Sunday Conversation: Brett Favre

Packers QB Brett Favre sat down with ESPN's Suzy Kolber to discuss life, family and dealing with tragedy.

Originally Published: November 24, 2004
Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Packers quarterback Brett Favre will start his 200th consecutive game when the Green Bay Packers play host to the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football (9 ET, ABC). But as the future Hall of Famer approaches this incredible milestone, he's been faced with adversities that include the loss of his father and his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer. Here's the transcript of Favre's discussion on life, football and overcoming the obstacles with ESPN's Suzy Kolber, which aired on Nov. 21.

Suzy Kolber: How have you handled this roller coaster of a season?

Watch ESPN's Suzy Kolber interview Brett Favre about his life off the field.
• Motion: Brett Favre Sunday Conversation ESPN Motion

Brett Favre: I guess like I always do. Just, you never know what the next day is going to bring. That goes for football, goes for off the field, and I gave up a long time ago trying to predict the future and trying to deal with things I couldn't deal with. There is only so much I can do … You know the old saying, when it rains it pours. When it comes, it comes in bunches. It seems that way in my case. But, I think a big part of it is where I play. The town, the team, it's a family. That has helped. For some people who have had to deal with some of the problems I have had to deal with don't have football as an out. Some people look at it, you know … I have been asked the question, "how do you focus on football with everything else going on?" I would think it's much easier. It's a difficult job to do, but that is why we do it. Only so many people can do it. But it, it enables you to … for a brief period of time to kind of get away. You have to go back and deal with, but it's a good escape.

SK: But what is the key, the key to focusing in the face of so much adversity?

BF: You know, even without all the adversity, I think the key is do you really love doing what you do? And, how much does it matter to you? You hear guys sometimes say they'll do anything for the team, "I'm a true team player," or you know "I do everything physically, and mentally to play on Sundays." But I don't know if every guy really means that. In my case, I really do. I love doing what I do. There are some days where you don't feel like practicing, don't feel like doing it, but that's nothing unusual. But when I put a uniform on, when I sit in meetings, when I go out on the field I want to be the best and it really matters. And if it didn't, then I wouldn't be here doing this interview today.

SK: How do explain how you seem to always be at your best when the world around you is at its worst?

Brett Favre
Favre once again has the Packers in contention for a playoff spot.
BF: Well this may sound crazy, I have often thought about that. And uh, I guess a good example would be after I broke my thumb last year. I had a bye week, and was thinking about this is probably my first time to sit out … had a broken thumb, I never thought I could play. On top of that, we're playing at Minnesota which is a Sunday night game and I said I haven't had much success with a good thumb in Minnesota. But I was convinced I could play, I could try. But I am also telling myself, "you must be stupid." This is one time you could actually sit out of this game and people would say, "he's got a broken thumb." But I wanted to try, and I was more focused on the broken thumb and being able to play up to my standards … How will I get around this, I was more focused on that as opposed to who we were playing. The lack of success I have had there, all the stuff that goes with it. I was kind of oblivious to that. Before I knew it, the game was over … the game was drawing to an end … I said, that wasn't too bad. And I think that's kind of been the way I have dealt with bad conditions. Snowing, raining, slippery, everyone else is "how are we going to do this?" I'm kind of thinking more about, this would be kind of neat sliding in the snow.

SK: It's one thing to focus through your injuries, or bad weather. But in the face of losing people who are so close to you, how do you do that?

BF: I wish I had an answer. All the examples I just gave you hold true. I, you know … I don't know. I, most talented players don't always succeed. Some don't even make the team. It's more what's inside. Obviously talent gets you to a certain point, but it's what you do with it, how you handle. So much of a professional athlete's success depends upon not necessarily the play itself but how he deals with … always saying how you deal with good, is just as important as how you deal with bad. As soon as you get success, "Oh I'm there." And I think that you know the way I kind of dealt with all of the adversity. I consider adversity being good sometimes you know. Because after my first year I had a lot of success, took everybody by storm, came back the next year thought it was easy and didn't have near the season I had the previous year. It was kind of a wake-up call. And so, life goes on. And when it hits you directly it makes you realize how precious life is. But we are all human, and I find myself after a week or two you kind of get back into a normal routine, not as down as you once were. And so when I think of it that way … You could be replaced quickly. I love doing what I do, it's a short period in my life I get to do this. And people are going to pat you on the back and say "I'm sorry, I don't know how you do it" … But if you don't produce at some point they are going to replace you and I don't want that to happen until I'm ready to go. So, I'm not going to let … I say I'm not going to let anything stop me. And having a strong family, you know we've lost some members of our family and had some setbacks, but I think a good family and kids all those things I thought at one time … you got to be kidding me … Those things are so important they enable you to go on.

