He said he rarely got a pat on the back from his father. Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre said his father showed “tough love” when he was growing up. Irv Favre was Brett’s father and football coach. Brett Favre recalls his late father as being “a coach first.”
Favre’s early years
Brett Favre started as a high school baseball player in the eighth grade. He earned five varsity letters at Hancock North Central High School in Mississippi. In football, he played three years of varsity. He was the quarterback under his father, Irvin, who was the head coach.
Favre was talented and had a strong arm. But, like his brothers, he became the quarterback because Irv knew he would be showing up to practice. Irv caught some heat as he always made his kids the quarterback. “Irvin got flak about that,” Rocky Gauden, an assistant under Irv, said to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “People said, ‘He’s the head coach. He’s just making his kids the quarterbacks.’ He’d talk to me about it and say, ‘You know, the reason I do this is because I know they’re going to be at practice. They ain’t got no choice.’ There was a lot of logic to that.”
Despite Brett’s strong arm, Irv ran an offense that was run-oriented. Brett rarely threw more than five times a game. Southern Mississippi offensive line coach Mark McHale scouted Brett one game and told Irv he couldn’t recommend him based on his low number of passes. Irv told the scout to return next week and he’ll throw more. “So McHale went the next week, and Brett threw it six or seven times,” said Regiel Napier, the former sports information director at Southern Miss. “To Irv, that was airing it out.”
The death of Irv Favre
On Dec. 22, 2003, Brett Favre was faced with a very difficult decision. Should he return home to his family to mourn the unexpected death of his father, who died of a heart attack while driving the night before, or play against the Oakland Raiders? For Favre, the decision was pretty easy. “For about five minutes, there was some indecision on whether or not I was going to play,” Favre said, according to Fox Sports. “It didn’t take long for me to say, ‘You’ve got to play in this game.’”
And play he did. “I was so worried that I would lay an egg in that game,” Favre said. “Butterflies is an understatement. It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been.” Favre was unstoppable. The Packers quarterback threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns – in the first half. Green Bay cruised to a 41-7 win in the Monday Night Football game.
“I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play,” Favre said then. “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 tonight.”
Irv Favre was ‘a coach first’
Brett Favre loved his father, and his father loved Brett. In a 2016 interview with Graham Bensinger, Favre said his dad never showed the love. “He may have told other people, ‘boy I’m proud of that boy.’ I never heard that,” Favre said. “I know he was proud of me, but it was almost like this fear of being soft.
“There were some times after a game where I thought I played pretty good. I may not tell people that, but I felt that way. But even in those times, I’d be thinking that a “good job” would be good to hear right now. I might get ‘wasn’t bad, but you can play better than that. What happened on that one play?’ There might be 70 good plays and there was one bad one and he would bring that to light.”
Favre admits he learned a lot from his father. He knows his father was a fan. “It was tough love,” Favre said. “He was a coach first, with me. Every conversation with my dad always involved football. As far back as I can remember, it always had to do with football or baseball. Not working on the truck or not sawing down trees. It was football or baseball. That’s what we did and that’s who we were. When I say that’s what he would have wanted me to do (play football the night after his death), that’s the truth.”