Brett Favre has been the National Football League’s ludicrously-talented, wily old-timer for what feels like an eternity.
Favre began his NFL career back in 1991 with the Atlanta Falcons, before establishing himself as a legend with the Green Bay Packers, then moving on to the New York Jets and latterly the Minnesota Vikings.
Now aged 41, he is enjoying his 20th season in the limelight and has set an all-time NFL record for consecutive quarterback starts.
Favre, in essence, is a football machine; taking the knocks only to return stronger. In a sport typified by its big hits, that is only to be expected for one of the NFL’s most successful players of all time.
However, the veteran’s career has also been blighted by issues off the field over the years, including a spate of personal problems and various addictions.
Most recently, Favre was caught up in a new scandal; one that some believe could wreck the rest of his career and threaten his legacy.
The married father – and the only known grandfather plying his trade in the NFL – was embroiled in a ‘sexting’ scandal involving at least one woman who worked for the New York Jets when he played for the franchise in 2008.
Former Jets game-day hostess Jenn Sterger is believed to have been sent voicemails and lewd photos by Favre, all of which can now be seen and heard online.
But while some believe this could be a scandal too far, Favre is a man well-known for overcoming adversity rather than floundering under it. He proved that in December 2003 when he helped the Packers bury the Oakland Raiders with one of the most explosive offensive performances in the team’s illustrious history, featuring four touchdowns in the first half and 399 total yards in a 41-7 victory.
What made the performance even more implausible was the fact it came a day after Favre’s father, Irvin, suddenly died.
“I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play,” he said after the game. “I love him so much and I love this game. It’s meant a great deal to me, to my dad, to my family, and I didn’t expect this kind of performance. But I know he was watching.”
Such steel-mindedness has helped Favre reach the very pinnacle of the sport, collecting a Super Bowl ring and a host of NFL records along the way.
Few, though, could have expected so much from the boy from the small town of Kiln in Mississippi.
Born to teachers Irvin and Bonita in 1969, Brett was the youngest of four children and excelled at both baseball and football at Hancock North Central High School.
His father was the school’s offensive coach and, while admitting he knew his son had a great arm, Brett rarely threw more than five passes in a game due the run-orientated offense they used .
Favre continued to hone his football skills at college after Southern Mississippi offered him a scholarship – the only school to do so – and started his freshman year as the seventh-string quarterback, having rejected calls to play defensive back.
Four years later Favre was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons but his time in Georgia did not quite go to plan, partly due to Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville. He did not approve of drafting Favre in the first place, but it was another man’s belief that Favre can thank for the meteoric rise to prominence that followed.
Favre was set for a trade from the Falcons to the Green Bay Packers, although doctors recommended his physical be failed after he was diagnosed with a degenerative condition in his hip.
His diagnosis with avascular necrosis would have nullified the deal if it had not been for general manager Ron Wolf, who overruled the staff and completed the trade. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Packers enjoyed 16 years with Favre as starting quarterback, becoming the first player to win three successive Associated Press Most Valuable Player awards and helping the franchise appear in two Super Bowls, winning the XXXI edition.
But while successful with the Packers, Favre’s life has been punctuated by personal strife. A catalogue of personal tragedies followed his father’s death, including the death of his brother-in-law, his wife’s diagnosis with breast cancer and then the destruction of his family’s home when Hurricane Katrina blew through Mississippi.
Favre, though, continued to appear week in, week out for the Packers until 2008, when he formally announced his retirement from professional football.
For many it was the perfect time for Favre to end his NFL career, but just months later he shocked the football world by reversing his decision and penning a deal with the New York Jets after a bitter contract row with the Packers, with whom he had signed a so-called “lifetime” contract in 2001.
After just one season with the Jets, Favre announced his plan to retire once more. But yet again he reversed his decision, joining the Minnesota Vikings – the Packers’ fierce rivals – months later and leading them to the 2009 NFC Championship game, where they lost in overtime to the New Orleans Saints.
Favre is now in the midst of his 20th season in the NFL and is the only quarterback to have led a team to victory against all 32 teams in the league. Coupled with his other records and achievements, you cannot help wonder what keeps him ticking over.
The average career-span of an NFL player is three-and-a-half seasons and few can, or will ever, surpass Favre’s achievements in the game.
At 41, the calls continue for him to quit and it looks like this time, at last, he may finally heed them for good.
After a 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers earlier this season, Favre said he would go home and re-evaluate his career.
“We have six games left,” he said weeks later. “I hope to finish them all. Let’s make that clear.
“I want to finish on a high note. If my body will allow me, and I can play up to my expectations, my standards, I want to do it.”
For those who ask why he always comes back and what keeps him going, the answer is simple and emblazoned across his official website: “For the love of the game”.
A clear, concise message to those who have doubted him and advice for anybody that wants to attempt to tread in his gargantuan footsteps.