SK: How do you weigh football and family?

BF: Well family is obviously the most important. There was a time when I thought football was the most important. Football will be over at some point, the family goes on. When you lose someone, or when there are setbacks, it kind of puts it in perspective. You can lose a game but, I see guys every week including myself, you lose a game, it's a tough loss, you're down, two weeks later you forgot about it. You know it's amazing how down you were, but all of the sudden you're like it never happened. But when you lose a family member or something tragic happens, that stays with you forever. You never get over it. Knowing that you have to deal with that for the rest of your life … Football is important, but not as important as you once thought it was.

SK: Compare how you spent your time away from the game 10 years ago with how how you spend your time away from it now.

BF: Well, I think back, it's difficult for me to even think back to the way I once was. And, I am often reminded by players on the team. For example Kabeer (Gbaja-Biamila), on Wednesday I guess it was, walked on the practice field. He said I saw some footage of you on NFL Films or something, and you were on some balcony and it looked like you had a beer. And you were doing all these chants … And he said, "I told my wife that wasn't you" … I said, "that probably was me." He said, "I can't imagine you being that way." I said, "I can't either." It's been six years since I have had a drink and I have two girls, and my priorities are a lot different now and I just can't believe I was that guy. And I would not go back, I would not trade the way I am now for anything. I'm not perfect. My wife, she still gives me a hard time, and says I hunt too much or I like to play golf too much. And she's probably right, but it sure beats some of the things I used to do. I can't believe I survived, not only my life, but I am still playing football 'cause half of those eight or nine years I don't even remember. I do, but I don't. It's kind of like, "I did that?" I don't miss it one bit. Life deals you a lot lessons, some people learn from it, some people don't. Once again I am not perfect, but I thought there was one time when Brett Favre would always drink and be this crazy guy, I thought I would never change. If I can change than anyone can change. I promise you that.

SK: Who are you now?

BF: I'm pretty boring really. I consider myself more of a loner now and I think when you get older, especially in this game, and just talking with other players who have come and gone, I see what they were saying when I was a young guy in the locker room. You want to know what's going on, you want to be buddies with everyone, you want to find your place on the team and that comes from play, earning respect and now that I've earned my respect and found my place on this team … I don't really care what's going on I just care about getting my job done the best that I can possibly do and deal with the other things in my life that take a lot of time and a lot of thought. I don't worry anymore about where's the big hangout Tuesday night, Friday. Couldn't tell you and no one comes to me for advice anymore in those areas anymore, so real boring I would say. Most guys wouldn't want to hang out with me anyway … "why are you walking in the woods or sitting in a tree all day?" It's not so much about killing an animal, it's being at peace and you don't have to worry about all the other things that go on. That's a couple of hours a week that you get to escape but it's nice to do that.

SK: What's Brett Favre the husband and dad like?

BK: I don't want to bring anyone else down. I want to bring everybody else up and the way that you see me on the football field is the is the way that I am at home. The party now is having my kids laugh and my wife laugh and my teammates. I want them to see me have fun and put it in a different way.

SK: You're toughness is well documented. How would you compare your toughness to your wife Deanna's toughness?

There was a time when I thought football was the most important. Football will be over at some point, the family goes on. When you lose someone, or when there are setbacks, it kind of puts it in perspective.
Brett Favre

BF: Well even before she was diagnosed with the cancer, I would have said that she was a lot tougher than me and most guys would probably say that about their wives and it's probably true in most cases. But you know in my case with my wife, we go back to grade school and I always tell people that she was there way before my first touchdown pass … She's excited when I do it, but that's not why she's around and to put up with me I could only imagine how difficult that has been and will continue to be. I'm so hard headed and I don't want to listen and she's been very patient and I always say, "you know I could break a thumb, sprained ankles, break whatever but I could never have a child." How women do it I have no idea and to bounce right back and to put up with all the things that we put 'em through and to deal with kids. I saw a a special with Rodney Peete one day and I saw where he and Holly had exchanged duties for a day and he was going crazy by the end of the day. I think it was on Oprah and I said "thank God" that was him and not me. I couldn't do it and she, women are a lot tougher in different ways but mentally she's, she's as strong as there is.

SK: How has she shaped who you are today?

BF: She would probably not sit here and tell you that she was instrumental in the main reason why I changed, but she really is and I told her that and she thinks it's all talk. Anyone who's ever drank or had a vice they said, "I'll quit" and they usually go back to it and I was no different. And she said numerous times, "OK this is it" and then she said it again and then one time she said, "this is it" and I believed it. It was one of those like your parents and they finally say something and it's like OK you can't push them anymore and that's basically what happened to us and from that point on it was difficult at first to change my ways and I figured once I quit drinking it would be easy and I had to change who I hung out with and what I did in my spare time and that took a while to kind of mold and it was all basically because of her. She was pregnant with our second child and I knew I didn't want to be a deadbeat dad or deadbeat husband.

