Brett Favre’s place in football history had already been established in December 2003. By then, he had become an unexpected star of college football and played in the NFL for more than a decade.
He had a streak of consecutive starts for the Green Bay Packers of more than 200 games and had helped his team win the Super Bowl.
When his father died suddenly a few days before Christmas in 2003, some thought Favre’s football statistics would suffer. many assumed that she would need time off to cry.
but favre turned tragedy into triumph.
Just one day after the abrupt passing of his beloved father, Favre took the field and delivered one of the best performances of his storied career.
Amid the devastation, Favre honored his father the best way he knew how: by playing football.
grow as a favorite
Brett Lorenzo Favre was born to Bonita and Irvin Favre at the height of the football season: October 10, 1969. Irv and Bonita were schoolteachers in Gulfport, Mississippi, where Favre and his three brothers grew up hunting and fishing.
However, his main hobbies were playing soccer and baseball. in fact, his lives revolved around the practice of those sports.
the favre family lived in a rural area, so there weren’t many other kids around. this was not a neighborhood for ball games or walking to a friend’s house.
As a result, the favre boys mostly played with each other, often engaging in their favorite sports and other rough-and-tumble activities. that helped form a tight-knit, yet competitive family bond.
favorites and sports
At first, Favre excelled more in baseball than in football. the high school team recruited him in the eighth grade to play on the varsity team, where he spent five years. Though he led his team in hitting throughout his high school career, his arm took center stage. His older brother, Scott, considered him second best on the team when he was in eighth grade.
As he continued to grow, his height and shoulders also set him up for success in soccer.
irv favre coached his sons in football as the varsity head coach at the local high school, hancock north central high. irv pushed brett, like her other children, to the position of quarterback , for which he received serious criticism.
his reasoning was in keeping with his belief in his children; he knew they would always show up to practice and work. that was the expectation in the favre house: you do your part, in sports and otherwise.
When Favre wasn’t receiving plays under center, he excelled as a strong safety or inside linebacker. Favre was known for his physicality and athleticism, as well as the toughness he inherited from his father. even so, his father pushed him to be a quarterback to provide consistency to the team.
however, the quarterback position at hancock was not coveted. IRV’s offense relied heavily on the running game and scouts never saw Favre’s arm. After returning from a football coaching clinic hosted by Alabama coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant, IRV exclusively ran the ball and only threw it when his offense needed it.
and even if scouts saw one of the few favre passes in a game, they may not have been very impressed with his accuracy. Those around him, including older brother Scott, always viewed Brett as a better baseball player than quarterback; scott was the best qb in the family.
rocky gaudin, who trained him from a young age through high school along with irv, found that brett had trouble with accuracy. Even with the team’s limited number of passes, his performance could be unpredictable.
His leadership skills, work ethic and competitiveness, on the other hand, were unmatched. For Rocky Gaudin, he set it apart. Irv thought so too, though he never told his son.
One day after a bad game, Favre heard the coaching staff speak, expressing skepticism of him as the starting quarterback. irv argued that he believed his child would recover and be redeemed, because that was central to brett’s identity.
His father never shared emotions or told his children that he was proud. he simply pushed them to improve, expecting nothing less than perfection.
and because of this, favre strove to be better, always.
During his junior and senior years of high school, Favre struggled to get a scholarship to play college football. IRV’s style of play, however, didn’t exactly fit that goal considering Hancock’s North Central Falcons only bowled the ball five times per game.
nevertheless, irv pressured his alma mater, the university of southern mississippi (where he had excelled in baseball), to take a look at his son. After a couple of games and fewer than 15 observed pass attempts, USM told IRV that a quarterback scholarship was not possible for Favre.
favre was offered a scholarship to defensive back, which favre quickly accepted. it was his only scholarship offer.
from the bench to the starting point
Favre’s college years started off rocky.
ranked seventh on the quarterback depth chart, favre fought an uphill battle. he received no playing time in the season opener against alabama and expected to be redshirted. His roommate, Chris Ryals, felt the same way.
the night before the game against tulane, favre and ryals stayed up late drinking and sharing the problems of not getting playing time in the game they loved. together they finished 36 beers.
