Love for Saints, Drew Brees pulls two friends through good, bad times

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American Today News

GINA? GINA: A DYNAMIC DUO CAME TOGETHER EARLIER THIS WEEK TO HONOR TWO LIFELONG FRIENDS. SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA’S OWN ELLEN DEGENERES AND SAINTS QUARTERBACK DREW BREES SURPRISING TWO MEN WITH A HEARTWARMING AND LIFE CHANGING GIFT. WDSU REPORTER KELSEY DAVIS IS UPTOWN WITH THE SPECIAL STORY. KELSEY THEIR FRIENDSHIP STARTED : RIGHT HERE ON TULANE UNIVERSITY’S CAMPUS — A LOVE FOR THE SAINTS — THE THING THAT BONDED THEM. NOW AS THEY FACE LIFE CHALLENGES, THEIR FRIENDSHIP AND MUTUAL LOVE FOR THE SAINTS AND TEAM CAPTAIN DREW BREES GIVES THEM HOPE TO MOVE FORWARD. AFTER GRADUATING FROM AT TULANE, JACKSON SMITH ENLISTED IN THE MARINES AND WAS DEPLOYED TO AFGHANISTAN. HE SAYS HIS BEST FRIEND BRIAN MCKENNA USED THEIR MUTUAL LOVE FOR THE SAINTS, THAT HELPED HIM GET THROUGH THOSE TOUGH TIMES.

JACKSON SMITH: I HAD THESE PICTURES THAT BRIAN HAD TAKEN. HE CAME BACK TO NEW ORLEANS FOR MARDI GRAS AND GETS THIS LIFE-SIZE CUT OUT OF ME IN MY DRESS BLUES UNIFORM AND TAKES IT TO EVERY PARADE, EVERY PARTY EVERY BAR. I GET TO THE LAST PICTURE, AND IT IS FROM THE BACCHUS BALL, AND IT’S DREW BREES AND HIS WIFE BRITTANY AND MY CARDBOARD CUTOUT. KELSEY: SMITH IS OUT OF THE MILITARY NOW, AND BACK AT TULANE — WORKING ON A LAW DEGREE. BEFORE THE SEMESTER STARTED, THOUGH, HE FINALLY GOT A CHANCE TO RETURN MCKENNA’S FAVOR FROM ALL THOSE YEARS AGO. JACKSON SMITH: HE WENT OVER THE HANDLEBARS OF HIS BIKE. HE BROKE HIS NECK. HE BROKE THE C-3 VERTEBRAE IN HIS BACK. EVER SINCE THE ACCIDENT HE’S , BEEN PARALYZED FROM THE NECK DOWN. KELSEY: SMITH MADE HIS WAY TO THE TEAM’S FINAL OPEN PRACTICE AT YULMAN STADIUM. BUT HE MADE SURE HE TOOK HIS FRIEND, WELL THE CARDBOARD CUT OUT VERSION OF HIM, ALONG TO CATCH PRACTICE AND A GLIMPSE OF THEIR HERO.

JACKSON SMITH: I HAD MY CELL PHONE. MY HAND IS SHAKING, LIKE DON’T MESS THIS UP. WE GET PICTURE AND PUT IT UP ON FACEBOOK THAT NIGHT. BRIAN LOVED IT. THAT’S ALL I REALLY WANTED WAS TO DO, SOMETHING FOR HIM THAT WOULD JUST PUT A SMILE ON HIS FACE FOR ONE DAY IF I COULD. KELSEY: THIS WEEK, SMITH AND MCKENNA VIA SKYPE FROM HIS HOSPITAL BED, WENT ON THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW WHERE THEY SHARED THEIR STORY — AND TO GET THE SURPRISE OF A LIFETIME. HI DREW! KELSEY: AND AFTER SHARING HIS PLANS TO START IN THE MATCHUP AGAINST THE COWBOYS — BREES, THE MAN THEY BOTH RESPECT AND CREDIT FOR PULLING THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS OUT A DARK TIME WITH THAT SUPERBOWL WIN — DID SOMETHING THEY NEVER EXPECTED.

ALL OF US ARE GOING TO PITCH IN AND WE WANT TO BUY THIS WHEELCHAIR FOR YOU. SO HERE’S A CHECK. JACKSON SMITH: HE BLEW ME OUT OF THE WATER WHEN HE HANDED BRIAN A CHECK FOR $40,000. WHICH IS HUGE. BRIAN HAS SUCH HIGH ASPIRATIONS TO KIND OF PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF WHAT A QUADRIPLEGIC CAN DO. JACKSON SMITH: THE CHERRY ON TOP OF THE WHOLE THINGS WAS THAT DREW THROWS IN THERE AT THE END, HE’S LIKE ‘OH AND BY THE WAY, ANYTIME YOU GUYS WANT TO COME DOWN SEE A PRACTICE OR SEE A GAME YOU’RE THERE ALL ACCESS.

KELSEY: SMITH SAYS HE DOES NOT PLAN ON USING HIS ALL ACCESS PASS THOUGH — UNTIL HIS BEST FRIEND AND FELLOW DIEHARD FAN OF THE BLACK AND GOLD, IS WELL ENOUGH TO COME TO A GAME AND WATCH WITH HIM FROM THE SIDELINES. REPORTING AT TULANE UNIVERSITY, KELSEY DAVIS, WDSU NEWS. GINA: JACKSON SAYS THAT AS SOON AS HE SET FOOT IN NEW ORLEANS TO TOUR COLLEGES, HE KNEW OUR CITY WAS THE PLACE TO BE AND THAT HE WOULD RETURN AFTER HIS TOUR OF .

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