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Brett Favre more than a sports hero

By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate Staff Writer

A text message woke me up Tuesday morning.

He was gone.

At first I didn't believe it. I couldn't. Not now.

But then on my way to work I heard it again, this time on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Brett Favre had retired.

If it sounds like there was a death in my family, it's because it feels that way, not only for me but for all those who call themselves Cheeseheads.

For 16 years, three-quarters of my short life, Brett Favre quarterbacked the Green Bay Packers. And now he's gone.

It took me awhile to call my dad in Wisconsin to discuss the news, I wasn't sure if I could handle the emotions of losing No. 4 to retirement.

Neither of us knew what to say. When the words finally did come, we talked of Favre's importance, not as a player, but in our lives.

My dad, a Wisconsin native, was in the Air Force. When we lived in Italy and Germany, Favre was there. When my dad retired and moved to Wisconsin, Favre was there. When I left home to go to college, Favre was there. And when I packed up to take this job at The Daily Triplicate, Favre was there.

No matter where I was or what I was doing in my life, from childhood to adulthood, I could always rely on one fact: Brett Favre would be the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.

His absence leaves a void, not only in the hearts of Packer fans everywhere, but for anyone who ever watched him play.

Some of my friends, though I don't want to admit it, are Chicago Bears fans. Even though they hate the Packers franchise, they all like, or at least respect, Brett Favre.

Part of this is due to his childlike exuberance on the field— — he celebrated every one of his 442 touchdown passes like it was his first— — but he also lived his personal life in front of us.

In the mid-to late-1990s, between 3 MVP awards and a Super Bowl victory, Favre struggled with an addiction to prescription painkillers and alcohol. Unlike other athletes of today, he admitted his substance abuse, kicked the habits and moved forward — —no asterisks.

Favre again showed the extent of human resolve in 2004 after his brother-in-law died in an all-terrain vehicle accident and his wife, Deanna, was diagnosed with breast cancer the following week. He went out, as he always does, and played his game. He even cut his hair short to support Deanna's bouts in chemotherapy.

Perhaps the most poignant example of Favre's resilience came in December 2003 when Favre's father and high school football coach, Irvin, died of a heart attack. The following day Favre stepped on the field in front of a nationally televised Monday Night Football audience and played one of the best games of his career, throwing for 399 yards and four touchdowns.

After that game more than a few phone calls were made between fathers and their sons to reminisce about playing catch in the backyard and going on that first fishing trip together.

And you can bet that on Tuesday, my dad and I weren't the only ones calling each other.

How many other professional athletes could accomplish that?

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