About 24 hours after learning of the death of his father, Irvin Favre, Brett led his Green Bay Packers to a crucial 41-7 win over the Oakland Raiders. It was one of the best performances of his life on perhaps the worst day of his life.
His four first-half touchdown passes were a career-high. A would-be fifth touchdown slipped through the hands of tight end David Martin. Favre was 22-of-33 for 399 yards, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 154.9, also a career high.
Coach Mike Sherman said he's never been prouder of a player or a team. "No one handles adversity the way he does and responds the way he does," Sherman said. "If it happened to someone else, he would respond the same way. I was proud of him and proud of the players who surrounded and supported him. We knew had to win this game for Brett."
The offense responded to Favre's grief with 548 yards of offense and no turnovers. The defense chipped in with three take-aways and four sacks, knocking Rick Mirer out of the game.
While the defense was on the field, Favre alternated between smiles and tears on the bench. He received a steady stream of condolences from teammates and Packer personnel. Favre's wife Deanna, who took a 3:30 a.m. flight to be with her husband Monday, watched from a team box until the fourth quarter when she joined him on the sideline.
With his life-long teacher suddenly out of his daily life, Favre took the reins. Monday night he taught his teammates a lesson they'll always remember – and this lesson should be the lasting legacy of Irvin Favre, a gift from his son.
It was a lesson about commitment, a lesson about remembering one's roots and respecting those who paved your way.
Brett Favre played Monday night because his dad would have wanted him to play. That's not a cliché, that's the truth straight from the only person who would know:
"I knew my dad would want me to play," an emotion-torn Favre said on ABC immediately after the game. "I love him so much and I love this game. It meant a great deal to me to my dad and to my family. I didn't expect this kind of performance, but I know he was watching tonight."
After learning of his father's death from close friend and teammate Doug Pederson, Favre had a decision to make. He was advised by Sherman to take his time and was assured of the full support of the Green Bay Packers for whatever his decision would be.
Although Favre didn't announce his decision until an emotional team meeting later Sunday night, it's a good guess that there was never any doubt. According to reports, Favre told his team that he was committed to the Green Bay Packers, committed to this season, to his teammates and to the lessons his father taught him about football and life.
"Brett shared a lot last night about how he loved his dad, how he loves football and this football team," Sherman said.
Former Packer Brian Noble called Favre a hero in the post-game show. Maybe playing football extremely well doesn't qualify one for being a hero, but standing up for a father, a team and sport that you love does. Not too many people have to decide whether to let the world watch them work through their darkest days. Favre did, and he decided to honor his father with an unforgettable example of strength and class.