Favre hopes to be remembered as good man
Brett Favre told himself he wasn't going to get emotional.
All bets were off once the stories started flying. That's when it became difficult for the former Green Bay Packers quarterback to keep it together while he had his No. 4 jersey retired during his Packers Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday night inside the Lambeau Field Atrium.
There were plenty of stories from his 16 seasons playing quarterback in Green Bay. You'll find many of them below in his article, but what really stood out about Favre's career was his openness when discussing his personal struggles throughout the years.
Favre often was an open book. He was outspoken about his addiction to painkillers in the mid-90s. He welcomed fan support in the wake of his father's death in 2003. A year later, he and his wife were public and proactive when discussing Deanna's battle with breast cancer.
"That was extremely tough. Yet, you were there with us," said Favre during his 50-minute speech. "Much like when my father passed away, which was a very, very tough, hard situation. Unlike my two brothers, my sister and my mom, I was able to - I don't want to say hide, but I was with my great friends, (Ryan) Longwell, Doug (Pederson) and Josh Bidwell at the time, but my entire family - my Packer family."
Favre told reporters during his news conference Saturday afternoon that he thought it would be easy to walk out of the tunnel and speak to the 67,000 packed in Lambeau Field. A few hours later, he admitted he was wrong. The 2½-minute standing ovation he received left him speechless.
"I have to admit the reception was – it's hard to even put in words," Favre said. "I'm thankful my family got a chance to come out there and experience it because I've run out of that tunnel hundreds of times. It was always a special feeling and never got old. I really wasn't sure what that feeling was going got be like but boy was that moving. If you watched it on TV, it doesn't do it justice. It was an amazing feeling.
Favre went onto say the city of Green Bay and state of Wisconsin was special to him and his family during their darkest hours. He's thankful he had a support system around him in those instances.
His addiction to pain killers resulted in him staying 72 days in a rehab facility in Topeka, Kansas. It gave him a valuable opportunity to reflect and the Packers went on later that season to capture their first Super Bowl in 29 years.
Deanna's battle with breast cancer came a week after her brother died in an ATV accident on Favre's property. When his father passed away, thousands of fans in Oakland stood in cheered after he played arguably the greatest game of his career.
How the community embraced Favre during those times was what made Green Bay special.
"When we got back here, it was like coming back to millions of open arms," said Favre of the return after that game. "Again, being able to share our joy, share our sadness together is really something special because you care. You can go other places and people don't care. That's why you can't put an NFL team in some of these big cities because they don't care. But you care here care and it was evident today. It really was and I'm truly thankful for that."
Favre has been asked countless times, including on Saturday, about what he hopes his legacy is in Green Bay. For him, it's pretty simple.
"I want to be remembered as a good man - far from perfect," Favre said. "By no means perfect. A man who loves his teammates. Really loved my teammates. We had a lot of fun. Coaches, fans, that was an outstanding ovation today. I just could feel it. Just an amazing feeling."
Here are some highlights from Favre's speech:
On his first trip to Green Bay after he was traded to Packers:
I'm sure the bowl is still 65-70,000 strong and I applaud you for not only coming, but sticking around through this. I think the first thing I want to do is tell you about the first time that I ever came to Green Bay. It's probably a week after I was traded. Bus (Cook) and I flew up, never been to Green Bay before. Had never been to Wisconsin. We land. Tells you high on the totem pole I was. We had to take a cab to the hotel. No one was there to pick us up. This is honest to God true story. We get into the cab. We're on our way to I think it was the Midway or the Best Western and Bus is really a jokester. If you think I'm a jokester, he likes to poke and prod and he says to the cab driver, 'This is Green Bay.' He's egging the guy on talking about Packer football. The cab driver bites on it and is like, 'Oh yeah, this is where football is football.' Something like that. Bus goes, 'Yeah, I heard you guys traded for some quarterback or something. A guy from the south.' He goes, 'Oh yeah, big troublemaker. Loves to fight. In fact, he's been in Sidewinders a couple times already, fighting.' I had never been to Green Bay. He says, 'The guy's name is Trish.' I have no idea where he came up with Trish. … Bus never told the guy who we were. I wonder today if that guy knows this is Trish.
