Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings!?! Yes, that still sounds a bit weird, but what is not unusual is his stellar play, competitive drive and his ability as a 40-year-old quarterback to play brilliant football and most recently, to throw four touchdown passes to lead the Vikings over the Dallas Cowboys on their way to the NFC Championship.
Years ago, I flew to Kiln, Mississippi, a tiny town where Favre grew up, to interview him for a nationally-syndicated golf show I co-hosted. Just getting there was a trip - it required three puddle jumper connections and only minutes after I picked up my luggage around 9pm, the entire airport shut down for the evening, as my flight was apparently the last one in. I waited in the dark for a cab to take me to my hotel and when a beat-up, old Cadillac pulled up with a driver who smiled big with no teeth, I knew I was in for an interesting weekend.
Brett could not have been more hospitable. He showed me his high school, Hancock North Central, where its football field was renamed 'Brett Favre Field,' with a life-size statue of him at the entrance of the stadium. Favre played a variety of positions there and was coached by his dad, Irvin Favre.
Despite his success in high school, Favre only received one scholarship offer and that was from Southern Mississippi University, where they recruited him to play defensive back! He worked his way up to the starting quarterback position where he started the third game of his freshman year and led the team to a comeback win. Favre developed as a passer under the new head coach at Southern Miss. But just weeks before the start of training camp prior to his final college season, Favre suffered serious internal injuries in a car wreck near his home. Doctors removed part of his small intestine but he returned to the field three weeks later and led Southern Miss to an upset win over Alabama in Birmingham.
When the Atlanta Falcons drafted him in the second round, 33rd overall in 1991, they had no idea what they had, even though he had a rough start as a third string quarterback - his very first pass was an interception returned for a touchdown.
In 1992, he was traded to the Packers. In his second season, Favre came in for the injured Don Majkowski and led the team to a come-from-behind victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The following week, September 20, 1992, Favre made his first NFL start, and 18 years later, Favre is still going strong and still surprising his critics.
Favre is a survivor to say the least. He is a warrior disguised as a good ol' boy from the south. His achievements on the field alone are impressive, but when you add the personal challenges he has overcome along the way, he puts new meaning into the description: 'Iron Man of the NFL.' Favre overcame injuries sustained from that car accident while he was in college, an addiction to pain killers, injury after injury suffered while playing football, the loss of his father who died of a heart attack in 2003, the loss of his brother-in-law who was killed in an accident on his property in Mississippi, his wife Deanna's battle with breast cancer (in which she is in remission) and in 2005, the loss of the home he grew up in because of Hurricane Katrina.
And through it all, Favre continues to suit up and break NFL Records. He leads all quarterbacks in the NFL in: career passing attempts with 9811, career completions with 6083, career touchdown passes with 497, career wins as a starting quarterback with 181 and career passing yards with 69,329.
We had a great time golfing that day and Favre opened up about a lot of the challenges he had to overcome throughout his life. We chatted at length and I quickly realized that he was capable of accomplishing just about anything due to his drive and determination. His competitive spirit transferred to the golf course as he launched his tee shot sometimes 330 yards and displayed finesse with his short game. I came to the conclusion back then that as long as his arm and legs held up, he would want to continue to play.
And so the old warrior does not surprise me at all when he comes up with brilliant games like he did this past weekend with the Vikings 34-3 rout of the Cowboys or the incredible season he has had with the Minnesota Vikings this year. He has the heart of a lion, a will that is stronger than most, is a survivor who has overcome one challenge after another and has the passion to continue to play the game he loves. All those qualities transcend age and help make Brett Favre the legend that he is.
To read or view more of my interview with Brett Favre and dozens of other legends in sports and entertainment, visit AnnLigouri.com