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San Diego Special

The player/coach relationship of San Diego Chargers' Drew Brees and Coach Cam Cameron.
By Becky Freeman

Drew Breese
Photo courtesy of
Mike Novak / San Diego Chargers

At a typical San Diego Chargers practice or game, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron does a lot of pointing.

“That’s what we do as coaches,” Cameron joked. “We point.” And as cliché as it may sound, it remains true that the 20-year coaching veteran does more than just point out the plays he wants the reigning AFC-West Champion Chargers to run on the field. He also points his athletes to Jesus Christ through his life, which has been transformed since the day Cameron accepted Christ at an FCA Camp when he was 13.

Perhaps no player has been influenced more so than San Diego quarterback Drew Brees.

In the four years Cameron and Brees have worked together in San Diego, not only have they teamed up to create and execute a potent offensive attack on the gridiron, but they’ve also cultivated the type of encouraging biblical friendship that is described in Hebrews 10:24 as spurring “one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Neither separate their work on the football field from their spiritual lives, as both openly acknowledge the true blessing the Lord has given them to work with other Christian men in the NFL.

"I thought, ‘What a great opportunity as a coordinator to be involved with a young man who I will not only be able to hopefully model and influence as a quarterback, but also as a person and as a Christian.”
- Cam Cameron

“Every Saturday before games I go into chapel, and I look over and see Cam, quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer and the other quarterbacks,” Brees said. “We go from praying and speaking with God and learning the Word to quarterback meetings and talking football. It’s all connected.”

In that sense, the professional situation Brees and Cameron work in is simply unique.

“I firmly believe that the Lord has blessed me with the best job in the National Football League,” Cameron said. “And that’s not because we’re in the NFL or we’re in San Diego. It’s just getting to work with these guys and getting to know how they’re growing spiritually.”

Between Saturday chapel, Sunday mass and Monday coaches’ Bible study, the Chargers, along with longtime team chaplain Shawn Mitchell, have made ample time for attending to the spiritual needs of players, coaches and even those in the front office.

It was at one of the Saturday chapels in Cameron’s first year with the Chargers that he first saw Brees as more than just a second-year quarterback.

Cam Cameron
Photo courtesy of
Mike Novak / San Diego Chargers

“Our relationship has grown over the last four years, and for me it’s been unique. I thought, ‘What a great opportunity as a coordinator to be involved with a young man who I will not only be able to hopefully model and influence as a quarterback, but also as a person and as a Christian,’” Cameron said. “My wife, Missy, and I take a lot of pride in being an example to Drew and his wife, Brittany. There are just so many neat things between us. He even taught my son Danny how to throw a ball.”

According to Brees, Danny is “a natural,” but he hasn’t been the only Cameron to be a receiver of Brees’ positive influence.

“With the quality of men we have here, they impact us, just as much as it sounds like we impact them,” Cameron said. “Hopefully we are making them better. But they truly do impact us, and Drew has made me so much better, it’s scary. I respect so much what he does, because being an NFL starting quarterback is one of the most difficult professions in the world.”

Brees’ professional journey to the Pro Bowl in 2004—a game that followed a breakout season in which he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year— was not an easy one.

After being drafted by the Chargers in 2001, Brees played in only one game in his rookie season. In 2002 San Diego went 8-8 with Brees as a starter, but the team struggled through a losing campaign in 2003 before going 12-4 and earning the AFC West Championship last year. Until Brees’ 2004 outing cemented his status as the Chargers go-to quarterback, his starting position
was almost always in question. The Chargers made that clear with their first-round draft of quarterback Philip Rivers after the ’03 season.

“I’ve been down an interesting road the last four years, but I feel like all that happened for a reason,” Brees said. “I tell myself I’m crazy sometimes, but when I say my prayers at night, I say, ‘Thank You God for this challenge, thank You for this adversity, because I know that You are
doing it for a reason, and I know that You are helping me.’ And sure enough, months later I will
look back and say, ‘I knew that happened for a reason, and now I understand why.’”

That comprehension of God’s goodness, even through the tough times, was not gained overnight for either player or coach. Both prioritize time with God in their schedules in order to stay on track and ensure spiritual growth. Brees deems his nighttime prayers as the most important part of his daily routine, while Cameron starts each day with at least a 30-minute quiet time and tries to get in another during lunch, even if it means spending a little less time analyzing game film.

“I used to watch so much tape that my mind would get cluttered. And ultimately it just wears you out,” Cameron said. “I’ve found that the rhythm I’m in, from a prayer and quiet time standpoint, has opened my mind not only as a husband and a father, but also as a coach. It’s really helped my preparation putting together a game plan for these guys.”

Executing that game plan is the next step. Cameron, Brees and the other Chargers have worked together for the past four years under head coach Marty Schottenheimer to create a confident, cohesive unit.

Photo courtesy of
Mike Novak / San Diego Chargers

It helps when most are on the same page spiritually (and according to Cameron, nine of the 11 offensive starters in 2004 were Christians), especially when success in the NFL is measured by wins and losses, career coaching records and quarterback ratings.

“When you are in a business like this that is very, very competitive, there are times when performance isn’t what it needs to be, or there’s a difference of opinion,” Brees said. “But by knowing what each other is about personally as well as professionally, being Christians, there is that respect level, and you can get so much more accomplished when you go about it the way that we do. We basically know how to communicate with one another.”

Added Cameron, “The times that we aren’t on the same page occur probably 1% of the time, and I don’t even know when that 1% is.”

That combination of trust, respect and communication helped Brees, Cameron and the Chargers to a playoff berth in 2004, but even then, when the team was rolling in the touchdowns, neither man chose to take the credit.

“If you don’t have humility, God will put things in your life to make sure you do,” Brees said. “It’s always important to give the glory to Him and to know that He is the reason for your success.”

Added Cameron, “A lot of people don’t understand how guys who have all that we have really can be humble and glorify God. But for me, the people God surrounds me with are humble, so how would I do it any other way?”

In this case both player and coach have learned to survive in a world where anything less than a win is deemed unacceptable. They encourage each other in their faithful commitments to follow God and trust in His will—whether that points them to the Super Bowl or not.

“Being successful can’t be measured in wins and losses,” Brees commented. “I think it’s just the kind of person you become because of it all, and this is only a small part of the journey.”

Copyright 2007 Sharing the Victory Magazine

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