affect their community.