442 touchdown passes.
5,377 completions, 61,657 total yards. 255 consecutive games started.
At 38 years of age, Brett Favre holds nearly every significant career passing record in NFL history. He's won three season MVPs and a Vince Lombardi trophy. And he hasn't missed a start in nearly 16 years.
Simply put, Brett Favre has nothing left to prove in the NFL. Zip, zilch, nada.
When Dan Marino was nearing the end of his career, he hung around for a few extra seasons in pursuit of a championship victory. Unlike Marino, Favre already has a ring.
When Warren Moon's best years were behind him, he probably figured that with a few more strong performances he could solidify a place for himself in Canton. Favre on the other hand could have quit football eight years ago and still have been a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Various quarterbacks throughout the history of the game have kept playing far beyond their primes—but most of them had some sort of personal goals they hoped to achieve in the process. Favre, on the other hand, has reached every career milestone that a professional quarterback could hope for, and more.
When football fans fifty years from now are looking back on No. 4's career, one question will surely linger in their heads:
Why did Brett Favre continue playing for so long when he had absolutely nothing left to prove?
And for those of us who are still alive at that time, we'll be able to tell the younger generation the reason:
Because Brett Favre loved playing football more than you could possibly imagine.
He loved playing football so much that a separated shoulder, bone spurs in his ankle, and a bruised elbow at age 38 couldn't keep him out of a game that the Packers would have won with seven men on each side of the field, playing blind folded.
He adored the game to the point where the death of his father couldn't keep him on the sidelines—and in fact catalyzed a heroic four touchdown performance in front of a national audience on Monday night.
He relished every moment on the field, without a care in the world about whether or not he left the game on a good note, a bad note, or a sour note—he just didn't want to leave, period.
When the Packers went down to the Eagles in the second round of the 2003 playoffs, people began suggesting that it was time for Brett to go.
Brett said no.
When Favre threw four interceptions in a postseason embarrassment against the Vikings the following year, the suggestion became stronger still: Brett, retire for christ sakes before you become the laughing stock of the league!
Brett then threw a league leading 29 interceptions in 2005, with only 20 touchdowns and a 4-12 record to boot. He was now officially the butt of every joke made about has-been quarterbacks in the NFL.
"Brett, you're 36 years old. Your team is going nowhere. You are throwing picks left and right. To say you are tarnishing your legacy is an understatement. Out of respect for the fans who have witnessed your brilliant career, hang it up."
But Favre was back again in 2006. And oddly enough, it appeared by the end of that season that he was in fact getting back into his old groove.
It seemed impossible; the same Brett Favre that was completely washed up just a year before had led his team to a four game winning streak to finish the season. Surely it was a fluke. Right?
Wrong. Brett Favre came to training camp ready to play in 2007—and would go on to have one of the best seasons of his career. At the ripe age of 38, Favre threw for a career best 66.5% completion rate and dished out 28 scores to his teammates.
And now, here we are.
After a romping of the Seahawks, the Packers are back in the NFC Championship. And Brett Favre is one game away from the Super Bowl.
I'll say that again: Brett Favre—after 16 seasons of punishment, numerous injuries, and never ending pleas that he quit football before being removed from his starting job by force—is one game away from reaching the Super Bowl.
And meanwhile, NFL fans around the nation are cheering, smiling—and coming soon to a town near you—welling up with tears.
Whether or not Brett Favre and the Packers win this Sunday will have absolutely no impact on No. 4's legacy. Favre has established for 16 seasons that he is, without question, one of—if not the—greatest field generals the game has ever seen. He's proven that he has the courage of a soldier, the class of an aristocrat, and the heart of a champion.
Brett Favre is now playing for himself and himself alone. Win, lose, or draw this Sunday, he'll go down as a gunslinger for the ages.
When Favre and the Packers storm out of the gates of Lambeau, the skin of football fans everywhere will crawl. Whether or not Favre can replicate his performance from last weekend and lead his team to the promised land remains to be seen. But one thing's for sure:
This is a very special moment for us as football fans—one that we should cherish as long as we live.
Watch Favre carefully this Sunday. Digest his presence throughout the game fully and openly. Hold your bladder until the commercials, and ease up on the beer so you can remember the moment for the rest of your life.
Because what you'll be witnessing is something that doesn't come around too often these days: a myth amongst sporting legends, giving his body to the game he loves once again.