Brett Favre was the reason I loved Sundays for years.
The first one was a white Reggie White jersey, but when he left the Packers in 1998 I decided it was time to move on.
When it was my birthday my grandmother asked what I wanted, and of course I said another Packers jersey. She bought me star safety Darren Sharper's jersey. I was thrilled.
Yet, neither Reggie White nor Darren Sharper were my favorite player.
Not even close.
That honor belonged to Brett Favre.
He was the reason I started watching the Packers around the age of three, which would be his second of his 16 seasons with the team.
Flash ahead a few years to January 26, 1997. I was a preschooler living in Eden Prairie, Minnesota and Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers had just won Super Bowl XXXI over the New England Patriots.
They were the World Champions!
Even at five years old I knew that moment was surreal.
What do you think of Brett Favre?
The following year he led them back, only to lose to John Elway and the Denver Broncos in a close and hard fought contest.
Years went by, dreams were crushed, and memories were made.
In 2003 he threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns just days after his father passed away.
If that isn't inspiring, then I don't know what is.
We went through Fourth and 26 together against the Eagles.
We got stomped on by The Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis.
Through it all Brett Favre was there, and we witnessed all his great comebacks, and yes, we were even there through the worst of times with him.
After all, his last throw with the team he shaped was an interception.
In 2008, Favre "unretired" and got traded to the New York Jets during that season.
My heart was broken when management and Favre started to part.
It was unlike anything I ever wanted to feel. I didn't know whose side I was on, and for awhile I participated in the Favre banter and even insulted my childhood hero a couple times, but that was just the beginning.
When Favre was signed by the Minnesota Vikings the next year I thought I might lose it.
Favre was playing for the team that he, the entire state of Wisconsin, and I despised so much?
My "hate" for the man was furthered when they nearly reached the Super Bowl and he had the best statistical year of his career.
I may have been even more nervous than most Vikings fans, but ultimately Favre and the Vikings fell short.
Criticism surrounded him.
Packers fans called him a traitor.
Vikings fans called him stupid for throwing that errant pass that led to the Saints' victory in last year's NFC Championship.
He has retired and "unretired" several times, been involved in a sexting scandal, and has had multiple surgeries in the last three years alone.
The media now hates Brett Favre, and only Brett Favre would have the audacity to go out and continue to play football, and do you know why?
It's because Favre loves the game of football.
2010 has been a totally different story for Favre.
He has thrown 17 picks and just 10 touchdowns.
He has been taken out of games by hard hits and injuries recently.
I have seen and heard everything people say from "That's what you get for being a nuisance in the league!" to "You should have stayed retired!", and it just makes me sick to my stomach.
Have we sunken that low, Packers—and for that matter, NFL—fans?
As Favre's time is coming to a close here in 2010, I think to myself of how thankful I am for the guy. He won us a Super Bowl, something the Vikings have never been able to claim, and took home three consecutive MVP awards from 1995 to '97.
I'd like to say that when he is elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in five years that everything will be alright.
All of Green Bay will hopefully forgive and let him join Canton's elite as a Green Bay Packer.
After all, time heals pretty much everything.
Before I get ripped on by other Packers fans, let me explain something to you—have you ever seen anyone enjoy and fully appreciate the game as much as Brett Favre has?
Whether he was slapping a referee's behind, high-fiving coaches or carrying Greg Jennings, he was always having fun on the field.
He can and has put up mind-blowing statistics, and when given the chance can also falter under pressure (see 2008 and 2010 NFC Championships). Regardless he must have been doing something right to hold a bunch of records, both good and bad ones.
As his streak closed out on Monday in Detroit, I noticed that same smile that I had seen for years in the green uniform, only this time it was purple.
For once, it didn't really matter and he seemed happy, and judging by his current circumstances it would be difficult to come by a smile for anyone else.
But he isn't just "anyone else".
He was my childhood hero.
He was the reason I became a Packers fan.
He is one of the best quarterbacks of all-time.
Forget everything that has happened to him in the last three years—can we all just sit back and enjoy what he did for the National Football League? I know I will.
Brett Favre is still my favorite football player.
He has more love for football than anyone I've ever seen, and for that I will stand and applaud.