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Throwback Thursday: Hall of Famer Brett Favre Drafted in the Second Round of the 1991 NFL Draft


Future Hall of Famer and then Southern Mississippi quarterback Brett Favre takes the call sending him to the NFL (Image credit: Tim Isbell/Biloxi Sun Herald)

Brett Favre is one of the reasons I became so passionate about watching football.


The Mississippi-born passer is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and without doubt one of the most entertaining to watch. In a game increasingly dominated by analytics where college football players and NFL pros have to learn scripted playbooks thicker than War and Peace, Favre was a breath of fresh air. He came to life when plays broke down and the game became more open, scrambling for his life to keep out of the clutches of lunging defensive ends before launching a huge pass downfield or flipping an underarm throw to an unprepared receiver.


You couldn't take your eyes off him - for both good and bad reasons. He could keep you on the edge of your seat, make you gasp at an astonishing impromptu piece of brilliance, or frustrate you with a failed attempt at a highlight-reel play when a safer option was available.


Watching Favre was a roller coaster ride, he was one of the greatest ad libbers in NFL history. If the actor Robin Williams had been a football player, Favre would have been a good comparison - brave, talented, passionate about his job and with a mischievous streak. Favre played with grit, determination and above all, a smile on his face. His ability to change plays, get straight up after hits and goof around made it look like he was playing in his back yard at times, rather than a college or NFL field. He was a throwback to the traditional blood and guts days of football. It seemed to be a privilege to him to be playing the game he loved. The raw talent, enthusiasm and resilience he displayed endeared him to thousands of fans.


I was one of them.


Early years


Favre attended the University of Southern Mississippi, having excelled previously under the tutelage of his father, Irv, as a quarterback for Hancock North Central High School in Kiln, Mississippi. His rocket arm and ability to improvise and make big plays was finally noticed by a Southern Mississippi assistant coach, as Favre's father primarily operated a run-based offense, so his talent was nearly missed by college scouts.


Golden Eagles

Brett Favre played all four years at Southern Mississippi (Image credit: Mississippi Scoreboard)

Favre began his career at Southern Mississippi, a relatively small school in college football terms. now playing in the Sun Belt Conference and with 14,000 students enrolled. Favre started as the seventh-string quarterback, but won the starting job by Week 3 of his freshman season, against Tulane in September 1987. In September 1989, he led the Golden Eagles to a famous upset win over Florida State, then ranked No.6 in the nation, with the winning touchdown pass with just 23 seconds left on the clock.


An insight into the remarkable resilience he would show throughout his career came on July 14th 1990, when he flipped his car three times on a stretch of road near Kiln, a near fatal accident. Favre emerged having had 30 inches of his small intestine removed. Remarkably, just eight weeks later, he would lead Southern Mississippi to a comeback win over powerhouse Alabama. He left the Golden Eagles having amassed 7,695 passing yards and 52 touchdowns.


Despite drawing attention with his exciting playing style, Favre was not considered a top prospect in the 1991 NFL Draft. Scouts raised his lack of size, mobility, and experience playing in a pro-style offense as concerns.


A record breaking career in the NFL


Drafted


The Atlanta Falcons took a chance on Favre, drafting him with the 33rd overall pick in the second round. He famously took the call in his bedroom at his parents' home in Kiln, wearing a Southern Miss cap, t-shirt and "jorts" surrounded by friends and family all wearing home-made draft t-shirts. It was a far cry from the green room set up in today's NFL Draft where the top prospects and their entourage are dressed up in sharp suits and walk the red carpet.


However, his time with the Falcons was short. Head coach Jerry Glanville disliked Favre, dismissively referring to him as "Mississippi" and leaving him as the third-string quarterback behind Chris Miller and Billy Joe Tolliver, and was famously quoted as saying "it would take a plane crash" to put him in the game. He often bet the young quarterback, known for his arm strength, that he couldn't throw the ball from the pitch to the top tier of the stadium. Often, he could. Favre attempted just four passes in his rookie season, completing none.


Green Bay


New Packers GM Ron Wolf wanted to draft Favre when he was with the New York Jets but the Falcons had taken him one pick earlier. In February 1992, he pulled the trigger on a trade that would send the Packers' first round pick to Atlanta in exchange for the rookie quarterback. It was a decision that transformed the lowly Packers, who hadn't been competitive for years.


Favre made his debut in Week 2 of the 1992 season, replacing the benched Don Majkowksi and famously completed the first pass of his NFL career... to himself, his intended throw bouncing off the fingertips of onrushing Buccaneers defender Ray Seals which he subsequently caught and was promptly tackled for a seven-yard loss.


Majkowski, previously "The Majik Man" in Green Bay, didn't get his job back. Favre went on to have 16 seasons in Green Bay, part of 20 overall in the NFL, astounding given how much punishment quarterbacks take. Remarkably, he set the NFL record for the most consecutive starts - 297 games of which 253 were for the Packers. This record still stands.


In his second season in Green Bay, Favre led the Packers to the playoffs, their first appearance in ten years, and a Wild Card win over Detroit.


In his second season in Green Bay, Favre led the Packers to the playoffs, their first appearance in ten years, and a Wild Card win over Detroit.


Favre continued to develop over the next several seasons, winning three straight NFL MVP awards in 1995, 1996 and 1997, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl victory that year, passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns.

On the second play of Super Bowl XXXI. Favre improvised and threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Andre Rison. His 81-yard scoring pass to Antonio Freeman became the-then Super Bowl record for the longest touchdown catch. He became known for his tough-as-nails playing style, his ability to make big plays under pressure, and his love of the game. Favre led the Packers back to the Super Bowl in 1998, where they lost to the Denver Broncos in an upset.


Arguably Favre's most remarkable performance came on December 22. 2003 in a Monday Night Football game against the Oakland Raiders, just one day after his father, Irv, had passed away. The Packers' quarterback was insistent on playing and torched the Raiders, passing for 399 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone, in a 41-7 win. It was an extraordinary display of raw grit and willpower from a supreme competitor, earning him a standing ovation from Raiders fans when he left the field. Fox Sports reported that "one of the darkest days in Brett Favre’s life became one of the brightest nights of his professional career."


While he never returned to the Super Bowl, Brett Favre went on to have a legendary NFL career, playing 20 seasons with the Packers, New York Jets, and Minnesota Vikings. In addition to his Super Bowl win and three league MVP awards, he was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times, and set numerous records for passing yards (71,838), touchdowns (508), and completions (6,300).


"In all my years — I spent 38 years in the NFL — I’ve never been around a player who did for a team what Brett did for the Packers.” - Green Bay Packers former GM Ron Wolf.


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