Farewell to a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback

Favre was incomparable because he was one of us, and because he was such a joy to watch, says PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence, who shares a story involving Favre and Reggie White.

Driving past Lambeau Field on Friday night, I could only imagine the mood inside Fan Fest.

The timing, coming just one day after Brett Favre bid an emotional farewell, no doubt tempered the enthusiasm inside the Lambeau Field Atrium for the opening night of the Packers' annual attempt to make a few bucks between kickoffs.

"This is what it's like when you die," Favre quipped Thursday about watching a career retrospective.

Part of Packers Nation did die on Tuesday, when news of Favre's decision to retire took the country by storm.

The reason has more to do with Favre the person than Favre the football player.

One of my favorite Favre moments came during my first day on the Packers' practice field. It was a special-teams period, and Reggie White was taking a knee on the sideline while surrounded by the rest of the starting defense.

Behind White was Favre, placing a blade of grass on the back of White's head. White swatted at the grass, thinking it was a pesky bug. Again, Favre placed a blade of grass on White's head. Again, White swatted at the grass.

The scene repeated itself a couple more times before White, with his defensive teammates no longer able to control their laughter, turned around and saw a grinning Favre.

"I'm going to get you!" White, with that raspy voice of his, said with mock indignity.

We loved Favre because Favre made us laugh. He made us cry. He made us think. From his addiction to painkillers, to the death of his father, to Hurricane Katrina to Deanna's breast cancer, Favre let us inside his life. And you know what? Aside from his ability to throw the ball through an oak tree, he was one of us.

He went to work every day. He made the daily grind easier and boosted morale by enjoying a good prank. He dressed like us. He didn't need a fleet of fancy cars or gaudy jewelry. He didn't pretend to be someone he wasn't. He matured before our very eyes.

Of course, none of that would have mattered if Favre couldn't play the game. But, boy, could he play.

What separates Favre from every one of the great quarterbacks in NFL history, though, was Favre's passion. Aaron Rodgers could throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns every year until he's 38, but he'll never be Favre.

And that's what makes imagining No. 12 behind center next season and not No. 4 so difficult. Rodgers is perfectly situated to have a great career. He's got the arm strength and the athleticism. He's smart. He's got an offensive-minded coach and a talented group of receivers. Hopefully, he learned the study habits that eventually drove Favre to retire.

But he's not Favre.

Favre took delight in laying out a 300-pound defensive lineman on a reverse, then helping the embarrassed defender up with a smile.

Favre demoralized defenders by slapping five with them after getting drilled for a sack.

Favre threw snowballs at Donald Driver and hoisted Greg Jennings.

Favre never ran so fast as when he would sprint to the end zone to celebrate a touchdown.

Favre slapped hands with officials.

Favre talked trash in a way that made everyone laugh.

Favre threw passes underhanded and from his knees.

Favre possessed a stiff-arm that made Walter Payton smile in heaven, allowing him to turn disasters into first downs or touchdowns.

Favre shook hands with opposing mascots, and playfully joined in "Green Bay sucks" chants with opposing fans.

Favre even took something approximating a Lambeau Leap.

"I've always said that people watching in the stands, I could see them saying, 'If I could play, that's the way I'd want to play.' And that is important to me, because that's the only way I know how to play it," Favre said.

Maybe, Rodgers will be Steve Young to Favre's Joe Montana. Maybe the Packers won't miss a beat on the field.

But with Favre on the field, it was almost like buying two tickets for the price of one. You got to enjoy the Packers and perhaps watch Favre do something that you've never seen before and never will again.

"I hope that every penny," Favre said before choking back tears, "... that every penny (the Packers) spent on me, they know it's been money well spent."

Favre never cheated his legion of fans, which is why Packers Nation is in a state of mourning that's going to last for a very, very long time.

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com

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