On former Press-Gazette reporter/Packers PR director Lee Remmel:
I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about one of my all-time Packer favorites and that's Lee Remmel. I know the Packers and I know the coaches knows and the administration knows who Lee Remmel is. I'm sure a lot of other people know who he is. We had a chance to know him at a different level. Of course we lost him this past year. One thing Lee and I couldn't be more polar opposites. He was smart. I was not. He knew a lot of words. I look out and I see coaches giggling and laughing, they know about Lee. That's where I really learned about – Lee had a tendency to use middle names. Even if you didn't have a middle name, he'd give you one like Edgar Lee Bennett III. … He was just a character. I hated that we lost him. He was a walking Packer encyclopedia. There was nothing he didn't know. He got his start in the Curly Lambeau days. We were fortunate to spend time with him. He'll be dearly missed. I'm keeping the memory alive. He was a lot of fun.
His initial thank yous:
There's a lot of people who are important and I would not be here if not for them, including God. My faith has gotten stronger as I've gotten older. Sort of jokingly telling this story, talking about when I got up here and how I was going to say it. When I was younger, much like anyone else, when I prayed I was like God can you find it in your heart to let us beat the Bears this week. Of course, the guy on the other side was like if we could beat the Packers this week. Of course, those prayers were not answered. As time went by and I got older, the prayers changed and my thought process changed. The latter part of my career and until this day – was more about what God can do for me rather than what I can do for God. Slowly but surely that's changing. There's a word that I've learned and that's humility. As I've listened to all this tonight, I have to admit it's kind of a Brett Favre overkill, but I'm honored by it. I'm truly honored by it. Don't get me wrong, but this is a celebration that is the fans, coaches and I look out there and I see so many familiar faces. It brings back so many great memories.
Favre begins to cry…
I said I wasn't going to do that, but what the hell, you know? Sorry Breleigh. Anyway I want to thank my family and as you could imagine there's a fair amount here. … Bus is my agent, but he's really family. He'll get emotional, too, if I get emotional. I'm trying to stay focus so I don't get emotional. I love him. He's the best. I'm not selling him as an agent, although he's a damn good one. But he's an even better man. My mom, I don't even know where to begin. Talk about the support and she claims that's where I got my right arm from. Maybe so, but it goes without saying how supportive my mom has been. She's always been there. I love her dearly. My sister Brandi, my brother Scott, my younger brother Jeff, actually his son is playing in a US Olympic football. They won the gold medal. My nephew Dylan, so he couldn't make it. I thank you all for coming. I love you.
On his daughters:
I want to brag on both of them for just a second. Our oldest daughter Brittany is 26. She's married. She has two sons, two wonderful grandsons who I was hoping would be here tonight but we'd all be distracted by the running around here that would be taking place. I'm so proud of her and love my grandsons dearly. I love my son-in-law Alex even though he's from Manchester, England. He knows absolutely nothing about American football and for that I love him. Brittany recently graduated law school and takes the bar in two weeks, which she'll pass very easily even though she's going to say I put her on the spot. It's time for you to move out, honey. I'm joking. She's extremely beautiful. Her younger sister, Breleigh. She just turned 16. She's going to kill me for bringing her up and talking about her because she's so shy and timid. But I'm so proud of her and like her older sister she's absolutely beautiful. She's funny, she's smart. She's actually a pretty good doggone volleyball player. I'm so absolutely thankful they take after their mother in their looks and their brains.
On his wife:
My wife, Deanna, who I have to think about this. I wanted to say 45, I believe she's 46, but to me that's beside the point because – what? Neither – she's absolutely beautiful. You have to keep in mind we started dating. We actually knew each other when I was in the first grade, she was in the second grade. I thought she was beautiful then mostly because she and I threw the baseball and the football together. She was a good athlete. There was one year for birthday or Christmas I bought her a catcher's mitt and mask so she could actually catch for me and she did a fine job. She is absolutely beautiful. She is the rock. She is the glue that holds us together. She has been tremendous. She's handled herself with tremendous class – especially when she battled breast cancer, and she was able to help so many people in her tough times. Of course, I'm extremely proud of her and I'm so thankful those three have been so supportive of me and been there for me.