The next morning, both students were hungover and a young favre was vomiting on the sidelines. Favre could have been miserable, but the coaches believed in his ability to perform and burned his red jersey.
early in the third quarter, coach jim carmody switched an ailing young favorite into the game. The crowd, recognizing Favre, roared for the local phenomenon to the bewilderment of fellow seniors. they had seen him pitch in practice, but confusion arose as to why this hungover young kid was causing such a ruckus.
It didn’t take long for all of his father’s training to come back and the confusion to dissipate.
led the team to a victory from behind to win 31-24.
After that game, there was no ambiguity about who filled the starting quarterback position: Favre was in charge. From then on, Favre led the USM Golden Eagles to success.
last year and continuing success
After Favre took the reins in 1987, the USM soccer program underwent some personnel changes.
In the first year after the transition from Coach Jim Carmody to Coach Curley Hallman, the Golden Eagles achieved success, winning the Independence Tournament against the University of Texas at El Paso with a final record of 10-2.
the following year, however, it ended with favre and usm 5-6. Despite the losing season, he maintained similar statistics to the previous year, registering more than 10 touchdowns and passing for more than 2,200 yards.
favre intended to get better for his senior year, but weeks before returning to campus, he was injured in a serious car accident. the damage required multiple surgeries and involved a severe concussion, broken vertebrae, and severe internal damage.
a month later, favre showed the toughness his father had instilled in him and defeated alabama in his first match back. the coaches considered favoring the redshirt, allowing him to keep a year of eligibility, but he wouldn’t allow himself to be talked about. he wanted to play.
Unfortunately, his season ultimately didn’t turn out as planned, as he only accounted for a portion of the previous season’s milestones. however, the team performed well, going 8–3 and losing by a collective eight points during the regular season.
Although the team lost in the all-american bowl to north carolina state university, favre still won the mvp award. Favre then had the honor of playing in the Senior Bowl, the East-West Sanctuary Game, in which he also received MVP honors.
at the time, irv and bonita were still emphasizing the importance of earning a degree. They didn’t want Favre to make all the bets on her future in a possible sports career.
After going from defenseman to quarterback, recovering from a serious car accident, receiving MVP awards, and setting several school records, Favre did what his parents wanted and graduated with a teaching degree, just like him. how irv and pretty.
At the same time, however, Favre had managed to turn a defensive back scholarship into a starring role at quarterback. By breaking school records and preparing to be drafted in the 1991 pro football draft, he seized the opportunity and seized it.
become a professional
in the 1991 nfl draft, the atlanta falcons selected favre with the 33rd pick.
favre started third on the depth chart behind chris miller and billy joe tolliver. On his first two pass attempts, Favre threw two interceptions.
Reasonably, the Falcons front office and coaching staff weren’t enamored with him. Falcons coach Jerry Glanville expressed his displeasure with drafting Ken Herock Favre in the second round by not playing him unless they had “two plane crashes and four quarterbacks down.”
glanville later defended his treatment of favre, alluding to the fact that favre’s excessive drinking made it necessary to trade him from the team. With the newfound freedom and lack of supervision due to his position on the depth chart, Favre had been making the most of his time in a big city.
the falcons arranged a trade in the offseason: a first-round pick for favor. Ron Wolf, in his first year transitioning from the New York Jets, helped the Packers steal.
starting with the green bay packers
For favre, the Packers were a completely different experience from his time with the Falcons.
Don Majkowski started the first two games, with Favre earning the opportunity under center for the second half of a blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. his first pass attempt was a completion, to himself. over the course of the half, he threw for 75 yards and an interception.
During the third game of the season, a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Majkowski was injured with a sprained ankle and Favre ran to Lambeau’s field in his place.
favre fumbled four times in that outing and was booed by the fans. he also threw 22-of-39 completions for 289 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 13 seconds left on the clock. his last long drive to win the game with just over a minute to go cemented his place in the starting lineup.
The Packer’s 1992 season ended with a 9-7 record, barely missing a playoff spot due to their NFC North rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. The following season, the Packers repeated their humble success, receiving a wild card from birth and notching a playoff victory against the Detroit Lions. During these two years, Favre threw 37 interceptions to go along with his 37 touchdowns, but he was still selected for the Pro Bowl.
Favre’s toughness and self-confidence shone through in his style of play. he could take hits and still get up, ready to start the next play. team doctors would help keep him moving; all he wanted to do was keep playing.
