Brett would come home from high school football practice, do sit-ups in his room and run on the dirt road outside his house. He lifted weights every day with such vigor that by his senior year he was as strong as some of his linemen. Alcohol? Forget it. He wouldn't even touch soft drinks. He just couldn't do one thing he really wanted to do: pass.
Hancock North Central High coach Irvin Favre won a lot of games running the wishbone, the power I and the wing T. He wasn't going to change just because the quarterback was his son. Especially if the quarterback was his son. Brett rarely threw more than eight times in a game.
Scott, the older brother, had a way to deal with his father: acquiesce. "If [Irv] told him to stand on his head and stack BBs, he would have done it," Bonita says. By giving in, Scott neutralized Irvin. If he didn't argue there was no argument.
But Brett needed to win. He stood his ground with Irvin. The back-and-forth was endless: Go cut the grass. I don't want to cut the grass. You read that play wrong this afternoon. No, I didn't. Yes, you did. Well, why can't we throw more? I told you to cut the grass....
Bonita told Irvin, "When the other kids leave the football field, they go home. Our kids never leave it." But Brett didn't want to leave it. He wanted to own it.
Once, Bonita says, Brett changed one of Irvin's play calls, and the coach blew up. Father and son went nose-to-nose on the sideline. It didn't matter to Irvin that the play went for a touchdown. Another time Scott sidled up to his father during a blowout win and asked, "Why don't you let Brett throw a little bit?" Irvin shot back, "Why don't you get your ass back in the stands with your mom?"
Nobody recruited a quarterback whose own father wouldn't let him pass. Southern Mississippi came in late and asked Brett to play safety, with a vague hint that he might get to try quarterback. Then practice started, and coach Jim Carmody couldn't believe his ears. "I could hear a noise, a whoosh," Carmody said of Favre's passes. "I turned around: What was that? He was 17 years old."
Away from his father's offense and his father's house, Brett was unleashed. He started as a true freshman and started drinking heavily. Every pass had to be a bullet, and every night had to be a party.
For all his tough love, Irvin taught his boys that when you lose, you lose. It's over. As a result Brett didn't fear failure as much as most quarterbacks do. As the pocket collapsed around him, Brett saw opportunity: a seam here, a tight window there.
Irvin would coach on Friday night, then drive to wherever Southern Miss was playing on Saturday. When he got there he'd ask Brett's coaches: Are we going to throw a lot today? Are you gonna let him sling it?