Fearless Favre's a gameday gambler
"I was still drinking and I was not the husband, was not the father that I needed to be. And I was getting older, too. And it wasn't as much fun. If I quit drinking, what do I do? I was scared of that. My wife said, 'Either you quit drinking or we're gone. And I said, 'Okay. I'm going to quit,'" says Brett Favre on ESPN Classic SportsCentury series.
Football's most treasured commodities are supposed to treat their bodies like caretakers. Quarterbacks: special treatment for special players.
Need a first down? Favre will run and then dive for it.
Need help for that running back on a busted play? Favre will block for him.
Need a miracle when that 300-pound defensive lineman storms into the backfield, inches from a sack? Favre will underhand the ball to a receiver, or backhand it, or sling it in a way never before imagined.
"If you think you're too good to block for a running back or dive for a first down," he said, "the other guys [teammates] are going to be like, 'To hell with him.' "
Caretaker? Not this playmaker. Favre is the ultimate risk-reward quarterback, a free-spirited gambler who can drive coaches crazy. Three times he's been tops in the NFL in passing yards and four times in touchdown passes, Favre has become one of the league's best passers, the most durable quarterback in history and the leader of the Pack. And he's endured despite drug and alcohol problems.
"I want to be the guy this team leans on in crucial situations," Favre said.
In 2006, he became the NFL's all-time completion leader with 5,021, passing Dan Marino (4,967). He also increased his touchdown pass total to 414, six behind No. 1 Marino. The only player to reach double digits in 3,000-yard passing seasons, Favre has accomplished the feat in all his 15 seasons with the Packers. He also holds the mark of throwing 30 TD passes in a season with eight. Besides Favre, only Marino (four) and Peyton Manning (three) have more than two.
In 1995, his fourth full season, Favre led the NFL in passing yards (4,413), won his first MVP and directed the Packers to the NFC championship game.
Playing through an assortment of injuries, Favre has made 237 consecutive regular-season starts through 2006, a record for quarterbacks and a number that ranks third overall behind Jim Marshall's 270 and Mick Tingelhoff's 240.
"The players love playing for a guy like him," former Packer Paul Hornung said. "He's the consummate leader with the toughness to go with the talent."
Brett Lorenzo Favre was born on Oct. 10, 1969 in Gulfport, Miss., and grew up in nearby Kiln. His father Irv coached Brett in football at Hancock North Central High School, where Favre played quarterback and safety.
He went to Southern Miss, the only major college to offer him a scholarship. Recruited as a defensive back, he took over at quarterback as a freshman in 1987 and went on to set 18 school records.
In July 1990, before his senior season, Favre suffered a concussion, a broken vertebrae and had 30 inches of his intestine removed after crashing his car into a tree. Two months later, he led Southern Miss to an upset of Alabama.
In 42 collegiate games, he threw 52 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions. The Atlanta Falcons drafted him in the second round in 1991.
As an NFL rookie playing behind Chris Miller, Favre spent many nights drinking and few studying his playbook. When he arrived late for the team's photo shoot, he said he had been caught behind a car wreck.
"Boy, you are a car wreck," coach Jerry Glanville said.
Favre threw four passes that season (two incompletions and two interceptions) and the next spring Atlanta traded him to Green Bay for a first-round pick..
In the third game of the 1992 season, he took over for injured Don Majkowski, and trailing 17-3 in the fourth quarter, led the Packers to a 24-23 victory over Cincinnati. Favre never came off the bench again.
Holmgren told his quarterback, "We're joined at the hip. Either we're going to the Super Bowl together or we're going down together."
Favre said the support saved him. He threw 24 touchdown passes and seven interceptions the rest of the season and helped the Packers reach the playoffs a second straight year.
The quarterback became addicted to Vicodin, a painkiller, sometimes getting the pills from teammates and taking as many as 13 at a time. His play in his first MVP season, though, didn't suffer. Passing for 38 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions, he guided the Packers to an 11-5 record in 1995. They reached the NFC final, losing to Dallas.
Favre still took chances, making plays that others couldn't. Packers receiver Anthony Morgan remembered Favre being rushed hard and completing an off-balance throw through three defenders. "In the huddle, I said, 'Brett, how did you do that?' He is breaking up and shaking his head and saying, 'I have no idea.' "
Favre then withstood a difficult and emotional 1996. In January, quarterback coach Steve Mariucci left the Packers to become Cal's head coach. The next month, Favre suffered a frightening seizure while hospitalized after ankle surgery. His longtime girlfriend, Deanna Tynes, and their seven-year-old daughter, Brittany, watched as Favre went into convulsions.
"Mom, is he going to die?" Brittany asked.
Favre recovered but knew he needed to address his problems, and in May, he publicly admitted his addiction before entering a Kansas rehab center.
In July, he married Tynes, who had almost left him during the difficult period of his painkillers addiction.
His family also had rough times that year. That same July, a close friend in Mississippi was killed when a car driven by Favre's brother Scott was hit by a train. Scott was convicted of a felony DUI. In September, his sister, Brandi, went on probation after a drive-by incident in which a passenger in her car shot at a partygoer.
On the field, Favre had another MVP season, passing for an NFC-record 39 touchdowns as Green Bay went 13-3. The Super Bowl was played in New Orleans, close to home for Favre, who shook off the effects of flu that week. He threw two long touchdown passes in the first half, the second a game-record 81-yarder to Antonio Freeman from which New England never recovered. He completed 14-of-27 passes for 246 yards in the 35-21 victory.
In 1998, the Packers were 11-5, with Favre throwing for 4,212 yards with 31 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions. However, they lost to San Francisco in the wild-card game. In 1999, his wife Deanna gave her husband an ultimatum: Quit drinking or she and the two kids were gone. Favre quit.
Happier off the field, Favre was not so successful on it. The next two seasons brought 8-8 and 9-7 records and no playoff trips as the quarterback struggled.
But Favre -- at 32 -- bounced back in 2001 and threw for 3,921 yards and 32 touchdowns with only 15 interceptions as the Packers went 12-4 and returned to the playoffs as a wild-card team.
And Favre has continued to terrorize defenses. In 2002, he threw for 27 touchdowns and 3,658 yards in leading the Packers to the NFC North title with a 12-4 record. In 2003, despite playing most of the season with a broken right thumb, he led the NFL with 32 touchdown passes and guided Green Bay to another division title with a 10-6 record.
In 2004, Favre threw for more than 4,000 yards (4,088) for the fourth time and fired 30 touchdown passes as the Packers won their third straight division title, going 10-6.
Favre endured his first losing season with the Packers in 2005 when the team, beset by key injuries, plummeted to 4-12. While he threw 20 touchdown passes and set career-highs with 607 attempts and 372 completions, he also was intercepted a career-worst 29 times.
While Favre completed a career-low 56 percent of his passes in 2006, he led Green Bay to an 8-8 record, just short of the playoffs. He passed for 3,885 yards with 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.