In 1994, Favre cleaned up his passes and beefed up his accuracy, throwing for 33 touchdowns and 14 interceptions as the Packers once again went 9-7.
packers fans know the period from 1995 to 1998 as the golden years for favre. He led the team to win their division three times in a row, culminating in two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl ring. He was voted NFL MVP three times in a row, the first and only time to do so in NFL history.
In the midst of this success, Favre addressed his addiction to prescription pills. In February 1996, less than a month after leading the Packers to the NFC Championship Game, Favre voluntarily entered the league’s drug abuse recovery program. the year after he came back from rehab, he led the packers to win the super bowl.
During these three seasons and despite his drug abuse challenges, he amassed 112 touchdowns, 12,179 passing yards and just 42 interceptions, averaging over 37 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions per season.
In response to his son’s incredible series of seasons, irv wrote a moving article about his pride and belief in favre. he expressed his joy at seeing his son succeed in the world of soccer.
The Packers’ 1998 season ended a streak of six playoff appearances. Coach Mike Holmgren, who started with the Packers the same year as Favre, moved on to the Seattle Seahawks.
In the years of transition from one coach to another, the Packers fell from the level of success they previously experienced. the team did not return to the playoffs until the 2001 season and never got past the divisional round.
At this point in Favre’s career, he had already established himself as a Hall of Fame quarterback.
At the start of the 2003 season, he had amassed 11 winning seasons in his 12 years as a starter. Favre was the epitome of toughness, making more than 200 consecutive starts, never missing a single game due to injury or illness.
That streak was called into question in late December 2003.
irv passed away
On Sunday, December 21, 2003, Irvin Favre died of a heart attack while driving near Favre’s hometown of Kiln, Mississippi.
favre received a call from his wife deanna while driving in san francisco with teammate doug pederson. The Packers had already arrived in the Bay Area preparing for Monday night’s football game against the Oakland Raiders.
Deanna reported the news of her father’s passing to Favre and flew to be with him early the next morning.
The news spread quickly within the packers’ organization. the teammates chose not to bring up the subject out of respect for favre, but tried to be there for him when he called them.
tight end donald driver spoke with favre for about an hour. kabeer gbaja-biamila, who had lost his mother the year before, also helped favre process the news through his own emotions entering the game.
favre had to make a decision.
Would he continue his streak of consecutive starts or would he take the time to mourn his father?
the decision to play
To face such a difficult decision so quickly after experiencing a loss, the average person would have closed down and backed out of the starting position. indeed, that would be expected based on the wealth of psychological research on trauma and loss.
favre, however, had another idea.
He struggled with the idea of competing the next day, but only for a short time. Within minutes, she felt strongly that the right thing to do was play.
favre reflected on his father and his childhood, realizing that football brought his family together. he thought his father would have wanted him to play.
Favre told his teammates that he had no intention of leaving his football family that night. While a member of his biological family had passed away, his football family surrounded him and cheered him on, supporting him in his decision to play.
favre’s historical game
On December 22, 2003, Favre ran onto the field at the Oakland Coliseum for his 205th consecutive game. Normally, Favre would arrive early to get extra pitching reps before each game, but this time, he left the locker room shortly before kickoff.
The entire stadium felt the electricity in the air and knew what this game meant to him and the Packers program. beyond the emotional importance, the game also had playoff implications. the Packers had to win to have a chance of receiving a playoff berth.
A usually raucous Oakland crowd cheered Favre as he was introduced as headline, holding signs showing their solidarity and sympathy.
john madden and al michaels called the game for the monday night football telecast. Before the game, the announcers discussed the uniquely difficult position Favre found himself in. they marveled at his determination to play and wondered how he would handle the pressure.
for a game where it would be completely understandable to fight on the field, favre did it hard.
In the first half alone, Favre threw for 311 yards and completed four touchdown passes.
His first nine possessions were completed for 184 yards, connecting with Wesley Walls and Javon Walker for touchdowns. his tenth was an intentional offside pass. His next three attempts were completed, including another touchdown pass to Walker.
favre finished the second quarter with another touchdown, bringing the halftime score to 31-7.
