It was a forgone conclusion that Brett Favre was going to get selected for the 2016 Hall of Fame class. Now that he’s in, let the stories begin.
Favre is a character like few others and, earlier this week on 1500 ESPN Radio, former Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson, who may end up joining Favre in Canton, relayed the story of the near abduction of Favre in August 2010.
Following the beating Favre took in the NFC Championship Game against the Bountygate-driven Saints, it took Favre months to recover. For years, he had contemplated retirement at the end of seasons. But this time, he figured, it was going to stick.
Others figured differently.
Throughout the offseason, it was assumed that Favre was coming back in 2010 to finish the job. The Minnesota Vikings were scheduled to return all 22 starters from the 2009 team, but one thing was missing – Favre.
The draft came and went without him. OTAs came and went. Minicamps were no different. But when training camp started and there was still no word from Favre. The preseason games had begun and Favre was still a no-show and reiterating his belief that he would stay retired as training camp broke.
Drastic measures were needed and head coach Brad Childress was desperate to get Favre back, even if it involved a legal kidnapping.
“Childress called me into his office after practice and said, ‘Hey, what do you think you and I fly down and go get Brett?’ And I said, ‘I got a better idea. How about you stay here and send Jared, because Jared makes him laugh, and Ryan Longwell, because he loves Ryan and they have such a past together. And I’ll go too. The three of us.’”
The level of the covert nature of the trip went a bit to the extreme. One thing about practice is that the media takes a daily head count on players and it was going to be obvious that Hutchinson, Allen and Longwell would be missing. Childress dispatched the players to leave Mankato and go to pick up Favre.
It was so hush-hush that the Vikings took steps in case some intrepid reporters were looking for airplane tail numbers on owners Zygi Wilf’s private jet. As a result, they needed to take a circuitous route to get to the Favre ranch.
“The pilot had a flight plan going into New Orleans that we were going to change mid-flight, so anybody following Zygi’s tail number wouldn’t see it flew to Hattiesburg,” Hutchinson said. “… It worked. I mean, we got down there – I guess about the time you guys were figuring out we weren’t at practice. That’s kind of when we were in the car ride back to the plane to get into the plane to fly back to Minneapolis. And by that time, obviously, there was the helicopter and the whole charade there (at Winter Park). It was pretty funny, we were laughing the whole time. We got him back, but we basically kidnapped him.”
Favre’s family knew his Vikings pals were coming to see him, but any true kidnapping needs an element of surprise. The only surprise the players found was that Brett was off to the land of nod shortly after they got there.
Any attempt to sway Favre to come back – or get a final resounding “no” as his answer – was going to have to wait until the sun came up in Mississippi.
“We get there – now, of course, his whole family knew we were coming; he was the only one who didn’t know,” Hutchinson said. “So we get there at like 9:30, 10 at night by the time we get to his house. And it was this big surprise thing. I’m not kidding when I say he was like, ‘Oh, it’s so great to see you guys.’ Fifteen minutes later, ‘Where’s Brett?’ ‘He went to bed.’ Seriously. We’re sitting on the couch. (Favre’s wife) Deanna’s like, ‘I think he went to bed.’ (We were thinking,) ‘Oh, this is going to be tough.’”
Eventually, the Winter Park 3 got the job done. They were able to sway Favre to come back for one more rodeo. But it was more to save face than anything else.
“We thought we were going to walk in and he’d be like, ‘Yeah, let’s go win one for the Gipper,’” Hutchinson said. “But, no. Next day we were talking. We started thinking, ‘If he doesn’t come back, people are going to start finding out we were down here regardless. And what does it look like for the organization and the confidence we have in the other quarterbacks?’ It was just going to be a media circus that way. It’s true, he did not want to come back at first. And finally, when he did, typical Brett fashion. ‘Ah, all right. Let’s go.’ Like you just talked a kid into, like, throwing rocks off a bridge or something.”
In the end, there wasn’t a happy ending to this spy thriller. But it added another chapter to the Favre legend, stories that are going to continue to be told between now and when Brett is inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.