AP/MHSAA/Keith Warren
AP/MHSAA/Keith Warren

For Love of the Game

Brett Favre has never been one to ride off into the sunset, but the gunslinger still found his happily-ever-after coaching high school football in Mississippi. After calling the plays in last Friday’s Class 6A title game, there was only one logical (and all too familiar) question to ask: Will he be back next season?

By
Jenny Vrentas
· More from Jenny·

JACKSON, Miss. — He hurried from the coaches’ box to the stadium elevator holding a piece of pepperoni pizza in his right hand, the first thing he’d eaten in two days other than some Pedialyte. Brett Favre had a bad case of the flu, and it didn’t help that it was 35 degrees outside. But we all know this about Favre: He answers the call of football, and last Friday night, that call was the Class 6A Mississippi high school state championship game.

Oak Grove and Tupelo were scoreless at the half when Favre, Oak Grove’s offensive coordinator, hustled down to the locker room to deliver a pep talk. A stadium staffer offered him a ride after he stepped off the elevator. No, Favre said. He preferred to jog, and he took off running.

“Look, I know what it’s like to be in a championship game,” Favre told the players. “I know what you’re feeling.”

They had 24 minutes left in their season, and for many of the seniors, their football careers. For Favre, this was one more night he could still hold onto the game.

(Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
Before he became Oak Grove’s offensive coordinator last fall, Favre worked out at the school during the NFL offseason and was invested in the high school team’s success. Here he reacts to a play during a scrimmage in August 2010. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

The future Hall of Famer had spent the last several summers of his 20-year NFL career working out at Oak Grove, a convenient basecamp near his home in Hattiesburg as he notoriously cycled between retirement and un-retirement. He once broke an assistant coach’s finger with a zinger of a throw; sometimes Favre was joined by Steve McNair when McNair’s son played for Oak Grove. Where else could you find two NFL quarterbacks throwing route trees to high school receivers? It was Favre’s way of giving back while also staying in shape.

Since last fall, Oak Grove has offered something to Favre: a way back into the weekly routine that defined most of his life. “I really didn’t need it,” says Favre, his blooming gray beard making it seem as if all those sacks have actually aged him beyond his 44 years. “But if I was going to do it, I was going to be all in.” He’s been at practice every weekday from 2 to 5 p.m., at games on Friday nights and in Sunday film sessions after church. Only one or two of his players teased him when reports surfaced in October about the Rams’ reaching out to Favre regarding another comeback. “They know I’m not coming back,” he says.

Favre doesn’t feel anywhere near the same stress coaching as he did starting 298 games in the NFL. “That’s one of the reasons I quit playing,” he says. “The stress to perform at a high level week in and week out.” You’d believe him, if not for his sprinting down the bleachers at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in the third quarter, flu and all, refusing to let a malfunctioning headset interrupt his play-calling. 

Plus, Oak Grove had won six state championships within the last school year, even one in archery. But it had never taken home a state title in football. It was also a missing honor for Favre, who “didn’t even come close” to a championship while running his dad’s wishbone offense at Hancock North Central in Kiln, Miss.

Until he sprinted down the bleachers like an undrafted free agent hoping to make a practice squad, Favre lorded over Oak Grove’s offense from a cramped booth high above the field. He worked off memory, not a play sheet, sounding like an excited kid ordering ice cream as he urgently sent in play calls. Let’s go, uh… let’s go, uh … let’s go Bull! Bull, bull, bull! Then he watched to see if his quarterback, senior Kirk McCarty (picture atop page), would make the play work. Favre’s eager cheers could be heard from behind the booth’s closed door: There he is! He’s open!

I can’t say it’s the Super Bowl,” Favre said of the Class 6A title game, “but it’s pretty close.

A lefty pitcher headed to Southern Mississippi on a baseball scholarship, McCarty gushes about Favre’s having taught him everything he knows about playing quarterback. “He played so tough, and he’s kind of brought that out in me,” McCarty says. “If we miss a block, well, you should have gotten the ball out earlier. If a receiver runs the wrong route, you should have thrown it somewhere else; you should have made a better read.” On Friday, Favre passed along wisdom about keeping hands warm on a bone-chilling night: make a fist around a heat packet and keep blowing on it.

