CHARLOTTE -- Growing up, Louisiana natives Donte Jackson and Eric Reid used to watch in amazement as Saints quarterback Drew Brees carved up defenses.
Now they're part of a Carolina secondary tasked with defending against the future Hall of Famer on Monday Night Football.
"I ain't a Saints fan no more," Jackson said with a laugh.
For the rookie cornerback Jackson, who was 11 when Brees arrived in New Orleans in 2006, Monday will give him his first chance to share the field with the man who has anchored his childhood team for 13 years.
"I’m very excited. I’m a New Orleans guy, and I know what he’s done for the city," he said. "I was young when he got there and he’s just done great things for the city since he got there. I’m excited to play against him.”
Each week, putting forth a good on-field product takes precedent for every NFL team. In Brees' case, the impact he's had on the city he represents, something Jackson eluded to, has meant more than just what happens on game day.
Reid was a student at Dutchtown High School in Geismar, La. - about an hour away from Mercedes-Benz Superdome - when Brees led the Saints to a victory in Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.
Five years earlier, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the state and left billions of dollars worth of damage in its wake.
Reid recalls being a fan of Brees during that time, and said it was a "big moment" for the state when the Saints brought the Lombardi Trophy home.
"For him to lead the team to the Super Bowl and win it, it lifted people's spirits," Reid said. "Drew has quite the legacy in New Orleans. It'll be cool for me to step on the field with him again."
Reid, a former San Francisco 49er, has faced Brees three times already, with the Saints winning two of those games.
"Hopefully I can get a souvenir, meaning an interception. Make some plays to help us win the game,” Reid said.
Both Jackson and Reid respect what Brees stands for as both a symbol for their state and as an athlete with an extremely high football high IQ. As Jackson said, "(Brees) never really seems to get rattled."
The Panthers don't have to rattle Brees. But they have to beat him. Jackson and Reid are determined to do their part against a hometown hero.
“This is a playoff game for us, so we've got to win it," Reid said. "Got to attack where we think we can take advantage of and also defend what they're good at. It’ll be an interesting game.”
The Panthers lead the all-time series against the Saints, 24-23. Carolina has played New Orleans more than any other team in its history.