CANTON, Ohio – Back on that Monday night in Oakland in 2003, Brett Favre paid tribute to his father the best way he knew, by playing spectacularly the night after big Irvin’s death.
He topped that tribute on Saturday night.
In his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio, Favre got choked up at times and paused at others, but with the same type of emotion he wore on his sleeve as a player, Favre made his dad as proud as any father could be.
Recalling the story of his otherworldly game in Oakland the night after his father’s death, Favre said his wife Deanna told him on the emotional, private charter flight back to Green Bay and then Mississippi that his dad, who was also his high school coach, couldn’t wait to introduce him on his Hall of Fame induction day.
Until that moment, Favre said, he had never thought about the Hall of Fame.
“A new goal entered then and there,” Favre told a highly charged Packers crowd. “I said to myself I will make it to the Hall of Fame …
“So that I could acknowledge the fact of how important he was … this is tougher than any third-and-15, I can assure you.”
Fighting through the emotion, Favre proceeded to talk about how his father taught him toughness and teamwork, and that “there was no room for crybabies” in the Favre house.
He also told a story he claimed to have never told anyone, about sitting outside his dad’s coaching office one day, waiting to go home, and he overheard his dad say to his other high school coaches regarding Favre’s recent rough game, “I assure you one thing about my son. He will play better. He will redeem himself. He has it in him.”
Favre forever kept those words close to his heart.
"I never let him know that I heard that," he said. "But I thought to myself, that’s a pretty good compliment. My chest kind of swelled up, and I never told anyone, but I never forgot that statement.
“I want you to know, Dad, I spent the rest of my career trying to redeem myself … and make him proud. I hope I succeeded.”
Favre hit all the right notes in his roughly 36-minute speech.
He thanked the fans, who were out in full force, telling them to a raucous ovation, “Make no mistake about it, I will be remembered as a Packer.”
He poked fun at himself, joking that he was going to ask Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson to play the first series of Sunday night’s game.
In thanking several coaches from Southern Miss, he told the story of how one assistant, the late Thamas Coleman, convinced then-Jets personnel executive Ron Wolf to watch the first three years of his college film, not just the last one after the car accident that cost Favre a cracked vertebrae and nearly three feet of his intestines.
He paid tribute to Wolf, calling him “the single most important person to the Packers’ rebirth” and listing off numerous folks, including himself, Mike Holmgren and “the single biggest free-agent acquisition in NFL history” in Reggie White, who wouldn’t have been in Green Bay if not for Wolf.
He called Holmgren “the greatest coach I ever played for,” teasing that he must have felt “stuck with Brett Favre” after coaching Joe Montana and Steve Young in San Francisco, but being grateful Holmgren stuck with him “when he could have and should have pulled me.”
He talked about the first and only NFL game he ever saw in person, between the Saints and Raiders on Dec. 18, 1983, as a 14-year-old, and how he decided that day he wanted to be a quarterback when he watched a “long, gray-haired scruffy beard player” emerge from the tunnel and “the hair stood up on the back of my neck.”
That player was Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler, who was inducted into the Hall posthumously on Saturday.
He talked about meeting his future wife Deanna later that same night, and the two have been together ever since. It was Deanna who introduced Favre for induction, an honor that would have gone to Favre’s dad. Touchingly, Irvin was included in Deanna’s videotaped introduction in old interview clips, calling Favre a “gunslinger” who hated finishing second.
“He’s just something else,” Irv said. “He’s different.”
So was Favre’s football journey.
“Who would have ever thought a young man from Kiln, Mississippi, whose father ran the wishbone, would hold every passing record in the NFL at one time,” Favre said. “That’s pretty dog-gone amazing if you ask me, but that’s not what makes me most proud.”
What makes him most proud was that he always laid it on the line. Every single time.
“I can honestly tell you I hold no regrets,” Favre said. “Did we win every game? No. Did I make every throw? No. Did I make mistakes? More than I can ever count. But there was never one time where I did not give it all I could.”
That goes for 20 years on the field, and for 36 minutes on Saturday night.
“I don’t regret anything,” he concluded.
Neither do we, Brett, and neither would your dad.