“SOME PEOPLE ARE PERFECT FITS FOR SOME PLACES. SOUTHERN MISS WAS THE FIT FOR ME. IT’S A BLUE-COLLAR, IN-THE-TRENCHES TYPE OF PLACE. MY DAD HAD LEATHERED ME UP PRETTY GOOD AS FAR AS TOUGHNESS, BUT SOUTHERN MISS TOUGHENED ME UP EVEN MORE. IT’S A DIFFERENT MINDSET AT SOUTHERN MISS WHERE THEY HAVE ALWAYS PLAYED WITH A CHIP ON THEIR SHOULDER. THAT’S THE WAY I’VE ALWAYS PLAYED.”
“Now, if I had had chances to go to LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama or places like that—I don’t know what would have happened. I know I might have chosen another place for the wrong reasons. When high school players ask me about making a college choice, I tell them to make a choice according to where they fit best. Southern Miss was that place for me, and I really didn’t have much of a choice. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He began at Southern Miss as the sixth string quarterback. By his third game as a freshman, he was the starter. He took the Golden Eagles to victories over the likes of Alabama, Auburn and Florida State. His USM career really was the stuff of legend. All these years later, people still tell these stories:
• Of how he, not expecting to play, came off the bench as a hungover 17-year-old freshman to rally USM to a victory over Tulane.
• Of how he threw passes receivers heard coming. How his high-velocity passes broke receivers’ fingers if they didn’t catch it just right.
• Of how he beat Alabama’s Crimson Tide less than two months after major surgery to remove 30 inches of his intestine after a horrific car accident.
People in Hattiesburg and the surrounding areas seemingly never tire of telling those stories. And they followed him faithfully as fans when he played for the Falcons, Packers, Jets and Vikings in the NFL.
When Favre led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, the NFL rented buses to take media on tours of Kiln, Hattiesburg and Southern Miss.
Favre could have told them other places to go in Mississippi, places he loves to visit.
“Man, I love going to those old river towns, Natchez and Vicksburg,” he says. “Of course, the Gulf Coast is where I grew up, and I love all those places up and down the beach.”’
Favre hunts in the Mississippi Delta. He plays a lot of golf around the state and especially at Old Waverly and Mossy Oak in West Point.
“You’re not going to find any better golf courses any where in the world than those George (his friend George Bryan) built in West Point,” Favre says. “I take people there, and they can’t believe it. It’s a golfer’s paradise.”
SO WHAT WOULD FAVRE TELL PEOPLE WHO ARE VISITING MISSISSIPPI FOR THE FIRST TIME?
“Good question,” he says. “Let me tell you what happened the other day when I was eating breakfast with some friends in Oak Grove (just west of Hattiesburg). We were sitting there talking and this fellow comes up and I can tell right away where he’s from. He’s got that Wisconsin cheesehead accent. And, sure enough, he tells me he’s from Appleton, Wisconsin.
Favre continues, “He says he moved to Mississippi three years ago, so I ask him how he likes it and he says the heat took some getting used to but now, he loves it. So I asked him what he likes best, and he said it’s the people. The people, he said, are so nice, so polite.
“So I guess that’s what I’d tell folks coming here for the first time. You’ll like what you see, but you’re gonna love the people.”
At 49, Favre has gray hair and beard, but he remains trim and chiseled. He looks as if he could still play. He says he works out more these days than when he played. When asked, Brett says he honestly doesn’t know what the future holds. He has not closed the door on coaching or on TV sports announcing.
He just knows one thing for certain: No matter what he does, home base will remain Mississippi.