SI Flashback: Leader of The Pack (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday March 4, 2008 11:35AM; Updated: Tuesday March 4, 2008 12:34PM
As for Kiln, the n is dropped by local speakers. The town of 7,500 residents usually is called the Kill. The question would be "Where does the hottest young quarterback in the NFL live in the off-season?" The answer would be "The Kill." People can figure it out. This is home.
"People say, 'You're the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers and you still live at home?' " Brett Favre says. "Well, I could be other places, but I can't think of one I'd rather be. Where else could I have so much fun? That's what this is all about. Having fun."
He is 23 years old and as uncomplicated as a Sunday afternoon. Natural. Where else could he fall out of his water bed every day and land in a family party? His grandmother Mee-Maw lives in that little trailer down the road and makes the best gumbo on the Gulf. (Mee-Maw's real name is Izella French, but Brett and his brothers began calling her Mee-Maw and their other grandmother Maw-Maw when they were little. The names stuck.) There always is someone around who will play a little golf or maybe go over to Biloxi or Gulfport and do a little gambling on one of those new paddleboat casinos. There always is someone around to have a beer, to start a barbecue. Where else is every day the Fourth of July?
"I remember the first long trip I made," Brett says. "Senior year of high school. The class trip. We went from here to New York and Boston. We raised the money ourselves with all kinds of projects. I went to a restaurant, a sandwich place in Boston. The guy said, 'What'll you have?' I told him I guess I'd have a shrimp po'boy. He just looked at me. I tried to explain what a shrimp po'boy was. I wound up with a submarine sandwich."
The wheels and gears of the Great American Celebrity Machine only now are starting to turn. There has not been time yet to turn him into a 6 ft. 3 in., 220-pound plastic package, to make him accustomed to limousine living and large sums of money and everyday fame. Everything is still new. He basically has had one electric season in the NFL, last year, when he came off the bench for the Packers in their third game and never sat down again, rejuvenating the team, at one time passing for more than 200 yards in each of 11 straight games. The team missed the playoffs only on the final Sunday. He wound up in the Pro Bowl. He showed again and again that he could throw the football. Then he came home.
"Reporters would ask me where I got my arm," he says. "I always thought it was from my father, but now I think I got it from my mother. She got mad at me last summer and threw a pastrami sandwich and hit me in the head. Hard. She really had something on that sandwich."
"I was really mad," says Bonita, who is a special-ed teacher at Hancock County High. "I was running the four swimming pools in the area, in charge of 12 lifeguards. They were driving me crazy, the lifeguards. I told all of them if it started to rain, I would call and tell them whether or not to close the pools for the day. I told them not to call me. I would call them. Well, it started to rain, and this one lifeguard calls me. I was just fuming, and Brett, he's sitting in the kitchen just laughing at me. I had this pastrami sandwich in my hand, and I just let it go, mustard and bread flying all over the place. ..."
"I didn't even know what pastrami was," Brett says. "Except that it hurt."
The good things that happened in Green Bay and in assorted other stadiums around the country still seem almost touched with magic. The idea that anyone could come from here -- this little place six miles from the Gulf of Mexico, where an occasional alligator pokes its head from the bayou -- and wind up famous is borderline fantasy. The Packers virtually have handed their team to Favre. They dumped his competition, Don Majkowski, the hottest young quarterback of three years ago, and brought in veteran Ken O'Brien from the New York Jets to add experience and counsel. They went heavy on the free-agent market this off-season, winning the big-money chase for defensive end Reggie White. They are making a run for a division title, making it with a kid quarterback.
This is a different situation for Favre. For the first time in his life he is not an underdog. "I've always had to struggle for what I've got," he says. "I was never recruited for college. No one really wanted me. Coming from down here, nobody knows who you are. Three days before the signing date, I was going to either Pearl River Junior College or Delta State. Southern Miss took me as a defensive back. When I went there as a freshman, I worked out both ways at first. I was the seventh quarterback on the depth chart."