Brett Favre, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever pick up a pigskin, will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend. Favre, 46, was an 11-time Pro Bowler, three-time MVP, led the league in passing and touchdowns numerous times, and won a Super Bowl.
He was simply one of the best.
For all of his accomplishments, though, Favre will be remembered first and foremost for 399. Yes, in December 2003, one day after his father, Irvin, passed away, Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 Monday Night Football win over the Raiders in Oakland.
“That was the most courageous performance by Brett Favre,” former Packers fullback William Henderson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I love that game and I love to go back and watch the video from the game. And it’s not taking away from Brett. The guy had so much on his plate to hold up family, to hold up Packer Nation, to hold up our team – he had so many reasons to feel like he had pressure on his back. If you go back and watch the film of that game, you will see some of the most spectacular play by every other member of the team. Wesley Walls, Javon Walker, Donald Driver – everybody who was a part of that team – Ahman Green, made amazing catches and made amazing transitions with the ball after they touched the ball. That was the one game that everybody said, ‘It’s your time to relax. We’re honored that you even want to play with us tonight, but this is going to be your day.’ And everyone made him correct.”
Favre completed 22 of his 30 passes that night, throwing for 311 yards in the first half alone.
“If you look at some of the passes, they were slightly off skew or out of bounds or whatever,” Henderson said, “but our guys went and attacked the ball to make him correct, basically saying, ‘Trust me, I got you. Just give me the ball and I’ll make you correct in your decision.’ That’s what it was every play. (He showed) courage by stepping out there and knowing he was honoring his dad by playing. We truly wanted to make sure he knew that we had his back.”
Indeed, Favre had the Packers’ back for more than a decade. Henderson was simply returning the favor.
“I’ve seen him play so many games (with) toughness,” Henderson said. “His hands swollen twice its size, yet he still found ways to throw the ball. He had hand therapy all week trying to be able to just grip the ball, to grip a can. The guy couldn’t even close his hand, but yet he was able to throw 30- and 40-yard passes – and with accuracy. There was the time when his ankle was ballooned up, he ended up wearing a shoe that was two sizes bigger so that he could be on the field not missing the game, being our guy, available to try to give us a chance as he felt he could. He always wanted to be a part of it. He never wanted to be a spectator. I’ve always appreciated that. I’ve always been happy and always celebrated a man that I knew I never had to worry about showing up for a game and being there to be my guy on Sunday, Monday or Thursday. Brett was going to be available.”
Henderson admired Favre’s ability to play like a “man on a mission.” Not all quarterbacks have that ability, especially in today’s game.
That includes, Henderson said, Jay Cutler, who removed himself from the NFC Championship in January 2011 with a sprained MCL. The Bears lost to the Packers, 21-14, at Soldier Field.
“I wouldn’t have played with that kid and he never would have played another down with me because I’d never could trust him,” Henderson said. “If I can’t trust a man, if I’m going out there putting blood, sweat and tears on the field, then everybody had better be willing. I don’t care if you’re a quarterback making $100 million or not. You better show up. I would have played for free if the opportunity was available for me to play versus a team in my division. Again, that’s just me, and that’s how I feel about the game.”