Favre fans remember bumps and thrills

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Todd Mishler | November 19, 2015

Millions of Cheeseheads worldwide rode the same emotional roller coaster that he did every week for 16 years in Green Bay, and most fans would do it again for one Brett Lorenzo Favre.

Peyton Manning has surpassed several of No. 4's National Football League records, and several others may do the same during the next few years. However, no one will match the iconic status or the gunslinger mentality of the quarterback from Kiln, Mississippi — or his 336 interceptions. Favre's toughness and kid-on-the-sandlot playing style were unmatched, at least at the QB position, and it helped the Packers reach the postseason 11 times during his stay in Titletown.

Some left the Green and Gold bandwagon, and have never jumped back on, after Favre's messy divorce from the team that issued in the Aaron Rodgers era. But his season in New York and two years with rival Minnesota — along with his many off-the-field transgressions, such as substance abuse issues and sexual harassment lawsuit — may not have been forgotten but have been forgiven.

Favre and the team have slowly repaired any rift over the last couple of years, and on Thanksgiving night, he and the franchise will come full circle.

The Packers made him the sixth player in team history to have his jersey retired and inducted him into the team's Hall of Fame this past July. And on Thursday his name and number will be unveiled on the Lambeau Field façade during a halftime ceremony in the team's game against the Chicago Bears.

And Stateline area fans are glad that the Packers and Favre — no doubt a first-ballot NFL Hall of Fame inductee in summer 2016 — will put an exclamation point on his career in the place where he made so many memories.

Bill Willman, of Delavan, has been a Milwaukee ticket holder since 1960.

“My wife (Cathy) always has loved Brett Favre, so it was tough when they traded him and during the three years he was gone,” Willman said. “I think his induction (into the Packers Hall of Fame) was wonderful, and you could tell from the ovation he received at the dedication in July … it was quite a thing. And I believe Thanksgiving Day will be the same way.”

Jeff Griffis, 54, of Afton, has collected tons of Packers memorabilia over the years. He said the relationship would be repaired sooner or later.

“I kinda figured it was about time,” the Milton native said. “I was never so bothered as many that he went to the Jets and Minnesota because he still wanted to play and loved to play. I never turned on him because he gave us a lot of great years.”

Jim Mawhinney, of Janesville, agreed.

“I was always a big Favre fan, even when his time here ended,” said Mawhinney, who grew up during the Vince Lombardi days of the 1960s and later had season tickets for a while. “Both sides were at fault. I'm happy that the Packers have re-embraced him. I'm happy he's back, and I think (Thursday) will be something special.”

The hope was that Green Bay legend Bart Starr, who has been recovering from several strokes and a heart attack he suffered last fall, would be healthy enough to make an appearance at Lambeau that night.

That would be appropriate considering Favre was the most instrumental player in rejuvenating the franchise after 25 years of mostly losing after Starr and his standout teammates of the Glory Days had brought Green Bay five NFL championships in seven years under Lombardi.

Griffis has not attended a game since the Packers' 35-13 win over Tampa Bay in late November 1995, a contest in which Favre threw three scoring passes, including two to Robert Brooks.

He said fans were drawn to Favre's persona and never-say-die attitude.

“You can ask my wife (Shari), I just about cried when he left … it was a sad day,” Griffis said. “I just liked the energy he brought to the team. Everybody talked about his gunslinger style, but he played with such reckless abandon.”

Willman's favorite memory was the Dec. 18, 1994, win over Atlanta in the team's last game played at Milwaukee County Stadium, a 21-17 decision in which Favre's late TD run decided a game that Green Bay led 14-3 after the first quarter and helped the hosts reach the playoffs.

“That was a game that I remember because (head coach) Mike Holmgren told him not to run,” Willman said of the ill-advised but fortunate scamper with only 14 seconds left. “Our seats were in the sun deck area on that end of County Stadium. He got in by the skin of his teeth.” 

That play was a microcosm of Favre's career.

“He played with so much enthusiasm and had fun doing it, and that added to the game,” Mawhinney said. “He and Ron Wolf turned the team around after so many lean years. He added a kind of excitement to the game that you don't see much in the NFL these days.”

And it's what the team and its fans will be celebrating Thursday night.

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