Two quarterbacks, one boy and their connection
The news that Drew Brees will return to the Saints lineup for Sunday’s 3:25 p.m. game with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs ensures the first-ever matchup between Brees and Patrick Mahomes.
You’ve no doubt heard the stories about Mahomes nearly coming to the Saints had the Chiefs not traded one spot ahead of New Orleans in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
But there is another bond that unites Brees and Mahomes, outside of their Texas roots.
His name is Luke Siegel, and he too has ties to New Orleans.
Luke Siegel is the 14-year-old son of Tim Siegel, an Archbishop Rummel hall of famer who led the Raiders to three state championships in tennis and went on to be an All-American at the University of Arkansas.
Tim Siegel and his family have spent the better part of three decades in Lubbock, Texas. Tim was head men’s tennis coach at Texas Tech for 23 years.
Tim grew up a Saints fan, as did Luke.
We’ve previously told you the story of Luke’s serious brain injury from a golf cart accident in 2015, just three weeks after his father’s retirement from Texas Tech; about how Tim has started a foundation to help families of children with brain injuries, and how the Lubbock and Texas Tech communities have embraced the Siegel family.
Local and regional coverage is one thing. Now the story has gone national.
ESPN told the story of the Siegel family during Sunday NFL Countdown, its weekly pregame show, earlier today.
The story focuses on the accident, Luke’s therapy and progress and his connection to the Saints and Brees.
The non-profit that came about as a result of Luke’s accident, Team Luke Hope for Minds, has awarded more than $200,000 in grants in 2020 alone despite the pandemic.
ESPN got wind of the Siegel family’s story a year ago.
“It started when Tom Rinaldi was sitting next to Brad Gilbert at the US Open in 2019,” Tim Siegel said. “I asked Brad to do me a favor and talk to Tom.”
A week later, Rinaldi contacted Tim Siegel and said he wanted to do the story. A crew followed the Siegels at the 2019 Saints-Falcons game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The story got shelved after the Saints were eliminated by the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Wild Card game. It was revisited this fall, with the target of airing this Sunday.
Rinaldi visited the Siegels for a day this fall, taking full COVID-19 precautions, and ESPN also sent a crew to the Siegel house for last Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’m having to act like everything’s fine while I’m steaming at the game,” Tim Siegel said about watching the Saints’ 24-21 loss that dropped New Orleans, at least for now, out of the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Brees learned about Luke shortly after his accident and sent a text message video of encouragement. In addition to his direct support for the family, he came to Lubbock in 2018 for a Team Luke Hope for Minds fund-raiser.
“When Luke had his accident, I reached out to the Saints,” Tim Siegel said. “Luke and I had a deal we were going to see the Saints once a year every year. Jay Romig set up a meeting with Drew at practice in 2016, and since then, we’ve been together six, seven, eight times.
“This is how he is,” Siegel said of Brees, who spoke at a Team Luke Hope for Minds fundraiser in Lubbock in 2018. “He’s such a great person. Drew was Luke’s hero. At therapy, when I say, ‘Open your eyes for Drew Brees and the Saints,’ it happens. Everyone at therapy knows how much the Saints means to Luke.”
Mahomes knew the Siegels from his time as a star quarterback at Texas Tech. To this day, he wears a “Team Luke” bracelet.
“He’s never taken off his bracelet,” Tim Siegel said. “To me, that’s incredible.”
In addition to the bracelet, Mahomes helped generate almost $15,000 for Team Luke Hope for Minds by wearing Team Luke-adorned shoes for his My Cause My Cleats game in 2018.
“I haven’t talked to Patrick this season, but I will after the season,” Tim Siegel said.
It won’t be as tough a day as you might think in the Siegel household on Sunday afternoon.
“I love Patrick Mahones,” Tim Siegel said, “but I’ve loved the Saints since I was 6 years old.
“The reason the Saints means so much to me now is because I know what kind of guys they are. My goal is to take Luke to the Super Bowl, with the Saints playing.”
To learn more about Team Luke Hope for Minds and how you can support the mission of assisting families who have children with brain injuries, visit their website.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…