In Sports Illustrated’s fantastic 12-minute documentary covering the lead-up to Brett Favre’sinduction into the Packers Hall of Fame this past July, we saw an emotional side of the retired three-time NFL MVP.
“It’s the way I played; it’s the way my career unfolded,” Favre said. “Did I think it would’ve worked out the way it did? No, I was way off. It’s just been a ‘Life of Pi.’ It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been a good, fun ride. I hope people who watched me play say, ‘You know, I liked the other team, I like Favre, and I got my money’s worth. He gave everything he could possible give and was real.’ Because that’s what I was.”
Perhaps no quote captures Favre’s career better than the one he offered to finish the mini doc. He appeared to be fighting tears multiple times during his interview with SI’s Greg Bishop from his 465-acre ranch in Mississippi, where he’s spent the past five years tending to his property, helping out with the local high school football team and filling his days with more work than he ever anticipated in retirement.
The 12-minute video is a must-watch for NFL fans, but four highlights stood out from the short film.
When Favre knew it was time
After his years pondering retirement led sports news broadcasts for months before each NFL season, Favre described the moment he knew his 20-year NFL career was over. It came on the final play of his second year as Minnesota Vikings quarterback — a takedown by the Bears that left him unconscious.
“It was the first time in my career I was ever completely knocked out. It was like 10-15 seconds. The field was as hard as a stone. I hit myself on the side of the head, and the next thing you know I’m snoring. Eric Sugarman, our trainer — we call him Suge — comes out, and he’s like, ‘Hey, buddy,’ and I said, ‘I was just snoring.’ He goes, ‘All right, c’mon, come with me.’ I got up and saw some Bears guys clapping — Urlacher and a couple of those guys — and I’m like, ‘What are the Bears doing here?’
“I went straight to the shower, grabbed some hot chocolate and a hot dog, and from that point I never missed it. I knew it was time.”
He stil thinks he could play
The spirit of a guy who made 321 straight starts in the NFL and came back for the punishment year after year until he was 41 years old came out when Bishop asked Favre, “Could you play next year?”
“I think I could, as far as throwing. Of course, we’re not trying to start something — ‘He’s coming out of retirement’ — but I say all that because it’s a good thing to ask: Do I think I can play, lead a team? Look, no, but I could play. I could make all the throws I made before; I just couldn’t throw it near as far. That never matters anyway.
“I do go up to the high school and help out occasionally with different kids. I’ll throw with them or something. We’ll work on different stuff. And when I pick up the ball, I’m thinking I’m right back in the Super Bowl. I can throw it 50 yards as well as anyone, but that used to be 80. In my mind, I’m still at 80, and it’s, ‘Brett, just give it up, you’re window is closing. Be good at 30 and be happy with that. You’re not going to be good at 80 anymore.'”
He foresees Peyton Manning‘s retirement
Watching Manning’s season end in a divisional-round loss to his former team, Favre had a familiar feeling.
“I remember right when the season was over and it obviously didn’t end the way he would’ve liked. The last couple years he’s had astronomical numbers, but for him he’s searching something different. It’s tough when you get so close to just (say), ‘OK, whatever.’ I think he said, ‘I’m going to make this a quick decision.’ Well, it kind of lingered on. It’s not quick, and the bottom line is — even when you make it, you wonder if it’s the right one — whether you choose to give it up, whether you choose to come back.
“I think he’s in it for one more shot. When that game was over, I could just see it. I mean, I was in his helmet. I’ve been there. I’ve been right there. Right now, you hate football, because it didn’t end up the way you wanted it to, and you put all this into it — and now what? Now what? And all I can say is, ‘Better him than me.'”
Time heals everything
Even though the Packers had Aaron Rodgers in line as Favre’s successor, the sight of him in a Vikings uniform at Lambeau Field was too much for Packers fans to bear. And Favre understands that now.
“The whole saying ‘time heals everything’ is certainly true. If you had been there when I came out of the tunnel as a Viking playing in Lambeau for the first time, you would’ve thought, ‘We won’t be around when time heals this.’ There was some Hatfields and McCoys type (stuff). I mean, there was some hate that day. Part of me — not liked it, but I was honored.
“When my career was over, I was like, ‘Well, now what?’ At some point, I want people in Green Bay to love me again. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, in spite of what happened, how things unfolded. And I was worried for a while. So, I didn’t think about calling and saying, ‘Look, maybe think about putting me in the Hall of Fame or retire my jersey or something.’ No. But I was honored when they called me.
“I’m not just saying this because I played there. There is no better place to model how it’s supposed to work than Green Bay. It’s just special. It really is.”
Indeed, Favre received a rousing ovation when he returned to Lambeau for the first time since those boos. And, again, watch the doc. Just Favre talking about his dog and grubs on his property is worth it.