The New Orleans Saints quarterback presented high school signal-caller Alex Ruiz with his first walking prosthetic leg — and a promise to pay for an athletic training prosthesis in the fall once Ruiz gets used to this one.
Ruiz, who wears No. 9 because he is such a big fan of Brees, had his right leg amputated below the knee in February because of a severe knee injury he suffered on the field last fall while playing for Linfield Christian High School in Temecula, California.
"It was a very emotional presentation and really exciting for everyone in our league to be a part of it," said Brees, who surprised Ruiz on Friday through the Football 'N' America flag football league that he co-founded in Louisiana last year and expanded to San Diego this spring.
Ruiz's family had kept the surprise secret for weeks.
"If there's anything above cloud nine, that's where I'm at right now," the 17-year-old told local reporters after spending time with Brees — and even throwing him a pass.
Brees said his FNA league identifies local charities with which to work. And this time it chose the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which selected Ruiz — who is determined to remain a competitive athlete.
But as it turned out, it wasn't the first time Brees had reached out to Ruiz. Brees said a friend of his in Temecula called him during the Saints' season and told him about Ruiz, so Brees sent a personalized jersey to Ruiz.
"In the back of my mind, I said to myself, 'I hope I get a chance to meet this young man someday,'" Brees recalled. "Alex has suffered a long and very difficult road but has remained so positive and insists this set of circumstances will not hold him back. He still has loftier goals than ever for his athletic career and beyond. We wanted to help his dreams come true.
"This is what it's all about — providing the best family experience we can through our FNA flag football leagues and connecting with the communities in which we play."