"He wanted that boy to air it out!" says Curley Hallman, who succeeded Carmody in Favre's second season.
In the stands Irvin would jump up and down and elbow Bonita: He's goin' in the game! He had to sit on the aisle because he was so animated. Then the game would end, and Irvin would tell Brett, "Boy, you threw off your back foot on that interception."
The Falcons drafted Favre in the second round in 1991, and he partied his way into disfavor. Atlanta shipped him to the Packers, and he became a superstar under coach Mike Holmgren. Favre completed passes nobody else would even try—sometimes to the other team, but that was a small price to pay for all those touchdowns. After the games Irvin would tell Brett he made the wrong read in the second quarter and threw to the wrong receiver in the third. Brett would roll his eyes or defend himself or go for humor: "Dad, we're going to suit you up for this game." But he was always respectful.
Irvin became a regular guest on Packers postgame radio shows. I don't know what Brett was thinkin', throwin' that ball, he'd say. Says Scott, "That used to piss Brett off."
After Favre won Super Bowl XXXI, he gave Irvin a Super Bowl ring for Christmas. Irvin was so overwhelmed that he walked out of the room and called a friend. You're never going to believe this! A Super Bowl ring, just like the players have! To Brett, he just said thank you.
In late December 2003, Irvin's friend Mark Kelley asked him, "Do you ever tell your kids you love them?"
Irvin said, "They know I do."
Kelley was insistent: "No, they gotta hear it from you!" Irvin finally conceded that he should tell them. A week later he had a heart attack at the wheel of his car, veered across the road into a ditch and died. Brett got the news while playing golf in California. The Packers faced the Raiders the next night, and there was some question of whether Favre would even play. Of course he played. He always plays.
In that brief period before the grief set in, Favre put on the most remarkable performance of his life: 22 completions in 30 attempts, 399 yards, four touchdowns. Then he flew home to Mississippi for the funeral, and reality hit. "Brett just had a blank look on his face," says former Green Bay tight end Mark Chmura, who attended the funeral with his Packers teammates. "Almost like: What do I do now?"
Irvin had never told Brett he wanted him to retire, but he said to others that he was worried about the beatings his son took on the football field, that Brett was "aging before my eyes." Perhaps if Irvin had expressed that sentiment to Brett, it would have been the approval Favre needed to walk away. But he never heard it.