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Purdue grad Drew Brees announces retirement from NFL at 42

Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints throws against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sept. 13, 2020, in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the NFL’s leader in career completions and yards passing, has decided to retire after 20 NFL seasons, including his last 15 with New Orleans.

“Til the very end I exhausted myself to give everything to the Saints organization, my team and the great City of New Orleans,” Brees said in social media post on Sunday. “We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us.

“I am only retiring from football. I am not retiring from New Orleans,” he added. “This is not goodbye.”

The post also included a short video in which his four young children exclaimed, “Our dad is finally going to retire so he can spend more time with us!”

The decision comes after the 42-year-old quarterback won nine of 12 regular-season starts while completing 70.5% of his passes in 2020, and then won a wild-card round playoff game before New Orleans’ season ended with a divisional-round loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.

Brees missed four games this season with multiple fractured ribs and a collapsed lung. It marked the second straight season Brees had to miss part of a season with an injury after missing just one game because of injury in the previous 13. In 2019, Brees missed five games because of a thumb injury on his throwing hand that required surgery.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Brees had plenty of other injuries or ailments during his Saints tenure, but willed himself to play through them whenever possible.

“Over the years his durability and availability is quite amazing. I can recall so many of these different injuries,” Payton said. “He’s as courageous and as tough a player as I’ve ever been around.”

Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, although that mark will be under threat next season by 44-year-old Tom Brady, who has 79,204 career yards passing. Brees’ 571 career touchdown passes rank second behind Brady’s 581.

While Brees had dropped hints about his intentions, saying he considered himself to be on “borrowed time,” he declined to confirm his plans until now.

His retirement brings an end to a career that came to embody resilience and renewal on multiple levels.

Brees’ most prolific seasons came after he underwent major reconstructive surgery in early 2006 to repair a career-threatening throwing shoulder injury.

He joined the Saints shortly after, at a time when New Orleans was still coping with widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. When Brees moved to New Orleans, he bought and renovated a historic home in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, just a block away from Audubon Park.

The storm had forced the Saints to play all of their 2005 games outside New Orleans, and the Saints finished that season 3-13.

One season later, with then-first-year coach Sean Payton calling plays and Brees executing them, the Saints won 10 regular-season games and a divisional-round playoff game in a rebuilt Superdome — a storybook run that didn’t end until a loss in Chicago in New Orleans’ first ever NFC championship game. That would be the first of nine seasons in which Brees led the Saints to the playoffs.