Harlan set the perfect tone during a news conference to announce Favre would be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and have his No. 4 retired during his enshrinement on July 18, 2015.
“He was the greatest competitor I’ve ever been around, and he played with the passion and enthusiasm of a kid on a sandlot,” the former Packers president said at the still-under-construction Packers Hall of Fame. “It’s great to have old friends home again. Thank you very much.”
Favre, his exile officially complete after an ugly divorce that split the fan base and saw Favre eventually spend two seasons playing quarterback for rival Minnesota, will be the lone member of the Packers Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015. At some point during the 2015 season, Favre will be honored during a regular-season game, with his name unveiled on the façade of Lambeau Field along with the rest of the team’s Pro Football Hall of Famer players.
“I’m honored, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart to have my name enshrined with -- the list is so long, from Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau to Vince Lombardi on down to Reggie White and myself. It’s just an amazing honor (and) one that I never dreamed of,” Favre said via a conference call.
“I always dreamed of playing pro football as a kid, but I had never dreamed of Hall of Fames and jerseys being retired and things of that nature. I just thought about playing and how much fun that would be. To be able to play one game in Green Bay is enough. To be able to play 16 years wonderful years in Green Bay is just an amazing honor. There’s no place like it. It’s rich in tradition and to be associated with that organization and the names that have been placed in the ring of honor, the names that have been placed in the Hall of Fame is more than a dream come true. I’m truly honored.”
Harlan did much of the work behind the scenes. After the press conference, he told a few reporters that the Packers Hall of Fame, Packers and Favre had agreed to the induction and number retirement around Thanksgiving. Harlan said it was kept under wraps so as not to upstage the 2014 Packers Hall of Fame class of Ahman Green and Ken Ruettgers.
During an unbelievable career, Favre won three consecutive NFL MVPs and holds league career records for touchdown passes (508), passing yards (71,838) and completions (6,300). While some or all of the passing records might fall, his streak of 298 consecutive regular-season starts might never be broken.
Beyond the numbers is what Harlan referenced. Favre helped turn around a perennial league doormat with an unmatched style. After reaching the playoffs just twice in 20 years, the Packers won one Super Bowl, got to another and were almost always in the championship conversation.
“Well, it’s flattering. And as much as I’d like to take credit for my success, I can’t,” Favre said. “I was part of it and I’m honored by that. But only by the grace of God, I know as time goes by and I get older, it’s less about me and more about guys providing me the opportunities. I’m very thankful and grateful that I was able to do that and I’m proud of the fact that I was a part of such a winning organization with wonderful players.
“I’ve always felt that I was a good quarterback and was a winner and was very competitive,” he continued. “Fortunately, I took the reins and was able to help that team win so many times. The grace of God provided me with talent and a competitive nature and tremendous players and teammates and coaches and by far the best fans. And so, this is a great honor. I’m blushing, really. I knew this moment over the last couple years would come and I’m just thankful that we’re here and it’s set in stone and it’s going be done.”
With the current general manager-coach duo of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy listening in the background, Favre spoke with reverence about his 16 seasons with the Packers. He not only hopes to come back for a game this season, but to flip the coin alongside Bart Starr. “I’ve got chills right now thinking about it,” Favre said. And he said he “absolutely” would love to pose for a photo of the ages with Starr and Aaron Rodgers.
“Our organization, and I say ‘ours,’ has been rare in a lot of ways because of all the great names and players that have come along,” Favre said. “The tradition, the Super Bowls and just the fact that Green Bay is such a small town -- it says a lot about that city and the fans. But to have three quarterbacks who stood the test of time and won and won big games and have been fortunate enough to win MVPs, it’s just so hard to do, just for one man to do it consistently. To have three quarterbacks who have done it, you’re in such a special category. Yeah, I’d be honored. I hope it gets done, I really do. I’d love to be a part of that.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.