SK: Where would you be without her?

BF: God only knows I'm glad that I don't have to worry about that. People always ask the question, "what if you stayed in Atlanta?" "what if …". Fortunately in my life I don't have to worry about that. That's kind of how I approach life and football; why dwell on something that's hasn't happened. There's a lot of "what ifs" if you sit down and think about it, but she stuck with me thank goodness and it's always nice to have someone to go home to … someone to listen to you and tell you it's not as bad as you think it is and that's the key to the whole thing.

SK: How did you handle her diagnoses?

BF: Initially, I know that I handled it worse than she did and I think partly because I've always been … every bit of adversity I've faced up until the last year and a half is adversity I brought upon myself -- or the opposing teams have given me. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but I could control that adversity and how I dealt with it and in the last year it's been something that I can't control and it was obviously one thing after another and learning of her diagnoses was like where do we go from here and "not another blow" and I'm sure deep down inside she was probably really scared and probably still is … rightfully so, but I felt helpless and still feel helpless and you can give support and that's basically it and I want to go in and cure it right now and I can't do that. That's pretty much the most difficult part.

SK: How does it affect how you look at life, football?

BK: Well, I think every person including people that will watch this interview because I was one one of those people who watched an interview and read something in the paper and thought "wow that's a shame that that happened to them" and you see all the things that go along with it but until it hits you personally it's just talk. It makes you realize how precious life is and it can strike anyone. I've spent a lot of time with Make-a-Wish kids and my mom was a special ed teacher so she was always around special kids and you feel for them and all that but you go "thank goodness it's not directly related to my family." Then once it is, you know it could happen to anyone. My wife is healthy, she's in the prime of her life and you think that it happens to other people but it happens to everyone and at some point in everyone's life they're going to have to deal with something … some earlier than later and I promise you it will happen and I was surprised by it. I think everyone will be surprised by it and how you deal with it remains to be seen. God, he deals you blows that at sometimes you think you can't handle and in the last year there have been things that we thought we couldn't handle but we've dealt with it up until this point.

SK: What's Deanna told you about how she hopes her diagnoses affects your decisions about football?

Deanne Favre
Brett Favre's wife Deanna and mother Bonita accept a 2004 ESPY award on his behalf.
BF: She keeps saying don't worry about me, keep playing and I don't ever foresee my wife saying to me that it's time to give it up unless I just really suck … pardon my french. But there's times I walk on and off the field thinking I'm the best and when things like the loss of my dad and Deanna's diagnoses and the loss of her brother come about … you go, "God I don't know if I got it anymore." I don't know if I can go out there and lead us through the two-minute drill anymore. I got other things to worry about and she says they're going to be there either way so why not do something that you know you can do. And as she said numerous times this year "I don't know if this is your last year or what that's your decision, but I want you to play the best you've ever played" which is probably putting more pressure on me than I can deal with 'cause I don't know if I can play as good as I've played in the past but I've told her that I would give it a try. I haven't made a lot of decisions yet and there's still a lot of football to play and we've fought our way back so we'll see what happens.

SK: What's your definition of the Favre Family?

BF: Well I would say that we're regular people first of all and we're normal and it's obvious by some of the things that have happened just because our name is famous we're not immune to tragedy. We've always considered ourselves regular people willing to help others and strong and I didn't realize how strong and I hope every family out there doesn't have to go through what we've gone through and there are families out there that have obviously had to get through worse but you can get through it and you don't realize how strong and how united you are until those times. I think in our family's case, we just reassured ourselves how strong we are.

SK: How is Deanna's prognosis?

BF: Her prognosis is good. We caught it early … and I've learned a lot about breast cancer in the last two months and early detection is key as with most forms of cancer. She has one of the most aggressive, but it's very treatable but one of the most common and the most treated so it's seen the most and they know how to deal with it and so you just wish for the best and how you react to the medication and treatment is crucial.

SK: Your mom is out promoting your autobiography. How is she doing?

BF: Well she had setback as well. Two weeks ago she was admitted to the hospital with chest pains back home during our bye week and you could only imagine how I felt and how my family felt, but by the time I got home she was fine.

SK: Sometimes do you all just look at each other and go "what more?"

BF: Well on the plane coming in tonight, I had several of the guys ask me how my mother was. I don't think everyone knew and I'm sure not everyone knows but a couple of guys are like, "man what else" and I said "don't say that because just when you think it's done, there's something else but that's life."

Suzy Kolber is the sideline reporter for ESPN's Sunday Night Football telecasts.

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