Favre considers himself to be a low-key coach, which holds true until McCarty improvises and checks out of the play call. “Run the play I called!” Favre always bellows. Yes, Mike Holmgren, Favre sees the irony. “I realize how much of a pain I was [as a player], thinking I knew it all,” the gunslinger admits. “Of course, I still think I knew it all. But all the things the coaches said to me, I’ve said the same thing: Don’t force it into coverage, take what they give you, keep it simple.”

Oak Grove runs an up-tempo spread offense that head coach Nevil Barr installed 13 years ago. “Totally foreign” says Favre, a West Coast aficionado who still made his mark as a volunteer coach. He changed the terminology, converting strings of numbers into play calls that are just a word or two, to make the tempo faster. Under Favre’s tutelage, McCarty threw for 44 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards this season.

(AP/MHSAA/Keith Warren)
Favre with Oak Grove head coach Nevil Barr (l.) and wideout Jordan Duncan after the Mississippi Class 6A championship game last Friday night. (AP/MHSAA/Keith Warren)

The Warriors’ offense was the best in Mississippi, but Tupelo had the state’s best defense, leading to the halftime stalemate. Coming out of the break, Favre mixed it up and ran the ball, going back to the same simple draw play as long as it worked. Oak Grove then scored a 5-yard touchdown, on a play called “Race,” when McCarty lofted the ball toward the back pylon and the receiver outran his defender for a 7-0 lead.

A few minutes later, Favre was racing down to the field—“The sensors went out!” he explained, bursting out of the coaches’ booth—and made it to the sideline in time for the next offensive series. He sprinted back up at the start of the fourth quarter, when the headsets were working again, and then back down again for the final seconds of the game.

Raw Brutality & Favre’s Class

In January 2010, Brett Favre was battered and bruised in the NFC championship game that would become better known as Bountygate. His backup, Sage Rosenfels, captured the emotions in an essay for The MMQB.

Favre stands out more than he’d like. Packers fans, including one couple celebrating its 50th anniversary, have shown up at Oak Grove practices. He chooses his spots carefully, opting not to attend the team’s march through the school hallways on Friday afternoons. Nor does he ride the team bus. He was assigned a state trooper for security last Friday night, but the officer eventually drifted away, letting Favre be like any other high school coach trying to help his team win.

They did win. Final score: Oak Grove 14, Tupelo 7. The game-winning touchdown was a play for which Favre made sure not to take any credit. Special teams coach Bobby DeLeon was behind the gutsy fake field goal, on which McCarty, also the holder, threw to a receiver who lined up uncovered on the outside of the formation. Favre celebrated like a high school kid, leaping on top of at least two other coaches.

“I can’t say it’s the Super Bowl, but it’s pretty close,” Favre would later say. You could see what he meant by the way he proudly embraced the heads of the jubilant teens surrounding him.

Now, the perpetual question for Favre: Will he be back next season? He gives a long-winded answer, mentioning that his younger daughter will be a sophomore at Oak Grove next year, and he’d like to be able to watch all of her volleyball games. It’s a fair consideration, except this is Brett Favre, the man who always answers the call of football.

More from The MMQB
28 comments
YemiThaBassMan
YemiThaBassMan

Say what you want about Favre the Man. Jenn Sterger is hot. Nuff said. 

But Favre the football player is someone worthy of respect. Yeah, all-time leader in INTs, but that consecutive starts streak is the stuff of legends.

If he'd started his career under the current "sneeze on the QB, get a 15 yard penalty and a fine" rules, he'd probably have played another 100 games.

That he's spending time coaching up kids, rather than appearing on TV as a blowhard is far more appealing. 

Congrats to Oak Grove!

RCH
RCH

He sure likes to hug alot.

pugpacker
pugpacker

Some know when to holdem, and some ........................................

Frotoon
Frotoon

In that one photo, Favre is jumping in the air due to what that kid behind him is doing to him.

TooncesDMV
TooncesDMV

Nice work Brett.  Now get up in that treestand.

