Forever Young: Favre Still Plays With The Passion, Fire Of His Youth

Minutes before kickoff, Brett Favre sits in his locker, waiting. "The anticipation...I can’t wait to play the game." - More Audio | Video | Packers-Broncos Game Center Notebook: Robinson Will Be Game-Day Decision Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 27

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Sunday, September 9th. Game day.

The 2007 season is about to begin. Minutes before kickoff against the Philadelphia Eagles, Brett Favre sits in his locker, waiting.

He's going over the offensive game plan one last time, and waiting. He's thinking about the Eagles' defense, and waiting. He's thinking about throwing that first pass of the season, and waiting.

"I find that I'm more impatient now," said the 17-year NFL veteran. "I'm going over things in my head, but the anticipation...I can't wait to play the game. The down time to me is painful."

Philadelphia wins the coin flip and elects to receive the opening kickoff. Favre stands on the sideline, waiting.

The Packers defense stops the Eagles' drive in three plays, forcing a punt. Favre already knows the play before he steps on the field. He alerts his teammates and breaks the huddle. Favre makes sure the offense is set, sends his men into motion and examines the defense. He calls out the cadence and center Scott Wells snaps the ball.

Finally, after all the waiting it's time to play football...

Anyone who knows Brett Favre can tell you that football isn't just a game to him. Football is as natural to him as breathing.

In fact, football has always been a part of his life. Growing up in Kiln, Miss., your typical small town everyone-knew-everyone atmosphere, with no mayor, no streetlights and dirt roads providing the main thoroughfare, the Favres always had sports.

"You had to manufacture your own things to do," he said of Kiln. "We were always playing sports growing up, my brothers and sister. We always made our sister play baseball and football.

"Dad was always coaching football and baseball from Day 1," he said of his father Irvin. "I was always around football. I was always out at practice as a ball boy or manager."

However, learning the X's and O's wasn't a high priority for the young Favre.

"All I cared about was seeing how far I could throw it back then," Favre said.

That young boy has matured into a man. His once shaggy brown hair now has hints of gray sprouts on his closely shaven head and ever-present three-days'-growth beard. However, the one thing that has never changed about Brett Lorenzo Favre, the thing that keeps him coming back season after season, is his boyish passion for the game.

The thrill of the game, the excitement and the competition are what drive him. It's visible with the way he plays, whether he's running the length of the field to celebrate a 41-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings (against the Bears this season), flailing his arms in frustration or hoisting Donald Driver over his shoulder with exuberance.

"I love to play the game," Favre said. "The games themselves are what it's all about. It's more of a grind than it used to be but I think I appreciate them more."

The grind has taken its toll on Favre's body. He has played through bumps, bruises and pain while starting an NFL-record 263 consecutive games at quarterback (including playoffs).

On Oct. 10 Favre celebrated his 38th birthday. Many people wonder how much he has left in him to keep playing.

Following the 2006 season, Favre faced the same question that he had the past few years. After three MVP crowns, a Super Bowl championship and countless passing records, is it time to retire?

In a little over a month he had the answer. On Feb. 2 he announced he would be suiting up with the Packers for a 16th season. As far back in his life as Favre can remember he has played the sport. He wasn't quite ready to walk away.

"I have to look at can I still play at a high level? I believe that," Favre said. "I still feel like I have something to give to this team. The Packers feel like I can lead this team."

Favre has indeed successfully led the team. The Packers are 5-1, the team's best start since 2002, and are tied with Dallas for the best record in the NFC despite boasting the youngest team in the NFL. Favre was playing competitive football before some of his teammates were even born. Despite the youth, Favre saw potential with the current Packers squad.

"This team, at this point, doesn't realize how good it can be," he said before the season. "Which is understandable when you're as young as we are. When I first came in the league I didn't realize what a good team was or what a good player was. I started to realize what it takes to have success and I think this team definitely has it."

{sportsad300}Despite the team's success, most of the national attention has been on Favre's assault on the NFL record books. Green Bay recorded victories against Philadelphia, 16-13, and at the N.Y. Giants, 35-13. With the two wins Favre became the winningest quarterback in NFL history with 149 victories, surpassing John Elway's old mark.

The next to fall was Dan Marino's touchdown record of 420. In New York, Favre threw three touchdown pass to give him 417. The 2-0 Packers then hosted the San Diego Chargers. Favre threw two early touchdowns but the Packers were down 21-17 with 2:18 left in the game. After an incomplete pass, Favre hit wide receiver Greg Jennings on a slant that the second-year wideout took 57 yards for the go-ahead score. Green Bay won the game 31-24 and Favre had tied Marino. In typical Favre fashion he played down the record.

"I couldn't care less about that record, I'm glad we won the game," he said following the game. "The record doesn't mean anything if we lose."

One week later Favre etched his name in history, again. Favre, again, hit Jennings on a slant route in the first quarter at Minnesota. And again, the pass went for a touchdown. Now Favre stood alone atop the league's touchdown list.

Despite his new place in NFL history, Favre still finds it hard to grasp what his legacy will be.

"Initially you'll be remembered by statistics, how many yards you throw, how many touchdowns, things like that," Favre said. "But in the long run I think people will remember me by my durability and wins - which is the bottom line in this business.

"I hope people will say, 'He's a winner, a great teammate. He played the game hard every time he played. He was always going to do whatever it takes to win.' To me, that's what's it's all about."

Despite his age, all the off-season workouts, all the meetings, all the studying, all the practices, the grind is worth it to Favre once he snaps on his chinstrap and comes alive on the field, casting off the shadow of an aging legend and transforming into that little kid from Mississippi playing catch in the backyard for the pure joy and love of the game.

The Green Bay Packers, their fans and the NFL are blessed to have Favre around for another season. Every game presents another opportunity to watch him play, and perhaps a chance to see if this veteran can rally his young squad for another run at the Lombardi Trophy.

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