Favre attends Starr tribute, hints at 2015 reunion
If Brett Favre had any lingering concerns how the majority of Packers fans feel about him, they should have been erased early Monday afternoon.
Appearing at a fundraising event for the Rawhide Boys Ranch at the Brett Favre Steakhouse, the future Hall of Fame quarterback received a long and loud standing ovation from the approximately 200 in attendance.
It was Favre's first public appearance in Green Bay since 2010 after his messy divorce from the Green Bay Packers two years earlier, when the organization decided to move ahead with Aaron Rodgers and traded Favre to the New York Jets.
Favre appeared with Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who played a key role in making Favre's appearance possible according to Rawhide public relations coordinator Scott Sawinski.
The mood was light as Favre and Young traded old football stories and the competition between the Packers and San Francisco 49ers during the 1990s.
At one point, Young asked Favre about his impending induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the ring of honor at Lambeau. Favre gave a little insight as to what was in store.
"I know in the immediate future, next July, I think it's the 17th or 18th, we're going to do the induction here and then the following season, so roughly a year from now, maybe even less, we'll do a game where we unveil the jersey at halftime," Favre said.
"And then I guess the following year, the following summer, I think, would be potentially the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame. Also, the Mississippi Hall of Fame is coming up a week after Green Bay next year. So there's a lot of stuff in the works. Yeah, I am looking forward to it."
After the program Favre and wife Deanna left through a back door to a waiting SUV and did not speak to reporters. Before he left the stage, Favre told the crowd: "It's exciting to be back."
With that, someone in the crowd shouted "Welcome home, Brett," and that set off a minute-long standing ovation.
Favre appeared as a consideration for former Packers quarterback Bart Starr, who is recovering at his home in Birmingham, Ala., from a series of strokes, seizures and a heart attack in September.
"Brett was gracious to work with Rawhide,'' said Bart Starr Jr. "He said as long as we can keep it relatively quiet we'll do this. As I mentioned, people are probably unaware of how often Brett and his wife Deanna have contributed to Rawhide behind the scenes.
"Today was in front of everybody but they've been very, very gracious for a long, long time. We're so grateful he would step to the podium once more for a very important cause for the state of Wisconsin.''
Favre's foundation presented a $20,000 check to Rawhide on Monday.
Starr Jr. picked up Favre in Mississippi early Monday and said he there were no signs of him being nervous or that he had any trepidation on the flight to Green Bay.
"He was completely relaxed and jovial,'' Starr Jr. said. "We told some great stories coming up on the plane today. Very much at ease and confident, and he ought to be. Look what he did for this community. The people here are not going to focus that he would up playing a few years beyond his Packers career. Johnny Unitas did that, Joe Montana did that, some of the greatest players in history did that. Let's focus on what he did while he was here. I think everybody's coming around to that way of thinking.''
Starr Jr. encouraged fans to relish what Favre did for the community as much as the Packers organization.
"Now it's starting to come out a little bit, but he's been doing this sort of thing for years and years and years. Not just with Rawhide but with other organizations, he just doesn't tell you about it.''
As Starr Jr. glanced to his right, Favre hopped into a waiting SUV, but not before he was serenaded with cheers and well wishes from fans who had gathered outside the restaurant.
It was a hero's welcome.
It turns out Brett Favre was in Green Bay only for a tribute to fellow Green Bay Packers great Bart Starr on Monday afternoon and not for Monday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field.
Favre and Starr's son, Bart Starr Jr., were in town for a chalk talk and a tribute to Bart Starr at Brett Favre's Steakhouse in Ashwaubenon, just east of Lambeau Field.
Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young also attended the event, a benefit for Rawhide Boys Ranch near New London, which the elder Starr has long supported. Starr, 80, is recovering from two strokes and a heart attack and was unable to attend.
"I understand his plans are to go back (to his home in Hattiesburg, Miss.) pretty shortly after this," Packers president Mark Murphy told reporters at the Starr tribute. "I don't think he'll be going to Lambeau tonight."
Favre's flight originated in Birmingham, Ala., where Starr and his father live, and stopped in Hattiesburg, where Favre lives, before heading to Green Bay, ESPN reported. News of Favre's trip to Green Bay broke at mid-morning and caused a media frenzy, with news crews staking out the airport.
Their flight arrived at a private hangar at Austin Straubel International Airport in Ashwaubenon about 12:30 p.m. Favre and his wife Deanna and others immediately got into an SUV to travel to the Rawhide event. Favre did not speak to reporters at the airport or at the event. His plane was return to Hattiesburg at 3:20 p.m., about 3 hours after it arrived.
Though the Rawhide event had been promoted, Favre's appearance was kept quiet.
"I think it's really you have to give the credit to Rawhide," Murphy said before the Starr tribute. "Obviously, the relationship with Rawhide has had over the years with Bart Starr, they reached out to Brett and were able to secure, reach an agreement. He'll be coming in. I think it's great. Bring attention to such a great cause and something that's meant so much to Bart."
After several years of estrangement after Favre's bitter split from the Packers in 2008, the team announced in August that it will induct Favre into the Packers Hall of Fame and retire his No. 4 on July 18, 2015, and unveil Favre's number on the Lambeau Field facade at a game to be determined in the 2015 season.
"It's something we've been working on for quite a while. We're looking forward to having him back next July for the introduction into the Hall of Fame and retirement of his number," Murphy said Monday.
Favre will be the first person to have his number retired and hall induction in the same year. He also seems likely to be a first-ballot inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
-- Weston Hodkiewicz and Pete Dougherty contributed to this report.