On his return to Green Bay:
I'm so thankful my family as well as other friends who have come up here have had a chance to experience this. Yes, I've been away from Green Bay for quite a while. Quite frankly, a lot of the people that I'm close to have sort of forgotten maybe the body of work that has taken place over the years simply because of what's happened in the departure when I left. Of course, that is all forgotten. Today has been such a special day. I'm so thankful more than anything.
On the organization:
I want to thank some important people – coaches and administration. I want to thank Bob Harlan. I want to thank Mark (Murphy). I want to thank the Hall of Fame committee for having me here and getting the ball rolling. I want to thank Ron Wolf. He will never take any credit. That's the type of man Ron is, but the reason this building looks the way it does, the reason we're in here in this awesome setting. The reason that the Packers have been to the playoffs 17 of many 20-some odd years is because of Ron Wolf. I can assure you. Ron and I talk probably once a month. He always checks in on me. He always finds somewhere in the conversation to say because of me he's got this or he's got that, and I beg to differ. He had to pull the trigger on some unbelievable trades, free-agent moves, coaching changes, whatever. Now, it doesn't seem that crazy but when he traded for me – I thought I was pretty good – but I had no idea. I didn't understand the magnitude of what he was doing. I do now. That was putting your job in jeopardy. But the most important move he made was getting Mike Holmgren, who then put the pieces in place for a coaching staff. When you talk about coaching trees, you have to mention Mike Holmgren and the roots that come from that tree. Steve Mariucci, Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg, Dick Jauron, Ray Rhodes, the list goes on and one – Jon Gruden. Pretty good tree, pretty good root system. I was blessed in my first few years to have Mooch, we all know Mooch.
On Mariucci and Reid:
I'll never forget when Mooch left I was home in Mississippi and I was still kind of reeling from losing Mooch and Mike calls me, which he never did, and was like Brett we've hired a new quarterbacks coach. I thought OK, it's kind of exciting who is it? He kind of paused, took a deep breath and said Andy Reid. I went oh my god. The guys who know Andy. He was the meetingest coach in the history of the NFL. Mooch, Ty, Brunell, we'd get out of meetings hour and 15 minutes later, he come the tight ends coming out. They were zombies. When he hired Andy, I thought oh my god. I'll never get home. This guy is relentless. He's going to just kill us. Then I thought hey, not to mention he's a former offensive lineman. What does he know about being a quarterbacks coach? Boy was I ever wrong. He was a hell of a football coach. He was tough. He was fair. He was funny. He was ingenious in so many ways. He was simple. He never played quarterback, but boy he was a heck of a coach. Much like Mooch, he took a lot of the heat for me. There's been video of Mike chewing his butt, asking him why I did something wrong. Of course, Andy would say, 'That was me coach.' You see me in the background kind of smirking. Thank you Andy. Thank you Mooch.
On Packers coach Mike McCarthy:
Much like Mooch, next thing I know Andy is gone. Then, I get Marty. … Then marty was gone. Then I get some guy called Mike McCarthy, who was damn good. Mike and I, unfortunately we only got a year to work together. I remember one of the things Mike told me when he was let go that year, he stopped at our house over on Gothic Court and he said, 'I'm going to be a head coach someday.' I thought, 'OK, maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. A lot of guys say that.' Well guess who the coach is for the Green Bay Packers? Mike McCarthy. When he became the head coach, it was a long time later. I was a little bit older. We butted heads from time-to-time, but that's Mike McCarthy. He's an unbelievable competitor. It's going to be interesting to see how he goes without calling plays, Mike. It'll be interesting to see that because you've done a pretty darn good job of calling plays. I was fortunate enough to work with him when he was my quarterback coach and as my head coach. He's done a wonderful job here.
On former offensive coordinator Tom Rossley:
Tom is living down in Austin, Texas. He and I made a pact to each other that when we both got fired, we would open a bait shop together. Am I right Tom? He hasn't called me. He went off on business on his own. I know Bev was on that staff. Tom Rossley is one of the best. He's as easy going of a guy as you'll ever be around. We were pretty prolific on offense. He liked to run the ball a little too much, but we had a guy by the name of Ahman Green who was pretty doggone good. It made my job a lot easier.
