- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
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."
Seventh on the depth chart? He was third by the time his freshman season started. He was playing by the second half of the second game, throwing two touchdown passes to beat Tulane. On his 18th birthday he was starting against No. 1-ranked Florida State, the Florida State fans singing a derisive Happy Birthday as his team was pounded by the Seminoles 61-10. He was on his way.
"Southern Miss was a place where everyone had been rejected by the big schools for some reason," he says. "We were the Island of Misfits. We thrived on that. We'd play Alabama, Auburn, and there'd be stories in the papers about how we'd been rejected by them. We'd come out and win the game, and guys would be yelling on the field, 'What's wrong with us now?' It was a great way to play."
As his senior year approached, he was known as a fearless kid who could throw the ball. The Southern Miss offense had been redesigned for his talents. He had completed 79 passes for 1,264 yards and 15 touchdowns. The pro scouts were interested. He was ready for big things. Then he flipped his Nissan Maxima and almost killed himself during the summer before that senior year.
The accident happened in the Kill, less than a mile from his house. Returning from a July afternoon of sun and, sure, fun at Ship Island, he says he was blinded by the lights of another car. He swerved and hit gravel, and when he tried to pull the car back onto the road, it began to Hip. His brother Scott was following in another car and later reported that one flip was so high "you could have driven a dump truck underneath the car." Scott broke the front window with a golf club to pull Brett from the wreckage. Brett wound up in the hospital with a concussion, lacerations and a cracked vertebra and, it turned out, complications.
"I was out of the hospital, and I thought I was O.K.," Brett says. "I wasn't eating much, though, and when I did I was throwing up. I kept having these abdominal pains, and they started to get worse. I went back to the hospital, and they found that a lot of my intestines had died."
Thirty inches of intestines were removed. His recovery had to begin all over again. He reported to Southern Miss in mid-August but still was having trouble eating. Back he went to Kiln, where Mee-Maw's cooking finally got him going. Five weeks after the intestinal surgery he was at Southern Miss again, in uniform, 30 pounds underweight, leading the Golden Eagles to a 27-24 upset over Alabama.
"You can call it a miracle or a legend or whatever you want to," Alabama coach Gene Stallings told reporters afterward. "I just know that on that day, Brett Favre was larger than life."
The Eagles finished the 1990 season at 8-4. Favre, who never was 100% recovered from the surgery, ended up in the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game. At the Shrine game he more than caught the attention of Ron Wolf, then a scout for the Jets. After the accident a lot of scouts had dropped Favre in their thinking. Wolf still liked the way he threw the ball and also liked the way he took charge, the way he had that gift of making everyone else in a huddle listen and respond. How many leaders does a scout see?