Hoda Kotb got the surprise of a lifetime during Tuesday’s (Nov. 21) episode of Today With Hoda & Jenna when their guest, tennis player John McEnroe, brought New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees to the show.
“Hoda, I got a little surprise for you, because it’s three [of us], and you know, in doubles you need four players,” McEnroe teased. “So I got a special guest I brought along, one of the greatest athletes ever, famous Hall of Fame player who loves pickle ball, whose name is Drew Brees.”
She screamed as the former NFL player came out on stage. As they shared a hug, he kissed her on the cheek and said, “And you get to be my partner, too.”
Kotb admitted she was completely caught off guard by the surprise.
McEnroe and Brees teased that they were going to challenge the Today show hosts to a game of pickle ball once their interview was over. “I think we’re going to do a little something and if we had to pick partners, you’re going to be my partner,” Brees told Kotb.
Kotb replied, “I just want to save that soundbite.”
Brees explained that he picked pickle ball up as his “post-retirement sport” but that he’s just been “playing for fun.”
Needless to say, Brees’ surprise visit to the show derailed the interview they had planned for McEnroe. Speaking off the cuff, Kotb began firing questions at Brees.
“Drew, do you miss football? Because we always have Saints fans outside every day,” she said. “In my dressing room, I have a [clipping from] The Times-Picayune, the article where they were saying goodbye and it talked about you being a Saint, which you are to everyone in New Orleans. Do you miss it?”
Brees replied, “I do. Once a Saint, always a Saint. I’m still entirely connected with the organization. We actually have season tickets so we make it down a bunch to see the team.”
After some light flirtation, many smiles and questions, McEnroe playfully cut in to ask, “Are you gonna ask me if I miss tennis?” Kotb and Bush Hager laughed and apologized.
Back in 2020, Kotb made headlines when she interviewed Brees early on in the coronavirus pandemic on The Today Show. She began crying on air after asking Brees about the $5 million donation he made toward relief efforts in Louisiana.
“Our hope is that because you let us know that you made this big, generous donation, I think other people look and say, ‘Hey, maybe I can help out, too,’” Kotb told Brees at the time. “Drew, we love you.”
After he replied, “I love you too, Hoda,” she began tearing up. She apologized as she turned away from the camera.
Kotb lived in New Orleans during her childhood. She often praises the city, and she and Bush Hager have brought the show there multiple times for their annual Jazz Fest.
Her co-anchor Savannah Guthrie offered some words of comfort from where she was hosting remotely at the time. “I know, it’s a lot,” Guthrie told Kotb. “Hoda, I’m so sorry, hun. It’s a lot, I know where your heart is, my dear.”
Today with Jenna and Hoda airs on weekdays at 10/9c on NBC.