On Darrell Bevell:
Darrell and I go way back. He's a good friend of mine. We go way back to when he was a quarterback at the University of Wisconsin and he and I took a picture that was on the cover of what was it? Wisconsin Sports or something. We both had bad mullets and we both were backed up to each other. They talked about the quarterback at Green Bay and the quarterback at Wisconsin. Darrell had a tremendous career at the University of Wisconsin and quite frankly he's had a damn good career as a coach in this league, and will be a head coach very soon as well. I had a chance to work with him at several places and am honored by that.
On Mike Sherman and the delayed preseason game against Tennessee:
A lot like Mike Holmgren, an excellent football coach. Was our tight end coach at first and Chewy and K-Jack and some of those guys used to give Mike all kinds of grief. It turns out he becomes the head coach and was a heck of a head coach. I really loved working with Mike. He and I really hit it off well except for two occasions. One in particular, Darrell was my quarterbacks coach and Tom was my offensive coordinator and Mike is the head coach and we play a preseason game here against the Tennessee Titans, and Mike's biggest mistake was saying Brett I'm not going to let you dress. I wanted to play. Don't get me wrong. I wanted to play in this preseason game. You can just go in street clothes. One of the first times that ever happened. It was the last preseason game, so right after the game Deanna and I, I think Brittany and Breleigh was with us, and we were flying home to Mississippi. We were looking forward to it. It was a Thursday night game and in comes a gully washer. We go into the locker room. I'm sitting there like oh man, this is ridiculous. I have to go home. So we wait and we wait and we wait. At about 12 o'clock. I tell Deanna let's fly home. Let's just go. She says, 'what about the game? I say, they're not going to play the game. They're going to cancel it. She says OK, you're going to get in trouble. I said they're not playing the game. We get home, sound asleep. The next morning I get up and I'm talking to Scott my brother and he's like the Packers won last night. I said they didn't play. He said they finished the game at three in the morning. I said Oh boy, that's not good. So I checked my voicemail and Darrell is a nice Mormon kid, but he said some foul language on my voice mail. When I got back, Mike Sherman he said some nice things to me too. But that's a long line of stories not only with that group, but I could go on and on.
Mike Holmgren said it best earlier that you could spend two weeks telling stories and realize you haven't even gotten started. That's so true. To me, that's what it's all about. It's not a play that I did fantastic or whatever. It's those stories that we've had together. It's all because of these guys.
On his favorite Andy Reid story:
I promised Andy I'd tell this story – it's one of my all-time favorites. When Andy became the quarterbacks coach, Mike first of all made him wear – this is back when we had the signal. This was pre-talking in the helmets. Andy was signaling to me. Mike makes him wear a yellow shirt, I mean an ugly yellow shirt. Andy says look I have this big yellow shirt on and I said why? Mike thinks you can't see me. I say I can see you find Andy. Perfectly clear. Well, this guy hadn't worked for the Packers for how many years. He's the cord guy – he carries the cord back and forth, kind of a heavy set guy. I didn't know his name. Andy didn't know his name but he worked for the Packers forever. So we're on the sidelines and coaches are walking back and forth. They're pulling the cord and they get caught. Now they're cordless so it's a lot easier. So Andy gets this cord caught and he looks back and it's this heavy set guy who's standing on this cord. Andy says to him, 'Hey, get off the cord you fat (expletive).' This is one of our guys now. He looks at Andy and says, 'Who are you calling the fat (expletive)?' True story, huh, Andy? That was awesome.
On enjoying the moment:
I know I've mentioned a lot of names and I know Larry (McCarren) has mentioned a lot of the players' names. Not to beat a dead horse as Mooch likes to say – one of his great coaching points – I do want to say thank you to all you guys. I see tons that I played with. Know I'm up here but it's you. It's us. I'd get every one of you up here and have you all talk if I could. I had a blast playing with you. We have a lot of fun as Frank so eloquently said. We have some great memories. We won a lot of great games. We cried together. We laughed together. It was simply amazing and it goes by like that. That's something I try to tell my daughters and nephews and anyone else who'll listen. Enjoy the moment. When Mike got up here and said 23 years ago, my chin hit the floor. Twenty-three years ago. Are you kidding me?
I am so thankful I had an opportunity to play here. I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to have so much success. To play with so many wonderful guys. And to be a part of a coaching staff that was second to none. I'm just so thankful I had the opportunity to experience that with all of you. And that you allowed me and my family to be a part of it.
I say thank you.
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