Referees look back on that game as if the stars had somehow aligned to complete pass after pass. The ball seemed to keep finding its way to the receivers: Almost all of Favre’s passes, regardless of coverage, were caught. to the match officials, it looked like he couldn’t make a mistake.
even the raiders players didn’t play his normally outrageous style. they pressured favre, but his physical resulted in minor penalties compared to his status quo.
Part of the reason for the exemplary performance could be the relaxed defense. perhaps another contributing factor is the rest of the team playing with a little more spark than usual. After all, his teammate and friend Donald Driver had encouraged the receiving core to catch every ball thrown in his direction.
but favre, after the game, thought it might be something else: “i know i was watching tonight”.
“I knew my father would want me to play. I know he was looking at me.”
a day after his father died, brett favre went on mnf and threw for 399 yards and 4 touchdowns 💚
(via @nflthrowback) pic.twitter.com/ahk5mdze6n
– sports illustrated (@sinow) June 21, 2020
One night after his father’s death, Favre put on a performance for the story. his last stat line read 22 completions of 30 pass attempts for 399 yards and four touchdowns, with a passer rating of 154.9.
thanks to this game, favre continued his streak of most consecutive starts and at the same time reinforced his position in nfl history in terms of touchdown passes.
After the game, Favre told reporters that he felt his father would have wanted him to compete that night.
Football had been such a big part of their relationship, from his dad cheering him on as a kid, to coaching him in high school, to cheering him on in college and in the NFL. the game was an integral part of his family bond, so he played it in honor of his father.
favre and his wife deanna hugged each other in the field and headed off to board a flight back to mississippi. others around her watched in amazement and gratitude for the performance, which some might call the best of her career, after an event that everyone would call a horrific tragedy. His teammates, especially, marveled at what he had just accomplished and were inspired by his performance.
irv favre’s influence extended far beyond those he trained or spoke to. His toughness, character, perseverance and legend lived on through his children, especially Brett. Favre passed on that success and love for the game that his dad was proud of.
Those at home felt a similar impact.
Future star and Wisconsin native J.J. watt watched as a child. He recalls what he referred to as a “magical” performance by Favre and the Packers.
the nfl also felt it was magic as they ranked this game as the 52nd best game of all time.
life after irv’s death
In the years that followed, the tragedy continued. Ten months after IRV’s death, Brett’s brother-in-law passed away after an ATV accident on Favre’s property. Soon, doctors diagnosed his wife, Deanna, with breast cancer. And later, friend and teammate Reggie White died suddenly.
with all these struggles, favre continued to do well in the nfl, though not at previous levels, and the packers weren’t much in playoff contention in subsequent years. Management recruited Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and switched to Favre soon after.
However, after a brief stint with the New York Jets, Favre found success with the Minnesota Vikings for a few years before retiring at the age of 41 after his 20th season.
before his passing, irv had shared with deanna how excited he was that brett was elected to the hall of fame. He told her that she couldn’t wait to see him and that what she was most excited about was introducing him to her son.
deanna shared this memory with brett on the plane on the way home from irv’s funeral. From then on, Brett wanted this to happen to honor his late father.
In 2016, Favre was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first vote in which he was eligible.
Now, Favre honors his father’s memory by coaching at a high school in his town. Although his approaches may vary slightly, and the younger favre may choose to throw the ball more, the favre’s toughness, resilience, and heart continue to be transmitted through the younger favre’s team.
Although the favre men did not argue much or share many statements with each other, they did share the common language of sports.
By performing the performance he did on December 22, 2003, Favre was able to honor his father by playing soccer, the game they both loved.
- raised in sand: favre was toughened up by brothers, dad
- life of the party: favre quickly became popular in college
- sports reference: brett favre
- 1990 southern mississippi golden eagles schedule and results
- Reckless Rookie: Inside Brett Favre’s Bizarre Season With The Misfits Atlanta Falcons
- Glanville’s revealing explanation of the exchange of favors
- Cincinnati Bengals vs. Green Bay Packers – September 20, 1992
- 1993 green bay packers stats & players
- pro soccer reference: brett favre
- best nfl game ever played by brett favre
- favre’s first half: 4 TDs, 311 yards
- brett favre’s greatest game: an oral history
- dad game mnf de favre – dec. February 22, 2003
- green bay packers at oakland raiders – december 22, 2003
- week 16: favre’s legendary mnf game after his father passed away