BobBCMI
BobBCMI

Feel good and bad for the kids. Yes, they won a state championship, but yet I would guess they got tired of answering Favre questions. And how many people went to the game to see Favre, not the game? Sort of like the band at halftime...that's not why we are here. But in all I read, Favre is a good coach and role model for the kids. Like him or not on the football field and his decisions, he was never busted for stupid things, was not a thug, was never arrested doing over 100 mph, and was willing to work with high school kids. 

DBoston
DBoston

That must be a very secure head coach.  No mention of his or other coaches dedication to the athletes, very little mention of the athletes at all.  A feel good story of overcoming the flu to win a state championship. It was nice of him not to take credit for the winning play, but he did get credit for not taking credit.  Nice!

George
George

Favre, Brady, Patriots, NY, beer, lattes, pioli, favre ...  (yawn)


Only I notice now peter king's got Jenny Vrentas doing his lil' Abner man-crush dirty-work.


In fairness, I see no reference to vicodin (opium) addiction or sexting pics of your weiner to intimidate female reporters for sex in this puff piece.

Favre: "In some garbage can, huh??  So thayat's whutcha' thank I thank owf ya?!? Well ah'm still tryin'   I'm over at the HOtel .,... (stroke -stroke .. click) ..."


Stop glorifying this pick-throwing horny hillbilly.  pk - you are shameless.

BarrySoetoro
BarrySoetoro

Brett is a great inspiration for those young players and he keeps them clean.

SuperVillainMe
SuperVillainMe

Wow what happened? He looks like he's 60 years old!

pirate
pirate

Great story. Hope he comes back for another one.

Rick1717
Rick1717

Brett is a baller!   THe NFL has not been the same since he left. The best gamer that there has ever been.

MikeD71
MikeD71

Great story Jenny....how fitting for Brett, who always exuded the exuberance of a kid playing ball, to be helping kid's play his favorite sport.  There's something right about that.  Always liked Favre, even when he beat us in the SB.

TherealdanMcKelvey
TherealdanMcKelvey

He is a class act all the way....And he owes most of it to Jerry Glanville, for trading him to GB....Otherwise, we would never have heard of him.

xx_hgm4683_xx
xx_hgm4683_xx

comeback but as a coach...seems like you could do great things for young players. you could start on your alma mater or somewhere else but I really think being on sidelines is better for you now.

btcvsolo
btcvsolo

Good for him. 


Just...please, Brett....no more comebacks. Do the HOF thing and recede into the background with your dignity & legacy intact....

USMgolfer
USMgolfer

@BobBCMI Being a graduate of Oak Grove and being born and raised in Hattiesburg, MS. Brett is just another guy. No one really freaks out when he's around. No one really thinks of him as a celebrity. He's laid back and tries his hardest to stay out of the media and give it all the kids and coaching staff. 

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

I don't think Favre wrote the article.  A reporter for SI wrote it.  I'm also pretty sure that the story here is Favre and not the other high school coaches since this is an NFL column.  Stop trying to twist everything. 

pk_sea
pk_sea

@George Get a life. You are not obligated to read articles about Favre. 

Jeff63
Jeff63

He's 60 years old

Jeff63
Jeff63

OD'ing on Vicodin and sexting his ween ... Yep, class act all the way!

AndrewBubb
AndrewBubb

@TherealdanMcKelvey "He is a class act all the way" Really? ...Really?  I mean this is a great story.  And he's a class act here.  But all the way?  Come on, that's looking at history through some pretty rose tinted glasses.

George
George

@pk_sea @George Thanks for weighing in, pete!    :D


When you stop man-loving lil' Abner in your articles, there won't be any left to read.

Now go back to writing about Boston, Favre, Brady, NY, Patriots, pioli, lattes, beers, more favre ...

crockettlives2012
crockettlives2012

@AndrewBubb @TherealdanMcKelvey 

The guy made mistakes for sure, but as the 70 kids and their parents from the Make A Wish Foundation that he spent and continues to spend time with. He's one of the most requested athletes by that organization, never says "no" and is loved by the familes. Perfect, no but someone should write an article about what i just mentioned. 

BarrySoetoro
BarrySoetoro

How would you know what a class act is??

MikeD71
MikeD71

@George @pk_sea This story wasn't written for you George.  You can find your stories in the daily news.

Newsletter