Rain brings Brees face-to-face with career turning point

By Simon Evans

DAVIE, Florida (Reuters) - New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees returned to the scene of the defining moment of his career on Monday, happy he chose the right path as he prepares to play in his first Super Bowl.

Rain forced the Saints to switch their practice session to the training center of the Miami Dolphins and for Brees, it was a return to a place where he had visited as a free agent and almost made home.

The man who will line up against the Indianapolis Colts at Dolphins Stadium on Sunday in search of a first Super Bowl ring, found himself at a career crossroads back in 2006.

Having left the San Diego Chargers to become a free agent and returning from a serious shoulder injury, Brees had to choose between the Dolphins and the Saints.

He chose the Saints and it lead to four challenging but successful years in New Orleans.

"Just kind of walking around the facility and the weight room, obviously, to get in here brought back the memories of that free-agency period back in 2006, which was really a defining moment in my career and probably my life," Brees told reporters.

"It is just the way that things worked out. Obviously, I'm where I belong," he said.

"In the end I felt like New Orleans was my calling. That's where I belonged, not only to help rebuild that organization and get it back on the right track, but also to help rebuild a community and a region and to do something special."

COMMUNITY LEADER

Brees has been much more than a quarterback in New Orleans.

Signing for the team, barely six months after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the former Charger has become a community leader.

"I know that I have been blessed with a lot of opportunities in my life-the opportunity to go to a great university, Purdue University, play in the Big Ten, the opportunity I had out in San Diego and the opportunity I've had in New Orleans.

"I just feel like it's a big responsibility for me. I feel like I've been given a platform to really make a difference in a lot of people's lives, especially those who are less fortunate and those who might not have the opportunities otherwise.

"I've embraced the community of New Orleans just because it is a special place, and they've embraced me and my wife in a way that I can't even describe. There is nothing more that I want for them than a championship."

The quarterback is under no illusions that many people in New Orleans still face enormous challenges in piecing their lives back together.

"There is still a lot of work to be done there in regards to the rebuilding and the recovery post-Katrina. There are still a lot of people in some pretty dire straits.

"For us to be able to have the success we're having, it just does so much for that community as far as bringing everyone together.

"We don't look at it as extra pressure. We look at it as a sense of responsibility"

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Patrick Johnston)