The man who contemplated retirement on an annual basis — and actually went through with it a few times, only to change his mind and come back for more — has found peace and happiness now that he’s finally embraced it.
And not even the roar of 67,000 adoring fans welcoming him to home to Lambeau Field in July for his induction into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, or slinging passes to his old teammates during a charity flag-football game the next day, will change his mind.
“I don’t believe I’ll be making a comeback,” Brett Favre said with a laugh after throwing two touchdown passes and an interception to his fellow “has beens” (his words). “My feet are killing me.”
Favre, 45, played 20 NFL seasons, including 16 with the Packers and two with the rival Minnesota Vikings, a move that infuriated many of his fans at the time but is now all but forgotten by most. We caught up with the legendary QB to ask him about his record-breaking career and life after the game with wife Deanna, daughters Breleigh and Brittany and grandsons Parker and A.J.
What’s your life like nowadays?
I would say fairly normal. One of the things Reggie White told me after he retired was, (doing his best imitation of White’s deep baritone) “I’m telling you, the one thing you’re going to miss is NOT football.” And I thought, “He’s crazy.” And I haven’t missed football. I’ve missed [coach] Mike [Holmgren] chewing my butt, rooming with [best friend] Frank [Winters], bus rides. And that’s what I miss. I don’t miss 3rd-and-15 in the Metrodome and we haven’t won a game there in eight years. I don’t miss that. I miss the camaraderie with the guys. I miss the things that Reggie told me I would miss and he’s right. It’s less about the game and more about the people.
You have two grandsons. You once said that if you had a son, you wouldn’t let him play football. Do you still feel that way?
I still kind of feel that way. Now, my two grandsons, one’s five, one’s a year, and what they’ll do, I don’t know. Brittany’s husband is a soccer guy — he’s actually from England — so they may play soccer, they may play football, I don’t know. But there is this, I don’t know what you’d call it — anxiety, knowing what football can do. Now, in saying that, I had a wonderful career. Did I get my share of hits and bumps and bruises? Of course. What are the long-term effects? Time will tell. I don’t know. I don’t think the cumulative of playing 20 years of football, plus in college, that’s 24, plus high school, has a positive effect on you. I would be nervous, for obvious reasons. It’s a violent game.
You were fearless as a player, but it doesn’t sound like you’re that way with the boys.
[My brothers] and I, we were into everything. If Mom and Dad turned their backs, were we out in the street, we were doing who knows what. And how they got through that, I have no idea. Because now as a parent and as a grandpa, every little move and every little detail, I want to be watching and observing and making sure they don’t get hurt or whatever. I would have never thought that I would be that way. But I’m totally the opposite of what I thought I’d be. I do have anxiety. You’d think I’d be, “Hey, throw ‘em out there. Let ‘em go. They’ve got to be kids.” I understand that, but you also know [the dangers].
How does it feel to have reconnected with the Packers and their fans after how ugly things got in the summer of 2008?
I feel much better now because things are in a much better place and I — like most people, probably — questioned if we would ever get to that point. And not only have we gotten to that point, but we’ve gotten there times 100. I remember leaving the stadium and going home [before being traded to the New York Jets in August 2008], and it was like leaving family, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see them, or if we’ll ever be as close as we have been. I remember thinking as I left, just me, just thinking in the car, “How did it ever get to this? I cannot believe we’re at this point, after 16 great years, wonderful years.”
How then did it feel to have 67,000 fans cheering you upon your return to Lambeau Field?
The emotions were far greater than what I thought they were going to be. And that’s a tribute to the fans. It really is. Amazing. I feel like I’m back home. I can’t stress to you how overwhelming it was, not only for me but for my family. What a great feeling.
If the Falcons hadn’t traded you to Green Bay, do you think you would’ve had the career you did?
Let me say this: I’m glad we don’t have to find out. Had I stayed in Atlanta, I don’t see much upside there. I felt stuck. [Falcons coach] Jerry [Glanville] didn’t like me. I had gotten lost in the shuffle. No one really, I walked past players and no one even knew who I was. And I just don’t know if time would have allowed for that to happen. And then you fall through the cracks — it happens all the time. But the great thing about Atlanta is it got me to Green Bay. And the rest is history. It was a perfect fit. It just all fell into place. I think I related to the fans there more than I would have anywhere else. It could not have happened any better.
Is it tougher for young professional athletes today than when you played?
There’s no doubt today it is tougher. You can criticize your coaches on Twitter, your teammates on Facebook, and things like that and it’s instantaneous. The old-timey coaches are like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” We’re all human. We all make mistakes. But as athletes, celebrities, it’s more visible. You live and learn. I’m thankful that I survived the early stages of my career. I haven’t had a drink since ’98, and I’m very thankful for that. I survived drug addiction and seizures and so forth. God was looking out for me, even though I was not looking out for myself. And a lot of the things that I’ve done, I obviously regret, but it’s about moving on and becoming a better person. I have a long ways to go, never will be perfect, but I do strive to be that person.
How do you view your career?
I had dreams and aspirations. All I thought about was playing pro football and pro baseball as a kid. Now, probably most kids think that way. But I’m one of those that can say, ‘My dreams came true.’ But then, also, say they were surpassed. When things went bad [in Green Bay] … it was unfortunate. It hurt me, it hurt the Packers fans, it hurt the Packer organization emotionally. But I knew what I had done spoke for itself. And it’s kind of like looking in a mirror and liking what you see. We all have flaws, we’ve all made bad decisions, we’ve all made mistakes that we later regret, but just the body of work. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. But I played as hard as I could, I did everything I possibly could. I committed myself to the team, the organization and the fans, and more than anything, if there was anything that bothered me, it was that I didn’t do more. But I do know that I did all I could.
by Jason Wilde