Skip to main content
Publish date:

Drew Brees Asked for Prints of This SI Cover

With Brees retiring this offseason, we looked back at some of SI’s iconic images of the quarterback.

Full Frame is Sports Illustrated's exclusive newsletter for subscribers. Coming to your inbox weekly, it highlights the stories and personalities behind some of SI's photography.

To get the best of SI in your inbox every weekday, sign up here. To see even more from SI's photographers, follow @sifullframe on Instagram. If you missed last week’s edition on shooting portraits of Hank Aaron, you can find it here.

drew-brees-super-bowl-cover

It was the biggest game of the year and David Bergman thought he had nothing. He thought he had missed his chance.

Photographing the Super Bowl between the Colts and Saints for Sports Illustrated in his hometown of Miami, Bergman was positioned in a corner of the stadium in the first row of the stands. If it were a regular-season game, when SI wouldn’t have had a dozen or more photographers, Bergman would have been able to follow the action up and down the sideline to get his shots. But that night, there just wasn’t much action headed toward his assigned position.

Then, late in the fourth quarter, Peyton Manning had Indianapolis driving in the direction of Bergman’s endzone looking to tie the game. But New Orleans defensive back Tracy Porter famously stepped in front of a Manning pass and took it back 74 yards for an interception return touchdown, essentially sealing New Orleans’s first Super Bowl win in franchise history.

“So, I was bummed,” Bergman says. “It was Drew Brees winning the Super Bowl. It was really a historic moment. And I really felt like I had nothing.”

drew-brees-super-bowl

As the confetti fell and the Saints celebrated at midfield, Bergman stayed put, shooting the scene from where he was positioned during the game.

“For a lot of photographers, our instinct would be to make our way around to the front of the stage to get that straight-on shot. I figured that we had so many other photographers there and they were all going to do that so I was just going to stay in my spot. I was way back and couldn’t have been any further away from it,” he says.

When Brees came up on the stage, there still wasn’t any angle for Bergman. All he could get were the backs of Brees, his teammates and other Saints personnel.

“Then, after the ceremony was over, [Brees] picked up his kid and turned around. The confetti was coming down. His wife was there. It was a great moment. But I was so far away that I thought it’d be a nice frame, but I didn’t think that much of it,” Bergman says.

drew-brees-confetti

SI Recommends

The next day, Bergman got an email from Steve Fine, SI’s former director of photography. All it said: “Welcome to the club.”

Bergman’s shot had been chosen as the cover of that week’s Sports Illustrated.

“Then, that night, they unveiled it publicly for the first time on David Letterman’s show. Brees was on the show and he hadn’t seen it yet. … Of course they don’t mention the photographer’s name, but it was really a neat moment to see that,” Bergman says.

Fast forward to the spring, and Bergman found himself standing next to Brees at the NFL draft.

“You don’t usually meet football players you shoot during a game because you’re usually just covering them from a distance,” Bergman says. “I mentioned to him that I made that picture. He couldn’t have been nicer. He gave me a big hug, thanked me and asked if I could send him a print.”

Greg Nelson, another photographer who shot Brees for SI during his career, expressed something similar about how working with Brees never felt like a chore.

“My first memory was that I did a portrait of him in training camp. It was maybe the first season he was [in New Orleans],” Nelson says. “I just remember that he was one of those guys that came in and just didn’t feel rushed like it often does. A lot of these guys are, and understandably so, saying ‘Let’s get this over with.’ But I remember him just talking about restaurants with my assistant and it was just so relaxed.”

drew-brees-portrait

That was in 2006, just about a year after Hurricane Katrina and 12 years before the quarterback clinched the NFL passing yards record. Nelson was in New Orleans for that Monday night game against Washington, hoping to capture the historic moment for Sports Illustrated.

While the Super Bowl win in ’10 might have been the climax of his career, setting the record in front of a packed house in New Orleans might have been the culmination. With the record his, Brees stood on the field pointing at the crowd with his helmet off, holding a football, his helmet and a certificate of his achievement. Nelson snapped the frames.

drew-brees-passing-record

“[Brees] was kind of unique for a star football player,” Nelson says. “[The city] really loved the guy. And he was really happy there. … He’s a guy that a lot of people counted out after his shoulder injury and he didn’t have a ton of options. He came back from that, and he put a lot of work into coming back from that. He was just really grateful that he came into a situation where he was able to be successful.”

Brees announced his retirement in March after 20 years in the NFL, 15 of them coming in New Orleans. Throughout his decorated career, Sports Illustrated has covered Brees, capturing moments from his early years with the Chargers to winning the Super Bowl. You can also order SI's Drew Brees retirement tribute issue here.

Full Frame is Sports Illustrated's exclusive newsletter for subscribers. Coming to your inbox weekly, it highlights the stories and personalities behind some of SI's photography.

To get the best of SI in your inbox every weekday, sign up here. To see even more from SI's photographers, follow @sifullframe on Instagram. If you missed last week’s edition on shooting portraits of Hank Aaron, you can find it here.

Member Exclusive

Get Access to Our Exclusive Content