Brett Favre’s love of football never wavered. Not even in the toughest hours of a 20-year career that led him to induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend.
Just before Christmas 2003, Favre’s father, Irv, passed away. The Packers were scheduled for a Monday night visit to Oakland. Despite reported uncertainty if Favre would play, his appearance against the Raiders never really was in doubt.
And that victory in Oakland was about more than winning one for dad. For Favre, it was about redemption.
”My dad was my high school football coach. He was the head football coach, and he coached me and my two brothers,” Favre said during his emotion-packed induction speech Saturday night. ”But I never had a car growing up. I always rode to and from school with my father in his truck, so he was always the last to leave the building because he had to turn the lights off, lock up, and then we made our way home.
”So it was the last high school football game of my high school career, and although I don’t remember how I had played before, and I don’t remember how I played in the last game, what I do remember is sitting outside the coach’s office, say, on a Wednesday, waiting for my father to come out so we could leave. It was dark. And I overheard my father talking to the three other coaches – and I assume I didn’t play as well the previous week only because of what he said – and he said: `I can assure you one thing about my son, he will play better. He will redeem himself. I know my son. He has it in him.”’
Until his Hall of Fame speech, Favre never told anyone he overheard Irv’s comments. He used them as fuel, though.
”I thought to myself, that’s a pretty good compliment, you know? My chest kind of swelled up,” he said. ”But I never forgot that statement and that comment that he made to those other coaches. And I want you to know, Dad, I spent the rest of my career trying to redeem myself.”
Favre halted his speech to compose himself as the fans in a stadium packed with Cheeseheads cheered encouragingly.
”But I spent the rest of my career trying to redeem myself and make him proud, and I hope I succeeded,” Favre added to a deafening reception.
That high school scene was nearly two decades before Irv Favre’s death. And on that Monday night when Favre threw for four touchdowns and 399 yards in a 41-7 romp at the Black Hole, a new objective entered his mind.
It came on the flight back to Green Bay on a chartered plane with his wife, Deanna, at his side. She told him how Irv said to her that he couldn’t wait for the day Brett would be enshrined at Canton so he could introduce his son.
”And up until that moment I had never thought about the Hall of Fame, and I mean no disrespect to the Hall of Fame,” Favre said. ”I had dreamed of playing in the NFL, believe me, way more than I thought about my schoolwork. I thought about being Archie Manning, running around, throwing underhand passes. I thought about being my childhood favorite, Roger Staubach and throwing it to Preston Pearson or Drew Pearson, and handing it off to Tony Dorsett. Being Kenny Stabler coming out of tunnel. I had thought of those things so many times, but I never thought of the Hall of Fame until that moment.
”So a new goal had entered into my mind then and there, and I said to myself: `I will make it to the Hall of Fame.’ That I would make it to the Hall of Fame so I could acknowledge the fact of how important he was.”
Again, Favre stopped his induction speech, overcome by his emotions.
”This is tougher than any third-and-15, I can assure you,” he said before returning to describing his chase for redemption. ”So I could acknowledge the importance of him and my career and my life, which he was a tremendous part of my life. He taught me toughness. Boy, did he teach me toughness. Trust me, there was no room for crybabies in our house.
”He taught me teamwork, and by all means no player was ever more important than the team.
”So then and there in that moment on that plane I was determined for selfish reasons to get to this point to acknowledge how important he was. I would not be here before you today without my father.”