In December 2003, on the day his father died, Brett Favre, emotional and teary-eyed, walked into Green Bay’s locker room to deliver a message to his teammates.
“I just remember this one thing he said, and it kind of made sense to me,” former Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Freeman said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “He said, ‘I’m going to play tomorrow because I know if big Irv was here, and he had anything to do with me playing, he would want me out there.’”
Freeman, then 31, couldn’t believe it.
“Just the fact that at that moment, when you can easily just get out of a situation and not deal with what’s in real time, just what he thought of – his father meant so much (and) would have wanted him to go out there and play,” Freeman said. “And because of that, out of all the great Favre moments that we were spoiled with over the years, he put in one of his top five performances probably ever.”
Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 road win over the Raiders on Monday Night Football.
“Under those circumstances, under those conditions, when it was just so sudden, so fresh – it wasn’t something that he sat on for a while,” Freeman said. “It was now. It was in real time. And he felt enough bondage between his father and that football team to come out and play. You saw a lot of his spectacular catches. They weren’t great throws, but they (were) great catches. It was just something special. . . . It was just so many great moments, so many plays that probably shouldn’t have happened that did happen in our favor. He elevated the play around everybody else, and we had enough respect for him as our leader that we all felt obligated that night to kind of be superhuman.”
Favre was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past weekend. Freeman attended the induction ceremony with his son, who turns 12 on Tuesday. It was a wonderful moment for Favre, sure, but also for Freeman, who was Favre’s teammate for eight seasons and helped the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI.
Freeman, who had three catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in that Super Bowl win over New England, had the privilege of playing for two great quarterbacks in his NFL career: Favre and Donovan McNabb. Both, Freeman said, were great leaders with strong arms.
“It’s really hard to say what the major difference was,” he said. “Brett was comfortable. He wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. He made mistakes and he made great plays. For Donovan in Philly, it was more like a system when I was there. He improvised here and there, but it was more like a system that just had to work on the same cylinders to really be effective. It was a little different style, a little more deeper with Donovan. Brett was just so great at those three-step drops and those quick throws and throwing into coverage.”