Oct. 11-- If you're wondering why New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees-the living legend who broke Peyton Manning's record for NFL career passing yardage on Monday night-doesn't play for the Miami Dolphins, then you need to look no further than the UCF Knights.
Allow me to explain.
The perpetually mediocre Dolphins will forever be kicking themselves for passing on Brees-not once but twice. The second time, as most avid NFL fans know, came in 2005 when then-Dolphins coach Nick Saban and his front office decided that the undersized Brees, coming off offseason shoulder surgery, was too big of a gamble to sign to a big contract. Instead, the Dolphins opted for former UCF star Daunte Culpepper, who, himself was coming off serious offseason knee surgery.
Culpepper flopped miserably in Miami, and Saban would bolt the following year to take the head-coaching job at the University of Alabama, where he has now won five national championships ... and counting.
You have to wonder how the entire NFL and college football landscape would have changed if Saban had opted for Brees instead of Culpepper. Would he have remained in Miami? Would the Dolphins have challenged the Patriots for AFC supremacy? Would Alabama still be lost in the college football wilderness and futilely searching for the next Bear Bryant?
But, believe it or not, that wasn't the Dolphins' first chance of landing Brees. Headed into the 2001 NFL draft, Miami had the No. 26 pick in the first round, which is right about the spot where the experts predicted Brees would be chosen. According to the Miami Herald, the Dolphins front office and VP of player personnel Rick Spielman had done exhaustive research on Brees' college career at Purdue.
"At least three people on our staff have seen every snap in his career," Spielman told Sports Illustrated before the draft.
Instead, the Dolphins chose cornerback Jamar Fletcher over Brees because they didn't think Brees was really much of an upgrade over-are you ready for this?-then-Dolphins starting QB Jay Fiedler.
"We thought Drew would be an upgrade over Jay," Spielman told the Herald after the draft. "But we don't think he is that much better. We feel good about Jay. Plus we think we really upgraded our secondary with Jamar."
Cue the laugh track, please.
Brees has gone on to throw for an NFL record 72,103 passing yards. Jamar Fletcher stayed in Miami for three years and had two interceptions.
Another little-known fact: One reason Miami took Fletcher in the first round, according to the Herald, is because then-coach Dave Wannstedt had his heart set on another quarterback who he thought the Dolphins could get later in the draft.
Who was that quarterback?
It was Oklahoma's Josh Heupel, who was the Heisman runner-up after he led the Sooners to a victory over FSU in the national championship game.
Heupel, now the head coach at UCF, was taken in the sixth round by Miami and never played a down for the Dolphins.
"I ended up having a torn ligament in my throwing wrist," Heupel recalls. "I nicked it up right before the national championship game at Oklahoma. The injury continued in Miami, and that is what ultimately ended my playing career."
It should also be noted that when Brees broke the NFL passing yardage mark on Monday night, the record-breaking toss-a 62-yard touchdown-was caught by rookie receiver Tre'Quan Smith.
Where did Smith go to school?
UCF, of course.
Isn't it ironic?
One of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history is where he is because of the impact of the UCF Knights-past and present.
Charge on, Drew!
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