NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - It's a Friday night in November. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is prepping for the playoffs. No, not those playoffs. Those will hopefully come in January.
For Brees, on this night, it's all about the Buckeyes and Boilermakers - two youth flag football teams his sons Baylen and Bowen play on. Number nine is the head coach of both.
"You appreciate coaching. I think the competitive side of you wants to win and you want to execute to perfection. That's what we do at our level, but then you have to step back and remember you are coaching 1st graders or 3rd graders," Brees said. "At the end of the day, I just give them one simple message: Do your best, have fun and never quit."
This is not just any 'ol flag football league. It's Brees' creation called Football n America, a six-on-six league designed for boys and girls from kindergarten to eighth grade.
"We tried to set the standard for flag football with this league. This is one of our inaugural leagues. We plan on spreading this throughout the entire country and really make this the standard for flag football," Brees explained.
For Brees, it's deeply personal. He played the sport until high school where he transitioned to tackle. As someone who's excelled at football at the highest level, he fears the game getting lost to the next generation due to concussion and injury concerns.
"Football is a risk because a lot of parents think their kids only option is to play tackle football."
Thus, his passion project was formed. FNA, he hopes, will dispel that myth.
The goal is to expose kids to the sport at an early age while substantially reducing the injury risks.
"If they use this as a platform to transition into tackle football, at some point, like I did when I was a kid, then great," Brees said. "But if they don't ever play tackle football, then that's great, too, because they still developed a love for the game that they can spread on to future generations."
After just one season, it's catching on fast. In Louisiana there are leagues in New Orleans, Covington and Baton Rouge. Lafayette is coming in the spring, as is Tennessee and California.
"It was great," said Besty LaBorde, parent of a player. "It's very competitive and it's Friday, so the families come out and you know it's all about the kids and their competitive drive and it's a nice camaraderie."
"Honestly the families grow tighter through this experience. It's not just the kids," Brees said as he scanned the field full of parents. "The families gathering together on Friday nights under the lights and the work week is over. And now it's come here and enjoy and watch your kids, but it brings families together go out for pizza afterwards. So there's a lot of reasons to do this."
And as an added bonus for Brees, his Buckeyes took home the title in the first- and second-grade division.
It's a roster full of Saints connections. Along with Bowen Brees, there's Adrian Peterson Jr., son of former Saint Adrian Peterson, and Sam and Lucy Loomis, twin son and daughter of Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis.
Lucy was the team's MVP.
All in all, Brees got exactly what he hoped for in the first season of football n america.
"Some of these kids who never played football before I was able to encourage," Brees said with the look of a proud parent and coach. " They came out of their shell and gained so much confidence and self esteem and were really a part of something unique. And just watching their faces when they win together and experience that together is really cool."