Drew Brees thrills fans by bringing the only known John Wooden jersey back home


John Wooden is remembered as the greatest coach in history — not just in basketball, but in any sport. He won an unbelievable 10 national championships in 12 years at UCLA, including seven in a row.

But long before he became “The Wizard of Westwood,” Wooden was a legend on the court.

As a 5-foot-10 guard at Purdue, he was the first three-time consensus All-America player in college basketball.

Wooden — who was nicknamed “The Indiana Rubber Man” for his suicidal dives for the ball — was named Player of the Year in 1932, when he led the Boilermakers to a 17-1 record and a Big Ten championship.

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The only known surviving jersey he wore when he performed those feats has been locked away unseen for more than 80 years.

“For most of its life, the white wool jersey with yellow letters spelling ‘Purdue’ on the front and the yellow number ’13’ on back lay in drawers and closets from rural Clinton County [in Indiana] to California wine country,” wrote Nathan Baird in the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

Now it’s finally going to see the light.

According to the Journal & Courier, John Neff of Guerneville, California, received the jersey as a gift when his grandfather, Frank Neff — a college friend of Wooden’s — died. Neff decided to consign it for auction and use the money to create a college fund for his young daughter.

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The jersey sold for $264,000 on May 18, though the buyer wasn’t identified at the time.

Now we know who it is: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Brees, a Purdue alumnus, bought the jersey so it could be displayed at the school’s Mackey Arena.

“I had never seen any Purdue related in regards to memorabilia ever from John Wooden,” he told The Associated Press. “I mean, think about it, it’s over 80 years ago. So the minute that I saw this, I thought, ‘This belongs at Purdue. Purdue has to have this and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure they do.'”

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He said he has long admired Wooden and has read many of the legendary coach’s written works.

“This is truly one of a kind. There’s only one of these that exist and it belonged to the man who arguably has had the biggest impact on the game of basketball — not just that but his teachings transcend the game of basketball,” Brees said. “His books, his literature, his influence and the world of business and the world of sport is unparalleled.”

The quarterback, who has donated more than $3 million to his alma mater, wants the jersey to be on display for all to see.

“It certainly should be appreciated by anyone who steps foot in the Mackey Arena, no matter if you’re a Purdue fan or not,” Brees said. “If you’re a basketball fan, if you’re a fan of the game and legacy that John Wooden left for all of us, it’s an incredible piece of history.”

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Todd Windsor is a senior story editor at The Western Journal. He has worked as an editor or reporter in news and sports for more than 30 years.
Todd Windsor is a senior story editor at The Western Journal. He was born in Baltimore and grew up in Maryland. He graduated from the University of Miami (he dreams of wearing the turnover chain) and has worked as an editor and reporter in news and sports for more than 30 years. Todd started at The Miami News (defunct) and went on to work at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., the St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times, The Baltimore Sun and Space News before joining Liftable Media in 2016. He and his beautiful wife have two amazing daughters and a very old Beagle.
Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami
Phoenix, Arizona
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