* * * * * * * * *
Top U.S. player glad Drew chose football
By Jerry Magee
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
They were two Texas tykes on an Austin tennis court. The little shaver with the sound strokes, even at the age of 8 or 9, was Andy Roddick. The other kid did not have Roddick’s grounding in tennis fundamentals, but how he would compete!
His name was Drew Brees.
“I remember the most annoying thing was that Drew played about twice a week,” Roddick said. “I was hard-core; I was playing every day, every weekend. I could never beat the guy.”
Which is not how Brees remembers it. The Chargers quarterback said when he was opposing Roddick, who was three years his junior, he always was aware that one day, the little guy across the net would beat him. Finally, as Brees recalls, he did.
“I think it was the last tournament I played,” Brees said. “I had beaten him something like 6-2, 6-0 the first time I played him, and I beat him twice more. He looked so little on the court, but his game was so fundamentally sound and he had such good ground strokes that the only way I could beat him was to serve and volley. I kind of salvaged points here and there.”
Tennis for Brees was just another means of expressing his competitive nature. When he was playing junior tennis in the boys 12 division in his native Austin, he also was involved in football, basketball, baseball and soccer. Tennis, he said, was no better than his fifth-favorite sport. He liked baseball best, then soccer.
After he turned 13, Brees said, he ceased playing tournament tennis. In the 12s, however, he became the state’s No. 1 player in his age group. There are a great many junior tennis players in Texas.
“I liked the competitiveness of it,” Brees said. “I would just run around the court. I loved sports. I liked to think that anything I put my mind to, I could do.”
Brees said he still plays tennis occasionally, but only of a recreational sort. “When I do,” he said, “I usually come home with blisters all over my feet, probably because I don’t have the proper shoes.”
When Roddick was playing Brees, it has to be remembered that he was “playing up,” as the phrase has it, competing against older players. A third notable on those courts at that time was Chris Mihm, who would grow up, way up, to become the 7-foot center of the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Mihm was 6-foot-6 starting in the sixth grade,” Brees said.
Said Roddick of Brees, the tennis player: “He was a heck of a tennis player, but all of a sudden he was a basketball star, too. Obviously, a quarterback. I just remember him for being a great athlete.”
Roddick, a Nebraska native who lived in Austin from the ages of 4 to 10, said he had lost track of his one-time tennis antagonist until one day he clicked on a television set to a Purdue game. “And there is Drew,” he said. “I remember that guy. He’s throwing touchdown passes instead of hitting balls by me.”
Roddick was asked whether if Brees focused more fully on tennis, could he have had a future in the game at the level Roddick currently occupies. “It’s impossible to tell when a guy is 12 years old,” Roddick said.
At 8 or 9, Roddick, as Brees remembers him, had the same confident attitude that has served him in his advance to tennis’ pinnacle. This served to whet Brees’ zeal for competition.
“But every time I played him, he got better and better,” Brees said. “There are three guys from that time I remember, and I remember him the most.”
Brees said he might attend this weekend’s Davis Cup match. Meantime, he had a message for America’s ranking player.
“Tell him I want him to serve some balls at me,” Brees said. “I want to see if I can return them.”
- New Radio Host Andy Roddick Interviews Chris Paul [Audio] (tennis-x.com)
- Andy Roddick raps and does the Humpty Dance (video) (offthebench.nbcsports.com)