GREEN BAY – With these words all wounds were healed: “I’d much rather come out of that tunnel right there,” Brett Favre told a near-capacity crowd at Lambeau Field on Saturday night.
“That tunnel” referred to the Packers’ home tunnel, through which Favre passed during a 16-year Packers career that culminated with Favre’s induction into the Packers Hall of Fame and retirement of his No. 4 jersey on Saturday.
Favre clearly wanted to use the opportunity to heal any wounds inflicted by an unpopular departure that saw Favre finish his career by playing for the Vikings.
“That is all forgotten. Today is such a special day,” Favre said in accepting his dual honors in the Lambeau Field Atrium, following his address to fans who gave Saturday’s event a game-like feel.
Favre’s jersey number became the sixth in Packers history to be retired. The other five are: Don Hutson’s No. 14, Tony Canadeo’s No. 3, Bart Starr’s No. 15, Ray Nitschke’s No. 66 and Favre teammate Reggie White’s No. 92. Favre became the first player to be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and have his jersey number retired simultaneously.
Six current or former head coaches and general managers were in attendance, including Mike Holmgren and Ron Wolf. Wolf, Holmgren and Favre became the foundation on which the Packers franchise was resurrected.
“I knew the Packers had a chance to get a difference-maker,” Wolf said of his decision to trade with the Falcons to acquire Favre for a first-round pick in the 1992 draft. “I saw the ultimate competitor. He had a rocket for an arm, an unreal touch and, in my mind, he was the best player in the ’91 draft.”
Favre was a second-round pick by the Falcons in 1991.
Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy thanked his predecessor, Bob Harlan, for the successful franchise Harlan passed on to Murphy, and then Murphy did the honors in retiring Favre’s jersey number.
“I don’t think there’s been a player who’s had a bigger impact on any team in the NFL than Brett has had on this team,” Murphy said.
Wolf hired Holmgren as a rookie head coach in ’92. Holmgren told the crowd in the Atrium that Wolf’s decision to trade for Favre was a “decision that changed everything.”
Favre said he was committed to avoiding an emotional display during the proceedings, but he had to stop and gather himself twice, once each in addressing the fans in the stadium and the crowd in the Atrium during his formal acceptance speech.
“I want to be remembered as a good man. A man who loved his teammates … coaches, fans … and loved football,” Favre said in concluding his Atrium address.
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