Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mike Lupica: Brett Favre was born to be a Packer

New York Daily News
Thursday, January 17th 2008, 4:00 AM

Brett Favre added to his Packer lore with his great performance against the Seahawks last weekend.

In Green Bay they think their story is better than the Giants' story because of Brett Favre, who wasn't supposed to ever get near another game like this. In Green Bay they think their team is the team of destiny in pro football, because Favre now gets one more game like this at Lambeau Field. He only fits the place the way DiMaggio fit the Stadium and Jackie Robinson fit Ebbets Field and the old Knicks fit the Garden.

"Brett has played where he was supposed to play," a great old football man named Ron Wolf was saying Wednesday from his home in Jupiter, Fla., a long way from Lambeau.

The story of Favre as a Packer, as famous a Packer now as Vince Lombardi or any of the old Packers, as famous as old Curly Lambeau himself, always has to start with Wolf, start when he was still a personnel guy with the Jets, start with a scouting trip to Southern Miss during Favre's senior year there.

"I wish I could embellish the story and tell you I knew what he would become, that he would do all the things he's done and still be playing the way he's playing at the age of (38)," Wolf said. "But I can't." Wolf laughed softly then and said, "What I can tell you is that I am glad I looked at the right tape on him before I left Southern Miss that day."

He was on his way to Jackson State the next day, as he recalls, maybe a couple of Louisiana schools after that. Favre still wasn't right after a summer car accident, even if he would end up beating Alabama later that season, and have Alabama coach Gene Stallings describe him as "larger than life" when it was over that day. Wolf liked what he saw on tape, wasn't overwhelmed, was about to get back into his car for the drive to Jackson State when a Southern Miss coach named Thamas Coleman - "a Civil War name," Ron Wolf said yesterday - said this:

"Before you go you ought to take a look at what the young man looked like as a junior."

Ron Wolf did. And thought he was looking at the best college football player in the country. He went back and told Dick Steinberg, the Jets general manager. The Jets didn't have a No.1 pick. They tried to trade up, couldn't. The Falcons took Favre ahead of them, even though Jerry Glanville, the Atlanta coach at the time, didn't want him.

Then Wolf went to Green Bay to run the Packers and traded the No.1 pick he had for Brett Favre, and early in the 1992 season he went in at quarterback for the Packers. Now, after 442 touchdown passes and 61,655 passing yards and 8,758 pass attempts and 5,377 completions - after a streak of consecutive games as a quarterback, 253, that is better than Cal Ripken's streak - he gets one more championship Sunday at Lambeau. In the coldest football place in this world, Favre is a hot ticket all over again.

The Packers were supposed to be too young, Favre was supposed to be too old. Right. If it wasn't for the season the Patriots are having, the Patriots who try to get to 18-0 this weekend in what has become an opening act to Favre against the Giants, what Favre has done, in what a lot of people thought should be his first year of retirement, would have been the back page of football every single Sunday once he got rolling.

The Giants think they're the ones with all the magic going for them? Tell them at Lambeau.

"It wasn't just that he wasn't supposed to be a contender anymore," Ron Wolf said. "It was that he'd been totally written off. You know I've got a lot of time now to exercise my fingers on the keyboard, and patrol the Internet a little bit. And I saw something a few months ago on one of those dot-com's where they were ranking the quarterbacks in the NFC. I read through the first 12 names and guess whose name wasn't there? Brett's. I wanted to call the guy who wrote it and say, you pick any of those other NFC quarterbacks if there's a game you need to win. I'll still go with Brett Favre."

There was another pause at the other end of the phone and then Ron Wolf, who sat in a coaches' room once and found the player they all look for in sports, the one who can change everything, said this about Brett Favre: "He still carries all that unbelievable inside him."

There Favre was in the snow last Saturday, as much snow as even he had ever seen across all the years at Lambeau, bringing his team back from 14-0 down along with ex-Giant Ryan Grant, who dropped the ball twice early and then picked himself like a champion and ran through the snow for 201 yards. But it was Favre who people remember best from the day, because he is still Favre, because he has been one of the biggest and most theatrical sports stars of his time, because he has been more fun to watch than any quarterback in football history.

Carrying all that unbelievable inside him still. Underhanding that ball in the snow on Saturday after he had nearly fallen on his face, like it was the football version of Jeter's flip against the A's that time.

When Jimmy Connors made that run to the U.S. Open semis in 1991 at the age of 39, his old friend Ilie Nastase said, "Jimmy is getting what we all want: One more time." Brett Favre gets one more time, at Lambeau, on Sunday. Tell them at Lambeau somebody else is destiny's darling in football. Better yet, try telling No. 4.

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