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By CHRIS HAVEL
Among Brett Favre’s greatest passions are family, football and fun. It’s been that way forever. Or should I say 4 ever?
One of the NFL’s truly legendary players will see all three woven together in the course of his July 18 induction into the Packer Hall of Fame. Expect the event to be every bit as thrilling and emotional as the man himself.
Concern regarding negative reaction among some fans is understandable but unnecessary. Favre’s exit was difficult and divisive for some fans, but any lingering negativity will be washed away by all the great memories No. 4 gave his fans.
I smile when young Packers fans marvel at Aaron Rodgers’ creativity, play-making ability and talent.
“Aaron’s amazing,” they will gush. That is true. In fact, Rodgers may be the greatest Packers quarterback of all time, with all due respect to the legends named Bart Starr and Brett Favre.
However, I believe the younger generation of Packers fans can’t truly appreciate how special Favre was back in the day.
Whenever anyone asks me where Favre ranks among the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks I tell them, “I think Favre ranks at or near the top on the list of greatest PLAYERS of all time.”
Favre was a terrific quarterback, but he was more than that. He was a football PLAYER in the best sense.
Tougher than a $2 steak and as competitive as they come, Favre’s presence elevated his teammates. That was true on game day, but it was also true during the work week.
I recall many blustery, overcast late-autumn afternoons when Favre would summon the strength to put aside his injuries and practice with a zest and verve that made it enjoyable at best, and endurable at least.
He didn’t just bring it on Sundays. He brought it all the time.
He always believed that practice was important, and that it was part of the quarterback’s job description to push his teammates through it. He could make them laugh when days were long, and he could impose his will to get teammates to focus and get their work in even on days when they didn’t feel like it.
Favre’s theory was simple. Since they had to be at practice anyway, he and his teammates should try to make the best of it, even when they were sore and the season was getting long.
That’s leadership. That’s what great football players do.
Gilbert Brown, the Packer Hall of Fame defensive tackle, relayed a story that was telling regarding Favre.
The Packers’ indestructible quarterback had incurred a significant ankle injury in the previous game. On the next Sunday, perhaps three hours before kickoff, Brown was among the first into the locker room.
Favre already had been in to get his ankle treated. He was seated at his locker staring down at his yet-to-be-taped ankle.
“It was black, purple and swollen,” Brown said. “It was nasty.”
As Brown walked by, he said, “You gonna be OK?”
Favre nodded in the affirmative as if to say, “No worries.”
Then, he proceeded to throw five touchdown passes against the Chicago Bears in a resounding victory. It was another page in a legendary career.
Most quarterbacks and plenty of players would’ve taken the week off. Not the Lou Gehrig of NFL quarterbacks.
He played and he was sensational.
In light of the upcoming events, I went back and watched video of Favre. In his prime, he had exceptional mobility which led to big plays. He could thread the needle with laser-like passes, and he may have been the first player to reach out with the football and touch the pylon while diving near the goal line. He also introduced everyone to the underhanded quick toss just as he was about to be sacked.
He was a virtuoso with a flair for the dramatic. He was one-of-a-kind. When I think about where Favre stands among the NFL’s all-time greats, I don’t think in terms of quarterbacks.
I think of everyone from Starr and Nitschke to Rodgers and Woodson. I think of men who epitomized what it is to be a football player, and to be among the greatest to ever play.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.