Drew Brees is the 2010 Sportsman of the Year, the annual honor given by "Sports Illustrated" to the "athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement."
Brees is the 57th recipient of the award and will be honored at a ceremony Tuesday.
The Saints, of course, beat the Colts in the Super Bowl for the first championship in the team's history, less than five years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast region and forced the Saints to play an entire season away from the Superdome.
Brees was the primary catalyst in the team's turnaround, recovering from a bad shoulder injury when he joined the listless Saints in 2006. Since then, he's been one of the league's best quarterbacks. He's been a charitable force in the region, as well.
"I had a chance to see it with my own eyes when I came in on my visit to New Orleans in March of 2006, six months post-Katrina, and you sit there and look around and say, 'I had no idea it was this bad,'" Brees said in response to the honor. "You feel a sense of responsibility and a sense that this is a calling. This is an opportunity that most people don't get in a lifetime, and yet it's staring me in the face right now. I have this opportunity."
"Brees and his wife, Brittany, showed love for New Orleans when the city felt abandoned by so many others," the magazine said in explaining its choice. "Not only did Brees help the Saints make the playoffs in his first year in the city and begin the four-year climb to last year's title, but he also threw himself into helping the city recover, and its people to feel like they were not alone."
Under Brees' expertise, the team led the league in total offense in 2010, and his completion percentage of 70.62 set an NFL record. He threw eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs, and was named Super Bowl MVP.
The Saints began the 2009 season 13-0 before finishing 13-3. They defeated three likely Hall of Fame quarterbacks -- Kurt Warner, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning -- in the playoffs. For a region that had suffered so much and a team with such a long history of poor play, the season was a magical one for the Saints, their fans and the entire region, which rallied around the team.
Derek Jeter (2009), Michael Phelps (2008), Brett Favre (2007), Dwayne Wade (2006) and Tom Brady (2005) are the last five award-winners.