September 21, 2018
By Ellen Ciurczak
Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre
returned to his alma mater Friday
for an appearance near and dear to his heart.
Favre majored in special education while at Southern Miss, and his mother was a special education teacher for 30 years.
"I have always looked on the disadvantaged, the disabled, the underdogs as who I have gravitated to," he said. "It made perfect sense for me to come speak."
The students ranged in age from 14-21 and were from six schools in Forrest, Lamar and Jones county. They were attending the three-day conference to obtain career skills they could use after graduation.
Favre wasn't sure if any of the students were old enough to know who he was, but he said he would try to motivate them.
"They may not know what happened way back, but I was kind of the underdog then," he said. "Good things happen to those who keep at it, are persistent and believe."
Favre told the students about coming to Southern Miss without a football scholarship and working out with the team anyway, eventually earning the quarterback spot.
"No one was beating down my door to play football, but I believed I could do it and I made the most of the opportunity," he said.
He reminisced about nine of the best games he played with the Green Bay Packers — all with a broken thumb on his throwing hand.
"It was the best nine-game stretch I had statistically speaking," he said. "Underdogs win — all the time."
He told the students about the best game he ever played — on one of the saddest days of his life. His father had passed away from a heart attack the day before at the age of 56.
"We were playing the Oakland Raiders," he said. "I felt like I honored my dad.
"The other two games were when I went to Minnesota in year 19 (of my career). I was considered old. I was considered washed-up. I have to play Green Bay twice. Those two games were some of my most accomplished."
Favre's appearance at the conference was just one of many talks the students heard on such topics as financial literacy, post-secondary career options, interview skills, hiring processes and employee expectations. They were also planning Friday to take tours of Target and Kohler Engines.
"It is so important to help our young adults get ready for that full-time employment (after high school)," said Chris Howard, executive director with the state Department of Rehabilitation Services. "We want to help these individuals say, 'I work for Nissan' or 'I work for USM.'
"We provide the training to find full-time employment and we want to give them a step-up to a full-time career."
Favre seemed to be doing his part to help. His motivational stories were mixed in with answers to a series of questions from students — queries ranging from what was his favorite color (blue) and his height (6'3") to whether he had a pet (he used to have a much-loved chocolate lab named Sam).
But, most importantly, Favre wanted to leave the students with the message that they can make their dreams come true, just like he did.
"There is hope for these kids," he said. "Not everybody's as smart as the next. Not everyone can jump as high as this guy.
"Not everyone can throw. Not everyone can run as fast. Some people tend to be left behind. I don't particularly like that. I don't think it's fair. There are opportunities for everyone."
In the end, Favre's message was short and to the point.
"Remember — underdogs win," he told the students.