December 22: Five Years Later, Remembering Big Irv

Adam LindemerSenior Analyst IDecember 22, 2008

It seems like only yesterday that Brett Favre had his magical night in Oakland with the Green Bay Packers, just 24 hours after the death of his father.

Irvin Favre, "Big Irv," wasn't just the father of Brett; Irv was also his coach, his mentor, but most importantly, Brett's best friend.

On the night that Brett Favre wants to forget, but never will, Irvin Favre passed away while having a heart attack driving on the highway back home in Mississippi.

The very next day, Brett was to be on football's biggest stage, in one of the most hostile environments in all of the NFL. Everybody in the nation would understand if Brett sat this one out.

But no. The toughest guy in the league would once again throw on the pads, lace up the cleats, and do what he does football.

If Brett were to miss this game, he knew he would hear Big Irv's voice saying, "Boy, what are you doing, get out there and play."

Ever since high school, where Big Irv was Brett's coach, he has been saying those same words. If Brett could play, he was going to play.

Game time came, and Favre stood in the tunnel, with tears in his eyes, getting ready to play the toughest game of his life.

Raider Nation showed nothing but support for the Favre's, taking a back seat to their normal yelling and screaming, while demeaning the opponents. A true class act from all Raider fans, and Cheeseheads had a new found respect for "The Black Hole."

You'd understand if Green Bay called a lot of run plays and Brett throwing a couple of interceptions.

But no. Brett threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in the Packers' 41-7 blowout victory over the Raiders.

But what was more amazing was the pregame speech Brett gave to the other 52 guys on the team in the locker room.

To let all of you know, Brett is usually the last guy on the team to stand up and offer words of wisdom.

On this night however, Brett stood up, spoke, and the others listened. He talked about how much he loved Big Irv, and told the other 52 guys that "he had their backs tonight."

Wait, what?

Brett had the others' backs, it should have been the other way around. The linemen, the backs, the receivers, the entire team, should have been backing up Favre that night. Once again, Brett was going to take the lead and let everyone else follow.

The game was perfect teamwork, as the Packer receivers seemed to catch every ball that Brett threw in the air. It's hard not to think that their might have been an extra pair of hands guiding that ball.

And so the night was complete, and Brett found the loving arms of his wife Deanna, and the two walked off the field and headed home to Mississippi. Brett could finally grieve.

Big Irv's funeral was two days later, and the turnout was enormous, as everybody who came in contact with Irv, wanted to show their appreciation to a man who was one in a million.

You'd think Brett would deliver a tearful eulogy, saying exactly what he said to his teammates two days ago.

But no. Brett did not deliver a eulogy, because he said all he needed to say, on the field, back in Oakland.

For the past five years, Big Irv has missed several great performances from his best pupil, but for one night five years ago, he had a front row seat to one of the best performances in the entire NFL.

There is one saying from Big Irv that still sticks with me, which makes me realize why Brett is still playing football.

"When you can no longer walk off the field, then crawl off. When you can no longer crawl off the field, then I'll come get you."

Brett can still walk off the field, so he will continue to do so, until he has to crawl off. When he can't crawl anymore, I'm sure there will be an extra pair of hands to guide Brett off the field.

From Cheeseheads everywhere; we miss you Big Irv.