To many across the nation, he’s known as a Super Bowl winner and future Hall of Famer. To many in New Orleans, he’s known as “Breesus.”
But, to the more than 400 who recently packed the River Oaks Country Club, Drew Brees is simply a Texas kid coming home to share his remarkable journey from Austin football hopeful to NFL legend.
In town at the behest of New Orleans native and prominent Houstonian Susan Sarofim, Brees was the star of the ninth-annual Touchdown for TEACH fundraising gala. The sold-out event raised a record-breaking $1.2 million for the nonprofit To Educate All Children (TEACH), which Sarofim co-founded with Mary Yenik.
After opening remarks, the event honorees, the Champagne Cowgirls, were recognized for their notable contributions to education through the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Junior Market Steer Auction. (A frivolous video highlighted the group, which has included Hallie Vanderhider, Bobbie Nau, Lesha Elsenbrook, Elizabeth Stein, Bobbie Nau, Carol Linn, DeeDee Marsh, Kelli Weinzierl, Kim Tutcher, Danielle Ellis, Shelley Reeves, Kelley Lubanko, Darlene Bisso, Gaye Lynn Zarrow, Beth Madison, Susan Sarofim, Stephanie Tsuru, Kristina Somerville, Denise Monteleone, and Denise Bahr.)
Touchdown for TEACH co-chairs Carol and Mike Linn and Soraya and Scott McClelland were honored by Sarofim for their longtime work with the annual fundraiser.
Sarofim also noted that the event was underwritten by her husband, power philanthropist Fayez Sarofim. Thus, all funds raised will go directly to support TEACH’s mission to help advance public education by creating calm, safe classrooms for all students.
Eager to give to the mission, the audience leapt at the chance (almost figuratively) to donate to the TEACH cause during the appeal portion of the program. Carol Linn spurred the crowd to raise a whopping $200,000 in less than 10 minutes.
Charming and wisecracking emcee Scott McClelland — known all throughout Texas as the charming face of H-E-B and its president — then introduced Brees with an electrifying video.
Brees, who had posed for photos with countless attendees prior to the event, joined McClelland to discuss his legendary football career, recent retirement (no, he’s not coming back, Saints fans) and the role that education and mentorship have played in his life.
He joked about retirement, noting that he never says no to his kids, even if that means his daughter painting his nails. He took the audience through his trek as an undersized quarterback at Austin Southlake High School, who ended up at Purdue University, and had to wait until the second round (he painfully sat next to a phone “that was actually attached to a wall”) to be drafted by the San Diego Chargers.
Especially poignant was Brees’ recollection of visiting New Orleans as a coveted free agent. Taken down a ravaged street (accidentally) after Hurricane Katrina, Brees recalls the devastation and his inspiration. He signed with the Saints, inspired to give to New Orleans. “You always have to ask, where is the greatest need,” Brees noted.
Wrapping up the theme, McClelland asked Brees about a favorite teacher growing up. “Mrs. Wilson in third grade really made a difference,” Brees responded, adding “I really wish I had the TEACH curriculum when I was homeschooling my kids,” a line, like so many of the iconic QB’s, drew a roar of laughter — not unlike the roar of an adoring stadium crowd.
Football fans in the crowd included: Susan and Fayez Sarofim, Millard House II (superintendent of the Houston Independent School District), Hallie Vanderhider, Margaret Alkek Williams, Gaye Lynn and Stuart Zarrow, Julie and Stephen Chen, Lesha Elsenbrook, Elizabeth Stein, Kelley and Steve Lubanko, DeeDee and Wallis Marsh, Zane and Brady Carruth, Debbie and Vidal Martinez, Kristina and Paul Somerville, Karen and Chuck Stall, Ellie and Michael Francisco, Phyllis and Cornel Williams, Yvonne and Rufus Cormier, Randi and Chris Boleman, Denise Monteleone, Shelley Reeves and Lee Boyer, Tena and Tyson Faust, Bruce Padilla, Shelby Kibodeaux, David and Mia Sprague, Mary and Michael Yenik, Tony Bradfield, Fady Armanious and Bill Baldwin, Alicia and Lance Smith, Chris and Divya Brown, Constable Alan and Jennifer Rosen, and Keith and Alice Mosing.